Decoding the effect of gaming addiction on children’s health

Dr Parul Tank, a consultant psychiatrist from Fortis Hospital, Mulund, shares how excessive gaming can impact your child’s health both positively and negatively and what should a parent do

Video-Games

Have we ever considered gaming addition as a mental health issue? Maybe not, with a hope that this phase will pass, we usually brush it under the carpet.

Excessive gaming, like any other activity, has its impact. Video games started off as a way for kids to pass the time, back in the 50’s, but has evolved into a new industry and has gone beyond the arcades to enter our bedrooms.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recorded ‘Gaming Disorder’ as a mental illness, positioning it as comparable to alcohol and drug abuse, in the revised International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

Positive impacts of gaming:

  • Improvement in cognitive functions
  • Improvement in hand and eye coordination
  • Improvement in quick-thinking skills and accuracy
  • Improvement in problem-solving abilities
  • Reduces chances of anxiety attacks
  • Promotes the Theory of Incremental Intelligence (Belief that intelligence is flexible and efforts can increase it)
  • Educational video games can teach school subjects more interactively, and pro-social games can increase empathy amongst teens

The positive effects of gaming depend upon the games that teens play. Games that have sexually explicit and violent content tend to have more negative than positive effects on teens.

Negative impacts of gaming:

Failure to perform in academics: It is observed that gaming increases a child’s attention, but it is selective attention, so education loses its priority position to gaming

Adverse impact on health: Teens health can be adversely affected by excessive gaming as playing virtual games becomes a priority rather than physical exercise.

The risk of childhood obesity also increases. Children sometimes skip meals and sleep to play these games; it is damaging. In the long run, the glare from the TV screens could affect the child’s eyesight

Addiction to gaming: ‘Pathological gamers’ or ‘addicted gamers’ are more susceptible to developing anxiety, insomnia, social isolation, and depression. These factors can influence each other. Pathological gaming can also result in social phobia, making the child more inclined and attracted to gaming

Aggression in teens: Playing excessively violent video games has a negative impact on teens. It changes the behaviour and attitude of players and makes them susceptible to become violent and increasingly anti-social.

Solving this problem

  • As a first step, prevent the child from developing this illness, if it has not developed into the addiction.
  • Limit the TV time between 1 hour and 1.5 hours a day, and enforce it strictly.
  • Pathological Gaming can be reversed with methods used for other pathological disorders like alcoholism.
  • It involves abstaining from playing games full time, counselling sessions, among others.