Tech corner

Can you spot if your child is addicted to online gaming?

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As gaming addiction has officially been recognised by the World Health Organisation as a mental health condition what steps parents can take to protect children from developing the condition?

As gaming addiction has officially been recognised by the World Health Organisation as a mental health condition what steps parents can take to protect children from developing the condition?

Every youngster likes to play video games now and then.

But how much game time is too much? When does playing Fortnite, God of War or Star Wars Battlefront tip over from being a fun pastime into something less healthy.

As gaming addiction has officially become recognised by the World Health Organisation as a mental health condition would you, as a parent, know what the warning signs are and how to deal with a child who was becoming too reliant on online gaming?

KCOM is an official supporter of online safety organisation Internet Matters which provides online resources to help parents keep their children safe online.

Advice from Internet Matters experts suggest parents shouldn’t become too worried just because a child won’t stop playing when it’s dinner time – we’ve all just wanted to get to the end of the next level or “save point” - but there other signs to look out for which may cause concern.

These include a child who neglects relationships, exercise, school work and personal hygiene in favour of playing games.

Based on guidelines established by child protection experts, academics and researchers at EU Kids Online, parents should not automatically assume that their child’s use of digital media is problematic, but they should ask themselves:

  • Is my child physically healthy and sleeping enough?
  • Is my child connecting socially with family and friends (in any form)?
  • Is my child engaged with and achieving in school?
  • Is my child pursuing other interests and hobbies (in any form)?
  • Is my child having fun and learning in their use of digital media?

If the answers are yes, parents should feel reassured that their children have a healthy relationship with gaming.

If the answers are no, then perhaps these parents and children may need to put rules in place to address problem use.

In other words, parents and carers can tackle the overuse of online games by taking steps to achieve balance in their homes. Steps include:

  • Establish screen balance guidelines, set a time limit for how long youngsters can play games for
  • Carry out a digital detox, slowly reduce the amount of screen time each day
  • Find creative ways to allow games and tech time, balanced with outdoor or creative non-tech activities
  • Make sure that games are age-appropriate and content-appropriate
  • Notice how your children interact with their devices and games (aggressive and irritable behaviour may mean that less screen time is needed)

A final point for parents to remember is that studies suggest gaming disorder affects only a small proportion of people engaged in online gaming. So don’t panic – there is effective help available.

We're an official supporter of online safety organisation Internet Matters as part of its drive to help local parents keep their children safe in the digital world.

Internet Matters is backed by the UK’s biggest broadband providers and supported by leading online child safety experts.

Its website offers a host of e-safety resources and advice for parents on issues including online bullying and making sure children don’t have access to inappropriate content.

Advice is organised into useful guides aimed at different age groups, ranging from the under-fives to teenagers.

Parents and schools are able to download these resources for free from the website www.internetmatters.org.

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