Video Game Addiction

Addiction to video games has been officially listed as a disease in the 11th edition of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.  While parents have long been concerned about excessive gaming among kids, this is the first time that video game addiction has been officially recognized.

Is it Video Game Addiction?

The World Health Organization makes the important point that Video Game Addiction can only be properly diagnosed by a healthcare professional. Vladimir Pozniak of the WHO said, “One should not apply the diagnostic description…to one’s relatives or friends.”

The diagnosis doesn’t rely on the number of hours spent playing. A person who suffers from video game addiction is one whose gaming interferes with daily life, such as work, school, sleep, or family connections throughout the year. He or she will be unable to stop playing obsessively, even if there are negative consequences.

Parents — and kids — often talk casually about being addicted to video games, but that’s a habit we should give up. In fact, some experts question whether “addiction” is the right word. 

However, there is agreement that for some young people, an unhealthy relationship with video games can create serious problems. Kids who can’t step away from their games to eat, sleep, or use the bathroom are putting their physical health as well as their mental health in jeopardy.

Healthy gaming

Only a tiny fraction of gamers will ever be diagnosed with gaming addiction. But there are concerns that parents should watch out for:

  • Are kids prioritizing games over school and personal relationships?
  • Are they happy only when playing games?
  • Do they become angry when asked to stop playing?

Experts suggest that game setups not be put into kids’ bedrooms and that families agree on time limits for play. Play games with your child or as a family, including video games but also board games or parlor games. Schedule time for outdoor activities and physical games.

If you are concerned about your child’s gaming, even if you don’t see signs of addiction, talk with your pediatrician. Track your child’s use before you visit and talk with your child about their gaming in preparation for your conversation with your doctor. Your pediatrician may refer you to a psychiatrist.