How to Tell if Your Anxious Child is Addicted to Video Games

When it comes to playing video games, there’s a fine line between an anxious child who loves technology and has a tough time putting down the game – and the anxious child whose video game playing is interfering with their ability to function and thrive.

Video game addiction is just one of several forms of internet addiction outlined by Mental Health America. The full list includes:

  • Gaming, or online game playing
  • Compulsions, such as online shopping, stock trading or gambling
  • Information seeking, which involves searching databases and surfing the web
  • Cyber-relationships, including social media and other online communication
  • Cybersexual, which includes internet porn

Any of these behaviors can cross the line into a so-called addiction. While there is no single definition for internet or video game addiction, there are several signs that can indicate your anxious child’s life is suffering due to excessive gaming.

Signs Your Anxious Child May be Addicted to Gaming

Anxious children may be crossing the line into video game addiction if they:

  • Constantly think about playing their game, whether they’re playing it at the moment or not.
  • Need to spend more and more time playing to get adequate levels of satisfaction.
  • Have tried to stop or reduce playing time with no success.
  • Become depressed or irritable when told they must cut down on game time or can’t play when they want to.
  • Are not keeping up with school work, chores or relationships due to gaming.
  • Totally lose track of time while playing.
  • Use gaming as a way to deal with their sadness, loneliness or anxiety.
  • Are not taking care of their hygiene as well as they used to.
  • Are withdrawing socially.

Although many children may enjoy gaming, a very small percentage are considered addicted. In fact, statistics say only 6 percent of people are addicted to the internet in one of its five forms, making the percentage addicted to gaming even smaller.

How to Cut Down Gaming Time

Even if gaming addiction isn’t in the picture, parents may want to limit gaming time to ensure it stays that way. Some helpful tips include:

Regular breaks. Have your anxious child take at least a 15 minute break for every 45 minutes of playing.

Engaging activities. Plan activities and outings for your child that require concentration, creativity or physical intensity to keep his mind off gaming altogether.

Favorite things list. Have your child make a list of their favorite things to do that don’t include gaming. Tell them to pick something from the list instead of heading over to the computer.

Track usage. Keep track of when your anxious child tends to turn to gaming to see if you notice a pattern. Is it when they’re bored? Upset? Particularly anxious or stressed? Help your child find other ways to deal with those feelings when they arise.

Gaming can be an enjoyable activity from time to time, as long as it doesn’t put your anxious child’s growth, development and ability to thrive at risk. You can play a role in ensuring it doesn’t but reminding your child there is much more to life than the video game screen.

Read more in our guide How Gaming Affects Your Anxious Child’s Brain.