Is computer game addiction in children real? Could your child be addicted to computer games?

Posted: June 12, 2012 by mbs5 in Health

 by Mel Santangelo

Have you ever thought your child might be spending too much time playing computer games?

Answer these simple questions to assess your child’s potential to computer game  addiction:

  • Does your child constantly talk about computer games?
  • Does your child ask you to play computer games for a short time, but then makes up convincing excuses not to stop playing and manages to play for hours, time after time?
  • Does your child lose hours playing computer games without realizing?
  • Does your child avoid other activities to play computer games?
  • Does your child have a problem and plays computer games to feel better?
  • Does your child get angry if asked to stop playing computer games?
  • Does your child deny excessive computer game playing?
  • Does your child ask you to spend a lot of money on computer games?
  • Does your child feel bad about spending a lot of time on computer games?

If your child shows these signs and symptoms over a period of time they could be developing, or already  have an addiction to computer games.

But, don’t panic, help is available.

How real is the problem of computer game addiction?

Anecdotally, as a teacher I have seen children in Australian classrooms that demonstrate signs of an unhealthy appreciation of computer games. Their behaviour at times has been so disconcerting, it led to the writing of this article.

Scott Zacharison, Primary School Teacher

Scott Zacharison State Primary School Teacher, Victoria is very popular with his students and uses educational computer games in the classroom to engage students in Literacy and Numeracy in a fun way, but in a supervised environment.

Zacharison acknowledges there is the possibility that children may get ‘carried away’ with computer games like anything in life and need supervision.

The computer savvy and much-liked teacher offers some common sense advise from his experience as a teacher to parents and others on the sensible use of computer games with children in the video below.

Professor John Toumbourou Associate Director from the Strategic Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing Research Deakin University confirms the exsistance of addiction in children as he speaks about the research at the Centre into childhood addiction and the nature of addiction in children in the video below.

What are the signs, symptoms and extremes of computer game addiction?  What to do and where to get help if you think a child is addicted to computer games?  

Associate Dean Faculty of Health, Chair of Health Psychology Faculty of Psychology Deakin University, Dr John Toumbourou said the first sign of a developing computer game addiction is spending long periods of time watching a computer screen.

He said another sign would be a loss of interest in other activities that children were previously a participant. The child that has a developing addiction, their focus changes and is strongly on the point of interest.

Dr Toumbourou said the salience of children developing an addiction or the children’s ability to focus on a range of important mental, physical and social activities can affect children’s cognitive and emotional development. It may impair their preparedness for later responsibilities in life and cause further problems.

He said preventing an addiction from developing in a child is better than having to seek a treatment later on for a child.

“So the idea here is that before they reach the age where they’re really getting involved with computers remember this could be an issue for them…They need to learn a range of skills other than using the computer that is not to say there should be no time spent on the computer. But the first thing is set clear standards and rules. Get yourself well informed on reading up on literature that tells you what a safe level of screen time is for a child,” Dr Toumbourou said.

He said if a parent or adult thinks a child is developing or has an addiction immediately seek out help from health and education professionals that they have access to.

Background to story

When searching on the Internet for statistics on computer game addiction in children in Australia there are almost no results. In Science Daily when summarising findings in a recent study in Singapore on pathological video game use they reveal that there are 8 per cent of youth game users in Australia that are addicted to video games, similar to other countries. However in the same article, it is not stated who, when or how the study on pathological youth game use, in Australia was conducted.

Video game addiction and internet addiction are under review for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th Edition (DSMIV). The manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association and is used globally by mental health experts to categorise and provide treatment for mental health disorders of adults, young adults and children. 

Dr Phillip Tam a Sydney based adolescent psychiatrist is a vocal media advocate for diagnosing and treating computer game addictions as well as other media platform related addictions. In the Australian media, he recently launched the Network for Internet Investigation and Research in Australia (NIIRA) and website.

The network may be accessed through the website. The website includes resources for the public and professionals, available expert practitioners, the NIIRA board and NIIRA news. Dr Tam stated to the media he thinks internet addiction should be categorized as a disorder.  



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