You open the front door and there they are, glassy-eyed zombie looking creatures with controllers in their hands that sort of resemble your kids. You find yourself wondering, and not for the first time… Is video game addiction in children really a thing?

Should you be worried? Maybe, maybe not.

On the one hand, global warming is happening. Which can mean scorching hot summers and freezing cold winters. Neither of which inspire kids to engage in physical activity.

And while you might have hoped everyone would be off doing sports or some other type of outdoor activity (isn’t that the dream?) You can’t really blame kids for wanting to spend their days parked in front of the television in a climate-controlled house.

Then again, after seeing your child zone out one too many times in front of a screen, you also can’t help but wonder if this might be symptomatic of a bigger problem.

Could my child actually be ‘addicted’ to video games? Is that even a thing?


How Game Time Should Kids Get?

Since this is a new field, there is still some debate over how much video game time is considered “safe”.

Currently, scientists do not provide a definitive answer. But they can offer recommendations, based on research.


One recent study on the effects of video games found that children who spend less than an hour a day gaming have higher life satisfaction, demonstrate more pro-social behavior, and handle stress better than kids who play longer.


The same study also found that kids who spent OVER 3 hours a day on video games had significantly more behavioral issues, lower levels of pro-social behavior, and reduced life satisfaction.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children aged 2-5 should have a maximum screen time of just one hour a day; and it should be high-quality programming that boosts brain development.

In other words, video games for younger kids should be educational in nature.

Children aged 6 and older can have higher screen time limits, provided it does not derail their healthy lifestyle. Gaming and television should never interfere with getting a full night’s sleep, or take the place of daily physical activity.

It’s important to remember that these are general guidelines; your child’s unique situation may be a little different.

For instance, some kids are prone to respiratory issues such as sinus infections and allergies in summer so they may need to spend more time indoors, which could lead to more game time.


Most experts agree that for young children, less than an hour a day is ideal. And for older kids (who may fight you more for screen time), you still don’t want to go beyond the 3-hour mark, which is when researchers start to see negative behavioral changes.


Is Gaming Addiction A Real Thing?

What about actual video game addiction in children? Can kids really get so hooked on gaming that they develop a compulsive, chronic, psychological need to play?

In 2018, the World Health Organization officially recognized “gaming disorder” as persistent or recurrent gaming behavior that takes precedence over other life interests.

So yes, it’s a real thing!

Experts say that parents shouldn’t just fixate only on screen time, but they should also pay close attention to the effect video games has on their child’s overall behavior.

If your child starts to demonstrate signs of addiction, however long they actually play, you’re going to want to intervene.


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Is My Kid Addicted?

Just because your child plays video games, it doesn’t mean they’re addicted.

Recent poll data shows that 90% of teens in the US play video games (computer, console or cellphone) and yet less than 10% demonstrate signs of video game addiction.

According to experts, here are some red flags signaling video game addition in children that parents should watch for if they fear a child’s gaming habit is becoming problematic.

gaming addicaiton


Warning Signs Of Video Game Addiction In Children


The Need For A Bigger Fix:

In the same way a drug or alcohol addict would need a bigger “fix”, kids addicted to video games feel the need to spend more and more time playing.

If your child started out playing just an hour a day but has since tripled his gaming time, it may be a sign that your child is veering into addiction territory.


Disrupted Daily Schedule:

Kids who slide into video game addiction tend to ignore other aspects of their life as they become more and more absorbed in their games.

In many cases, their normal sleep schedule goes out the window as they find it difficult to quit their game and go to bed.

If you notice that your gaming child is exhausted and suddenly has trouble waking up in the mornings, it could be a sign of addiction behavior.



We tend to associate the word ‘addiction’ with substance abuse but a behavioral addiction, such as a gambling, food, or gaming, can be just as powerful.

As with any addiction, when the individual is forced to abstain from the addiction, they suffer from withdrawal symptoms.

Research shows that kids with video game addiction suffer withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, restlessness, irritability, and depression if they are prevented from playing their video games.

If you notice any of these symptoms when you prevent your child from playing games for a period of time, it may point to an addition issue.


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How to Break (Or Prevent) Your Child’s Video Game Addiction

When dealing with video game addiction in children, the first thing you need to do is come up with a structured plan.

A plan that will help your child transition away from their dependence on their virtual world.

Here are a three (3) ways to break or prevent the addiction cycle.


1. Track Your Child’s Game Time:

Whether your child has a video game addiction or not, you should track how much time they spend gaming.

Use technology to your advantage! Many devices have ways to track playing time, check the manual and see what’s available.

This will allow you to notice the first signs of addiction so that it can be addressed in the initial stages.


2. Set Specific Limits For Game Time:

Decide on how much game time your child should have on a weekly basis and create specific game time slots in his/her schedule.

For instance, maybe they can play for 1-3 hours maximum on weekends but not during the week.

You can again use technology to help you enforce time limits; by locking devices during off-hours, blocking WiFi access, etc.

Enforce the rules with pre-determined consequences. You child should be aware of what happens if they break the rules, so they can take responsibility for their actions.


3. Provide Alternative Activities:

Despite what your child tells you, there is more fun to be had then what is on a screen!

Set up an obstacle course complete with a tire challenge, stepping-stones, rope climb and parallel bars in your backyard so your kids has an alternate way to burn energy.

Support your child’s interest in a hobby; whether it’s karate, science, dance, or whatever.

When kids have other activities in their life that they love, gaming becomes less of a focus and more like a fun pastime… just as it should be.


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Guest Blogger Anita Fernandes has been writing extensively on health and wellness for over a decade. She has expertise in nutrition, fitness, public health, and weight loss and has contributed content to a variety of leading digital health publications. 


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