The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children spend no more than one or two hours a day with TV, video games and computers, but the average American child spends up to one hour a day just playing video games.
One pediatrician tells parents what warning signs to look for if they suspect their child might be addicted to video games and what to do to prevent their children’s love of gaming from becoming a problem.
“If your child is becoming addicted, you will notice behavior changes,” said Robert E. Burke, M.D., Ph.D., M.S. “They will become more aggressive with parents and siblings and have decreased school performance.”
Children may also exhibit physical signs if they’re spending extended periods of time concentrating on video games. They might gain an excessive amount of weight or lose a drastic amount of weight.
Dr. Burke also warns parents to be aware if their child is hanging out with a new crowd of children who they do not approve of. This could be a sign that they are withdrawing from healthy relationships.
“The biggest way to prevent addiction to video games or anything else is to simply be involved in your child’s life,” Dr. Burke said. “Know what video games your child is playing, play with them, and take the opportunity to discuss the proper amount of time to spend with video games.”
Keep the lines of communication open between parent and child, the pediatrician said.
“Addressing issues like addiction will be easier if the child feels comfortable talking with the parent.”
If a parent suspects that their child might be showing signs of addiction, seeking medical advice is the first step.
“Start by going to see the child’s primary care physician,” Dr. Burke said. “They will be able to decide what the best plan is to manage the addiction and indicate how far the addiction has progressed.”
However, if the child is showing signs of suicidal or homicidal behaviors or is having extreme mood swings, Dr. Burke recommends seeking immediate medical attention.
“If the parent is staying involved in their child’s life, they will have a better understanding of what the child is going through and will be aware of changes in their behavior,” Dr. Burke said. “It will be easier to intervene at an early stage of addiction if the parent is aware.”