Gaming provides a number of benefits for children. It can improve reaction times, coordination, memory, problem-solving abilities, the time it takes the brain to process information, the ability to multi-task, the ability to concentrate and, in the case of games played with others, social skills. These are significant and shouldn’t be discounted. However, as with everything in life, it should be done in moderation, in a manner in which it does not take away from other areas of life. In the case of children, some may become so obsessed that they stop caring about schoolwork or even attending school, getting enough physical activity to be healthy and interacting socially outside of the games.
In many ways, gaming is a genuine addiction for children. The words that Matthew uses in an Australian Broadcasting Corporation article are similar to what those addicted to other things utilize. Specifically, he said that “I’m urged to do it every day. It feels like it’s a job, basically.” Riley Holzinger said in another ABC article that, if he no longer had access to Fortnite, he would “probably game rage, like smash stuff and then get sad.” Also, the World Health Organization recently labelled gaming disorder as a diagnosable medical condition.
However, it’s important to note that an addiction does not necessarily correlate with how much time is spent doing that activity. It’s more connected with how dependent they are on it. Specifically, if taking access to a game away from a child produces such serious reactions, that’s a significant warning sign. So is if playing it is not really enjoyed all that much and is done so more out of obligation or a need.
If you have a child who is obsessed with games, it’s important to gently decrease how much time is being spent with this activity. Some of the ways that some have done this is by requiring that time be spent being active outside and that all homework is completed prior to playing. Specific end times are important as well. If a finishing time needs to occur at an unexpected time, it’s generally better to say that playing needs to be completed in 10 minutes than to have it be immediate. The former option generally results in a much better response as it allows him or her to mentally get ready to depart that world without it being, in some cases, literally unplugged with no to little notice. To be honest, nobody would appreciate that sudden of an interruption to any activity, regardless of what it is.
Note that playing doesn’t necessarily need to be stopped entirely. Andrew Kinch, the founder of a course designed to help people overcome this obsession, told Matthew and his parents that the goal is to “go from habit to hobby.” This is done through a contract that he and his parents mutually agreed to that provides Matthew with an appropriate amount of time spent playing on his gaming computer system, an amount that allows him to experience the best balance of experiencing the positive effects of this activity and not the negative. The long-term goal is for Matthew and others like him to be self-regulating. However, it might end up being an extensive struggle. He even said that “I hope I will” play less in the future.