What Educators Should Know About Gaming Addictions
School psychologists, counselors, and other educational professionals are uniquely positioned to help students with issues that impact their mental health and wellness, including gaming addiction.
Gaming addiction is no joke. Just as children and teens can develop addictions to smartphones, social media, the internet or online gambling, they can also become addicted to gaming. The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR) lists addiction to gaming as internet gaming disorder (IGD).
Gaming Addiction Symptoms
School-based professionals can keep an eye out for the following symptoms of gaming addiction, or internet gaming disorder, as outlined by the DSM-5-TR:
- Preoccupation with gaming
- Withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away or not possible (sadness, anxiety, irritability)
- Tolerance, the need to spend more time gaming to satisfy the urge
- Inability to reduce playing, unsuccessful attempts to quit gaming
- Giving up other activities, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities due to gaming
- Continuing to game despite problems
- Deceiving family members or others about the amount of time spent on gaming
- The use of gaming to relieve negative moods, such as guilt or hopelessness
- Risk, having jeopardized or lost a job or relationship due to gaming
Effects of Game Addiction and Excessive Screen Time
Educational professionals should also be on the lookout for issues that can result from excessive gaming (Harvard):
- Repetitive stress injuries
- Vision problems
- Insomnia, sleep deprivation, circadian rhythm disorders
- Desensitization to violence
- Emotional problems
Educators can remain vigilant for issues linked to excessive screen time (Mayo Clinic), including:
- Behavioral problems, including impulsivity
- Difficulties with work or school
- Eye strain
- Less time for play
- Loss of social skills
- Neck and back problems
- Poor sleep or insomnia
Tips to Prevent Gaming Addiction
One way educational professionals can help increase awareness around gaming addiction is to share guidance with children and families. Educators can consider posting information on their school's website, emailing resources directly to families struggling to find balance with gaming, or posting signs around the school.
Parents can work on supporting more healthy gaming behaviors by:
- Monitoring the child's gaming and online interactions with them.
- Joining in and showing an interest in their game.
- Talking together about online safety.
- Making sure games are age- and content-appropriate.
- Keeping track of gaming by setting timers.
- Limiting gaming to communal areas rather than private areas, like bedrooms.
- Empowering kids to take control of their own gaming habits.
- Being vulnerable and discussing personal struggles with other things that are addictive.
- Exploring a range of interests and hobbies.
- Keeping a rule against gaming during other activities.
- Planning a digital detox.
As many as 71% of U.S. children and teens play video games (JAMA), and gaming addiction continues to be an issue for many. Across the globe, the prevalence of gaming disorder was 3-4% (NIH). Educational professionals, including school psychologists and counselors, can impact gaming habits and help students thrive in the classroom, at home and beyond.
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