Does your child have a problem with gaming? Spends too many hours? Gets annoyed when it’s time to stop? Not getting enough sleep? Falling school performance or attendance? Lacking other interests? Has tried to cut down but can’t? You/she/he can see it’s bad but it continues anyway?
About 10% of players have problematic use, with 1-2% ‘addicted’, defined by the answers to the questions above.
Why is gaming so attractive? A key reason nominated by researcher Wayne Warburton of Macquarie University is that gaming increases a person’s sense of connection and control. It provides a sense of social power, boosts self-esteem (while playing) and requires little effort to be rewarding.
This is really attractive for someone who feels undervalued, isolated, and uninfluential, and many teenagers feel that way from time to time. The same brain reward pathways are involved as those activated when using drugs.
Research demonstrates that heavy screen use causes relationship problems in the family and with peers. Heavy gamers tend to prefer violent content, resulting in more aggressive behaviour, greater tolerance of violence in the world around them, and increased fears of being a victim themselves.
What can parents/carers do? Be warm and pro-active, supervise without being intrusive (but enforce limits on content and time), balance gaming with real-world activity, give priority to schooling, and help ensure the child’s needs for belonging, control, self-esteem and so on are being met in healthy ways. For serious addiction seek professional help will be needed.
On the school website there is advice on sources of information and support (Current families > Counselling).
Upcoming opportunity: Seminar – Attention Please! Hijacked by Technology. In this practical seminar Dr Kristy Goodwin explains why it's essential that children and adolescents learn how to manage their attention in the 21st Century. This will prove extremely important for children with learning difficulties who already struggle with attention problems. Tuesday 21 March, 10 am – 12 noon, Castle Hill RSL. Presented by the Learning Difficulties Coalition. Cost: $70. See http://www.ldc.org.au/