Have your child’s gaming habits crossed the line?

Do you understand the difference between an ‘unhealthy habit’ and an ‘addiction’? How would you know if your child has ‘crossed the line’.

In 2017 the World Health Organisation [WHO] announced it was going to include gaming disorder brackets [GD] in the latest edition of the International Classification of Diseases. A Gaming Disorder, according to the WHO Is when a person lets playing video games ‘take precedence over other life interests and daily activities,’ resulting in ‘negative consequences’ such as ‘significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.’

Dr Mark Grifiths, professor of behavioural addiction at Nottingham Trent University believes many parents consider playing games a ‘waste of time’ and this adds to their concerns that their children are spending too much time playing them and becoming addicted.

Before a parent starts worrying, Dr Griffiths asks them the same three things about whether screen time use is affecting their child’s:

  1. schoolwork;
  2. physical education;
  3. peer development and interaction.

If the response is that none of those is affected, then parents are reminded that spending time playing online games has become normalised and is an appealing leisure time activity for many children and teens.  Rather than focusing on the time that is being spent on screens, parents should focus more on the content their child is exposed to or interacting with and the context or where and when digital media is accessed.

Dr Griffiths points out that video games can have positive health and educational benefits but that if a parent is concerned about the excessive time their child spends playing games then asking them the following questions can determine if they need support in finding other activities and some balance in their recreational lives.

Does your child….

  1. play video games every day?
  2. often play video games three to six hours at a time?
  3. play video games for excitement or ‘buzz’ or as a way of forgetting about other things in their life?
  4. get restless, irritable, and moody if they can’t play video games?
  5. sacrifice social and sporting activities to play video games?
  6. play video games instead of doing their homework?
  7. try to cut down the amount of video game playing but can’t?

If the answer is YES to 4 or more questions then parents need to be more involved in helping their child reduce their game playing.

How Parents Can Help To Prevent Problematic Internet Use In Children & Teens:


  1. Encourage the entire family to commit to a period of device-free time every day; perhaps join Common Sense Media’s #DeviceFreeDinner movement

    2. Compose a list of interactive real-world activities you can do with your child; or fun activities that they can do with their friends in their free time

    3. Ensure that your child has no way of accessing the Internet after they’ve gone to bed

  2. Ration how much time your child is able to be active on their device each day (with the exception of school-related activity)
  3. Use Common Sense Media’s Rating and Reviews to decide as a family what are the most age appropriate games to play
  4. Encourage your child to play games in groups rather than as a solitary activity

Be aware of any changes in behaviour that may indicate your child is spending too much time online playing games and use the Family Insights App to help you do this.

The book ’The Parents’ Survival Guide to Children, Technology and the Internet’ also has a chapter devoted to Video Games and Internet Addiction which includes advice about taking a balanced look at video games and the positive effects of gaming.

Family Discussion Opportunities

How would you know if your use of devices and social media is ‘normal’ or has become a problem by distracting you from school work, family and friends?

Do you think it’s possible to become addicted to devices, the Internet and social media?

What would ‘addiction’ look and feel like?

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