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How Much is Too Much?

In the United States, the average time youth spend playing video games varies between 8-14 hours per week.  Most guidelines recommend a total daily screen time (which includes watching TV, cellphone, and computer use or gaming combined) of two hours. There are, however, no guidelines on what is the appropriate age for children to start playing video games and so it is at the discretion of the parents.

What Are the Warning Signs?

Significant impairment in social, family, and school functioning are key indicators of Internet Gaming Disorder. The individual isolates him or herself and spends hours playing video games. They become more interested and involved with the games rather than real life interactions. They become obsessed and look for ways to get more time to play the game (i.e., Staying up late at night or skipping classes). Any delay in gaming time can lead to significant mood impairment and behavioral changes. Decline in school grades and lack of interest in other activities are important warning signs.

Prevention and Treatment

Parents are the most important role models for their children, and being an ideal role model is the best way to prevent becoming computer/technology addicted.  Setting and enforcing screen time rules is absolutely-crucial.  If the child/adolescent is refusing to obey the rules and early symptoms of Internet Gaming Disorder are noticed, a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation should be considered. If there are any underlying psychiatric problems, they need to be diagnosed and treated appropriately.

In many instances these children have Social Anxiety Disorder or Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and they find Internet gaming as a way of coping with these issues.