Video Games are popular for gripping the interest of kids and adults alike. Over the years, Video Games have evolved and game developers have admitted to indulging excessively in Video Gaming. Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has listed gaming addiction as a mental health disorder.
Why do kids get addicted to video games?
Game creators work hard to hook players to their games. They use predictive algorithms and principles of behavioral economics to make the gamer binge. Games become “addictive” because they trigger the brain’s reward system, and shape a child’s behavior. Studies made by the California State University found that video games can have a similar effect on children’s brains as drug abuse or alcoholism.
The impulsive part of the brain, known as the amygdala-striatal system was smaller and more sensitive in excessive users so that it processed the stimuli of games faster. Massive multiplayer online role-playing games or MMORPGs immerse the player because of the endless possibility of discovering more powerful loot or items. Kids/players are also enticed to complete events and achievements, which consume a lot of time.
Signs to watch out for:
Social isolation: Kids addicted to video games spend most of their time gaming over doing other things in their life. The time spend with family members or friends is drastically cut off. This could affect the development of their social skills.
Obsessive behaviour: Their gaming behavior escalates or persists despite negative consequences, and they suffer withdrawal effects when they stop. For example, they skip school, don’t do their homework, do not involve in sports or outdoor activities, socialize, or have lost interest in other life activities.
Lack of sleep: Kids who play video games excessively are up until the wee hours of the morning. This results in sleep deprivation, which is more harmful to minds that are still developing. When they have school the next day, it affects their attention and learning.
Lack of empathy: Being focussed on gaming constantly robs the child of developing empathy or caring for others. It also aggravates their behaviour in running away from life’s problems than facing them.
Deceitful behaviour: Excessive gaming could lead to a child’s deceitful behaviour where he or she tends to hide things, lie or be dishonest. It could also cause irritability, anxiety and depression in the child.
Other physical problems: Holding the mouse/joystick for a long time can lead to carpal tunnel or severe pain in arms, shoulder and the back. Dry eyes and increase in eyesight are other negative effects.
Lack of personal hygiene: Indulging in video gaming requires one to sit for long hours until he/she withdraws from it voluntarily. This could be hours or sometimes, even days. This causes a lack of personal hygiene in severe cases.
What you can do to cut down on your child’s gaming:
Talk to your child: Make your child understand the difference between gaming as a pass-time/entertainment versus gaming as an addiction. Talking positively will help the child understand what you are trying to convey.
Fix a time and explain that to your child: Completely shunning your child from video gaming abruptly might not go down well with the child. Allocate certain time for your child to play and get him/her used to it and be firm about it. Gradually, you could reduce this time and reward him/her for following it firmly.
Keep tabs on the types of games: Try to avoid your child’s indulgence in games which require long hours. Keep tabs on the kind of games he/she is playing. Be prepared for “I’m in the middle of the game” tantrums.
Introduce your child to new, fun activities: It could be as simple as outdoor games or spending time with him/her to understand what her/she likes.
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