A child's online gaming obsession and how this family overcame it – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

A child's online gaming obsession and how this family overcame it

Updated August 04, 2019 11:07:08

William Barry loves video games.

Key points:

  • A balance between screen time and green time has helped one family manage their son’s online gaming behaviour
  • Behavioural experts say there’s been an explosion in the number of primary school-aged children with gaming addictions
  • An expert warns if a child’s online gaming addiction is not treated early it could lead to violent behaviour

If he had a choice, the nine-year-old would be playing one every day of the week.

“I like the online ones because the solo ones, they just get boring,” he said.

“At the end [of the game] I feel happy and then it goes on again and again.”

Like many kids, William’s interest in playing video games grew as he entered primary school and his mother, Persa, noticed changes in her son’s behaviour.

“He wasn’t really on top of his homework,” Mrs Barry said.

“So, we said ‘Friday after school you are allowed to play, and also weekends’.”

But even that proved hard to manage, as William made up for lost time with lengthy sessions in front of the family computer across the weekend.

“I noticed that he’d come down on Monday. He’d be really flat,” Mrs Barry said.

“Then we implemented screen time and green time, where we said to him ‘OK, you’re allowed to go on a screen [on the weekend], but you need to go outside and play’.”

Spending time out of the house has been one of the key parts of a system that’s now working for William, although his mother admits it’s taken time to develop.

“I guess we are on a journey; everybody is worried about it,” she said.

Explosion in young kids affected by gaming

Brad Marshall, a psychologist who helps families with internet addiction issues, said there’s been a steep rise in primary school-aged children visiting his clinic.

“It been doubling every year for the past five years — and that’s only for gaming,” he said.

The increasingly connected world with more mobile devices is playing a part in exposing younger children to the world of online gaming.

“It is very important to address this at an early age,” Mr Marshall said.

He also warned that physical violence becomes increasingly likely if a child’s gaming addiction stretches into adolescence.

“We quite often see some aggressive responses when they are asked to come off,” Mr Marshall said.

“That can be anything from property destruction to holes in the walls.

“Another common one is refusing to go to school, or refusing to do homework.”

While Mrs Barry’s son hasn’t shown any of the serious signs of addiction, she says the way William is asked to stop playing makes a big difference.

“When I ask him to turn off, I give him a period of time so I say ‘OK, in 10 minutes, we are going to turn it off’ because if I say turn it off [right away] that’s not going to work,” Mrs Barry said.

“That’s when you see the mood drop and he goes to his room and he’s really upset.”

Academics say online gaming can be beneficial

Daniel Johnson, a professor at the Queensland University of Technology, has done extensive research on the subject of gaming.

“Video games are really good at making you feel competent — they give you great feedback about how well you are doing and there is also plenty of autonomy in video gameplay,” he said.

“We have done a bunch of research around things called social capital and found that video games are really good at building connections.”

Professor Johnson said gaming can also deepen connections with people you already know.

“What’s healthy for one person might be different for another but generally we find the video games are a hobby that allows you to connect you with others,” he said.

“They also break down a lot of barriers that might exist in other spaces.

“You can maintain friendships with people on either side of the world or with people that you lost track with maybe since you left school — it is quite flexible in that way.”

William agrees — sharing his video game experiences online is fun.

“You need to show your friends and stuff [otherwise] there is no point,” he said.

Topics: internet-culture, internet-technology, family-and-children, health, computers-and-technology, kids-games-and-links, child-health-and-behaviour, psychology, games-on-the-web, sydney-2000, nsw, australia

First posted August 04, 2019 05:10:28

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