How to protect your kids from gaming disorder

  • Video gaming can become detrimental to a child's social and emotional development.

    Video gaming can become detrimental to a child's social and emotional development. Stock photo

By Jacqueline Rhew
Amita Health
Updated 7/5/2020 10:25 AM

Sheltering at home and social distancing can make it difficult to fill your children's days, particularly during these longer summer days with fewer sports and outdoor play.

Your children may be stuck to their screens and it's nothing to take lightly. The World Health Organization has added "gaming disorder" to its international classification of diseases. The American Psychiatric Association classifies gaming disorder is as a "condition for further study" in it's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).


Many parents are probably not surprised to hear the name for some long-standing questions. Are video games detrimental to a child's social and emotional development? How much gameplay is too much? Here's what every parent needs to know about gaming disorder and how to make video games part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

What is gaming disorder?

For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, it must significantly impair aspects of a child's life, such as family, social or education for at least 12 months. Prior to its WHO classification, many of the diagnostic criteria for substance use disorder were generalized to accommodate symptoms of gaming addiction. Both disorders cause the brain to produce dopamine in a similar way, which in turn produces the sensation of pleasure or euphoria that fuels the addictive behavior.

Although any age group or demographic is at risk of gaming disorder, kids can be especially susceptible because many are first exposed to electronics with game capabilities at an impressionable age.

Striking a healthy balance

Video games are not inherently bad for a child's health. They can provide a social outlet children create to bond and make friends. However, video games should be played in moderation and balanced with physical exercise, social activities and creative, unstructured play.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

Some recommendations for how you can help your children achieve that healthy balance include:

• Learn about the games your child wants to play. "Video games" encompasses everything from Super Mario Brothers and Candy Crush to violent survival games like Fortnite. Vet games in advance by watching playthroughs on YouTube to help you determine if it's appropriate for your child.

• Enforce time limits. Work with your children to set daily limits for gameplay, teaching them how to work within those limits. That way, they can plan, rather than get upset when they must stop midgame.

• Create a bridge between the game and real life. Talk to your children about the skills required to progress through the game, such as problem-solving, lateral thinking, quick reflexes, exploration and creativity. Discuss how they can apply those skills to everyday situations.

• Teach your kids about online safety. If your child is playing games online, they'll likely be exposed to offensive language, trash talk and verbal abuse from other players. Rather than shield them from this ugly inevitability, use it as a learning opportunity. Teach them how to manage those situations effectively, such as muting or disconnecting the audio, reporting abuse to the game's moderator and not sharing personal information with strangers.

If you're concerned with your child's video game habits and how they might affect their emotional and social development, be sure to talk to your pediatrician.

• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Amita Health.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.