Do you have children who love to play video games? Have you noticed that they haven't put down the game controller since receiving the latest gaming system for Christmas? If the answer is yes, now may be the time for an intervention – the World Health Organization just named excessive video game playing the latest addictive mental disorder.
According to the beta draft of the WHO's most recent update of the International Classification of Diseases, this gaming disorder is described as follows:
"WHO just named excessive video game playing the latest addictive mental disorder."
"Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour ('digital gaming' or 'video-gaming'), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by: 1) impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context); 2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and 3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences."
When your child prioritizes video gaming over personal and social health, as well as education, that's a clear sign that there's a problem. These behavior patterns can be continuous or episodic and recurrent, according to the WHO, so it's important to pay attention to your child's habits to determine if he or she has a problem. If the obsessive behavior becomes normal over a period of at least 12 months, your child can officially be diagnosed with gaming disorder by a doctor, health care worker or insurance company, according to Forbes magazine.
The Benefits of Playing Video Games in Moderation
While obsessive gaming comes with a bad connotation, that doesn't mean all video game playing is bad for your children. Everything is good in moderation, and the same goes for gaming. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of teens in the U.S. reportedly play video games regularly. With that many children engaging in the digital gaming world, it's important to look at all aspects of gaming and understand how it can impact your child positively:
- Cognitively – According to the American Psychological Association, gaming promotes a variety of cognitive skills, such as enhanced mental rotation ability, improved coordination, increased attention to detail and more.
- Motivationally – Children are motivated by video games, showing persistence and continuous effort to complete missions.
- Emotionally – Gaming has proven to help children as a stress and failure coping mechanism.
- Socially – According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of teens have made new friends online through gaming, and 23 percent of teens reported that they share their gaming handle as contact information.
Simply monitoring the amount of time your child plays video games can ensure he or she doesn't become obsessed, all while promoting the beneficial aspects listed earlier.
Encourage Your Kids to Expand Their Hobbies
If you feel as though your child is on the verge of becoming overly obsessed with video games, now's the time to encourage him or her to find another hobby. Consider the following suggestions:
- Learn how to play an instrument – Enroll your child in music lessons based on an instrument that intrigues him or her.
- Read comic books – Based on the similarities in visually tactical design between video games and the comic world, your child may lean towards comic book reading.
- Get creative in the kitchen – Teach your child how to bake or cook one of his or her all-time favorite plant-based meals.
- Go outside – Whether it's sunny or snowing, there are so many ways to play outside and enjoy the great outdoors.
- Get crafty – Teach your child how to knit, crochet, paint or assemble a cute home accessory for a loved one.
A few simple changes in your child's everyday habits can result in a beautifully blossoming new hobby that they learn to enjoy for life. Continue supporting your children in the decisions they make, but don't be afraid to step in when something seems out of hand, such as too much time spent playing video games. Besides trying and maintaining a new hobby, you can help your kids avoid becoming obsessed with gaming by encouraging more family time. Prioritize sit-down family dinners every evening, schedule an old-fashioned board game night or go to church together every Sunday to ensure you're getting enough face time with each other. Not only will this give your children a break from gaming, but it'll help strengthen the bond between your family and enrich your relationships in the future.