The World Health Organisation recognises gaming disorder as a medical condition which can affect children, teenagers and adults. Problem gaming refers to recurrent impaired control over playing digital or video games over a period of time. A person will prioritise gaming over other activities so much so that it significantly disrupts their daily life and potentially their mental and physical well being. Despite these negative consequences the person will continue to play.
During lockdown many have not been at school, higher education and work, resulting in more people turning to video games to pass the time and communicate with friends from a distance. That is completely fine as long as there are boundaries in place and the time spent gaming doesn’t take over other areas of their lives.
Just gaming on its own might not be an issue, but with loot boxes and it costing money to make it to the next level on many games, where does the line get blurred between gambling and gaming? Last week, the House of Lords Gambling Committee said video game loot boxes should be regulated under gambling laws. The Lords said “There is academic research which proves that there is a connection, though not necessarily a causal link, between loot box spending and problem gambling”.
How can you tell if your gaming or your child’s gaming is problematic? It is important not to mistake enthusiasm and a hobby for a gaming disorder. Here are some of the common signs to look out for:
- Not wanting to stop playing even when the social aspect is taken away in single player games
- Preoccupation with gaming, even when not playing
- Isolating from friends and family and putting gaming ahead of socialising offline
- Mood swings or aggressive behaviour as a result of not being able to game
- Becoming secretive with friends and family
- Unable to focus on studying or work or anything else other than gaming
- Heightened interest in money, asking to borrow money or money going missing
- Headaches from staring at a screen
- Signs of fatigue from the amount of time spend gaming
If you suspect your child’s gaming is problematic, what can you do?
1. Set rules and moderate their gaming
Speak to them about how much they’re gaming and set rules around what times and how long they are allowed to spend gaming.
2. Check age restrictions on games
Games can be addictive or harmful to younger players which is why they have age restrictions on them. Some games are more damaging than others. Check that the games they’re playing are suitable for their age and remove games which aren’t.
3. Speak to their friends’ parents
Often gaming is very social and a way for children to keep in contact with their friends. They may feel left out if they miss out on playing certain games or not being able to play at times their friends are, especially during lockdown when they might not have seen their friends or been at school for months.
Speak to their friends’ parents and see what guidelines they have in place and set your rules around those so they can still socialise.
4. Stop payments for games
Usually once you’ve purchased the game itself, to make it to the next level you have to play more to get better at the game and the next level is the reward. In some games, users are enticed by loot boxes and other in-game purchases to be able to do more or become better at the game.
This will depend on their age and whether they have their own money but if they ask for money or you have a direct debit aiding for the game, look into it and either cancel it altogether or set a maximum limit on what you will allow them to spend in the game. If they’re older with their own money speak to them about how they’re spending their money and try to get them to set boundaries with their own spending.
5. Access further support and resources
If you are worried that your gaming may be a problematic:
You can access free advice, information and support by contacting krysallis or GamCare.
You can also access On-line Gamers Anonymous which is a self-help service that supports those affected by excessive gaming:
At krysallis our counsellors have experience helping children, young adults and families. To find out more about these services, click here.
Studies show that gaming disorders can lead to problem gambling in later life. We also work in partnership with GamCare as a part of the National Gambling Treatment Serviceoffering FREE support to anyone over the age of 16 who is negatively impacted by gaming or gambling. Read more about this service by clicking here.