Gaming addiction in children and adolescents: useful information and tips

Forgetting everything else around you because of gaming: gaming addiction among children, adolescents and adults is a concern for many families. When do you become a gaming addict? And how can you avoid a gaming addiction? Find out more in this article.

27.12.2023 Steffi Hidber 3 minutes

What is gaming addiction?

Fortnite, Minecraft, FIFA or The Sims: Enjoying an online game for a few minutes every day and celebrating small successes should be a harmless pleasure. Children and adolescents, in particular, love to challenge themselves and compete. After all, every victory triggers the brain’s reward centre. But at what point does the leisure activity turn into a gaming addiction? The World Health Organisation (WHO) included “gaming disorder” as a medical condition back in 2018. But the behavioural patterns that can be part of a gaming addiction vary considerably. How can you tell whether your child is – or you yourself are – addicted to gaming?

Gaming addiction among children as opposed to in adults

There are also countless adults who enjoy playing video games. Unlike children and adolescents, they generally have more experience in organising their time and are often unable to spend as many hours playing online games due to work or family commitments. The other side of the coin is that there may be a shift towards online gambling among adults, giving rise to new gambling addiction problems. These can then also have a negative financial impact.

Gaming addiction symptoms: these can be signs of gaming addiction

Whether in children, adolescents or adults – there are certain symptoms and signs that can indicate a gaming addiction. The more of the following questions that can be answered “yes”, the more evidence there is supporting a possible gaming addiction:

  • Are important everyday tasks such as homework or work being neglected, or is performance, for example measured by school grades, deteriorating?
  • Are agreed gaming times regularly not adhered to?
  • Is the child or adolescent finding it difficult to get out of bed in the morning or is he or she visibly tired?
  • Is the person increasingly losing touch with the duration or intensity of their gaming?
  • Does the person behave aggressively or become nervous when he or she cannot, or is not allowed to, play?
  • Is the person lying about their gaming behaviour or secretly spending money on paid game add-ons?

Possible consequences of gaming addiction

The gaming addiction symptoms referred to above can already have unpleasant consequences in everyday life. If you don’t get your gaming behaviour on track early on, gaming addiction can lead to you neglecting friends or colleagues and increasingly seeking solitude – even if this time is spent with online gaming friends.

Physical changes such as weight gain or loss, problems sleeping and tension or pain due to a lack of exercise or poor posture can also emerge. The signs of gaming addiction in children or adolescents often overlap with the symptoms of depression in young people.

Anyone who is concerned about their child’s mental health or would like to discuss their gaming behaviour with a specialist can talk to their paediatrician or use the free Helsana health consultation service.

Gaming addiction: how to combat it?

Therapy helps with gaming addiction. But there are also measures that parents can take themselves to encourage their children to play video games in a more normal way. There are also methods you can use to get a grip on your own gaming addiction as an adult. These are some ways of combating gambling addiction:

  • Actively approach the person concerned and voice your concerns regarding their gaming behaviour.
  • Agree on fixed gaming or screen time and stick to it.
  • Don’t ban video games completely and offer attractive alternatives, e.g. playing a board or card game together.
  • Be a role model and make a conscious effort to live a varied everyday life. This means, for example, going on an outing together instead of screen time, exercising or discovering a new hobby like cooking or handicrafts.

As a parent, you can also find out about your child’s favourite games and actively ask questions about them. This makes the child feel better understood and more accepting of the transition from gaming time to family time. This may prevent the onset of addictive behaviour.

Gaming is fun and good for healthy development. Open communication within the family and within your relationship, as well as embarking on regular activities together with no screens involved, contribute to a balanced lifestyle and media consumption. They also reduce the risk of gaming addiction in a healthy way – even with “screen time”. 

Helsana’s health consultation

Helsana’s health consultation service provided the editorial team with advice and input for this article. Our health advisors can provide you with answers to all of your health-related questions quickly and easily, whether you’d like advice on nutrition and exercise, on coping with a diagnosis or on a recommended course of treatment. 

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