How much time children spend on video games is a divisive topic. In this series, we explore the pros and cons of the gaming world. This week, a parent wonders whether her son’s love of gaming has escalated to an addiction.
What started as a fun hobby quickly turned to a fight for unrestricted gaming time, according to a Perthshire mum who fears her son is addicted to his Xbox.
Rachael Lamb set screen time restrictions for her 15-year-old son, who does not want to be named, however the rules were quickly broken.
When his Xbox time is up, he quickly moves onto another device and the battle continues, she says.
She says the family were “naïve” to how easily young people can become hooked to the screen.
“It’s a constant battle to get him off of his Xbox once he is on it,” she said. “He’ll say that he spends an hour doing a heist and it would ruin all his work to take him off now.
“It always makes you feel like you’re being such a bad parent by saying that he can’t stay on.
“He does not see it as being a problem and over the years I have likened it to an addiction.”
It takes a toll on the morning school rush and in the evenings when his younger sister is in bed.
However during lockdown the gaming world was the only place for the teenager to socialise with his school and online friends.
I question myself a lot on whether I’m being unfair. He will tell me I’m the only one who monitors how long he can stay on for.”
She explained: “He is the loveliest boy until there is a screen involved because then he becomes so selfish – so unaware of anyone else in the house.
“He can be playing after dinner when his younger sister has gone to bed and we’ll ask him to quieten down.
“He just shrieks and he’s loud and you can go in two or three times before it comes back to being the parent who is threatening to take things away from him.
“It’s a constant struggle. I question myself a lot on whether I’m being unfair. He will tell me I’m the only one who monitors how long he can stay on for.”
Last week, we told how video games can have benefits for learning when played in school, according to lecturer and gaming expert Derek Robertson.
Rachael however, worries games, even for education, would just be another way for her son to spend all of his time in front of a screen.
Online expert Ghislaine Bombusa has offered her top tips to help young gamers and spot the problem signs early.
Ms Bombusa, head of digital awareness site Internet Matters, said: “Feeling like your child is addicted to video games can be concerning but there are things you can do to support your child.
“It’s important for parents to stay engaged in children’s gameplay to help them develop healthy gaming habits.
“Setting some boundaries on how much time they spend gaming and when, can be a starting point but there are other things that can help too.
“Encouraging children to take regular breaks from gameplay, making gaming active and giving them coping strategies to deal with potential issues they may face can also be beneficial.”
Spotting the signs of gaming addiction
There are also questions to consider when assessing whether gaming has impacted a young person negatively, according to Ms Bombusa.
● Is my child physically healthy and sleeping enough?
● Is my child connecting socially with family and friends?
● Is my child engaged with and achieving in school?
● Is my child pursuing interests and hobbies?
● Is my child having fun and learning in their use of digital media?
If you’re worried about your child’s gaming check Internet Matters for information on addiction, online dangers and advice on where and when to seek help.
Video game series
Last week: Dundee University education lecturer told how video games such as Minecraft can be a great learning tool in the classroom.
Coming up next week: Chris van der Kuyl, who runs 4J studios in Dundee which produces console Minecraft games, gives us a tour around his studio and tells why he thinks children playing video games isn’t so bad after all.