Gaming disorder

Dr Andrew Leech, GP (FRACGP, MBBS, BSc, DCH)

One stress many parents have is that their child spends too much time gaming or watching the TV. There is no doubt this becomes increasingly difficult in a world full of technology. The impact of gaming provides another challenge as we head into more addictive and stimulating games. These games also provide immediate contact to the world outside via headsets or speakers and allow children to communicate with strangers. Computer games do provide a break, an activity for children to relax and are interactive. There are some problems associated as well, with gaming disorder now a recognised diagnosis by the ICD (a diagnostic manual for mental illness).

It is classified as a pattern of gaming behaviour (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.

So how much screen time should we be considering?

The department of health website has set out good guidelines about healthy screentime.

Check it out here

Screen time – birth to 2 years

Evidence suggests that TV watched in the first 2 years of life may be connected with delays in language development.

Recommendation

Children younger than 2 years of age should not spend any time watching television or using other electronic media (DVDs, computer and other electronic games).

Babies and young kids need:

  • plenty of time to move – to play, reach and touch
  • time to practice new movements when learning to crawl and walk.

Screen time – kids 2 to 5 years

Evidence suggests that long periods of screen time are connected with:

  • less active, outdoor and creative play
  • slower development of language skills
  • poor social skills
  • an increased risk of being overweight.

Recommendation

For children 2 to 5 years of age, sitting and watching television and the use of other electronic media (DVDs, computer and electronic games) should be limited to less than 1 hour per day.

Kids will benefit more from talking, singing, reading, listening to music or playing with other kids.

For many, this will be difficult to implement and will take a fair amount of bribery and discussion. It is important however that we monitor our children’s screen time and create positive change that helps them long term.

More tips about online safety is available from another health department webpage called ‘esafety’ which can be found here

There is a lot to know and it is constantly changing so do your best to stay informed!