Managing screen time: Signs of video game disorder

Doctor discusses signs of video game addiction in children

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – How do you know if your children are playing video games for too long? There are some signs to watch for to make sure they aren’t addicted to playing.

Keeping the kids entertained during the summer is difficult, and Marlana Beck, a mother of four children, said limiting screen time is challenging.

“As of today, my husband and I were like, 'There’s no TV. No computers. We’re not doing anything. No digital connection at all,'” Beck said.

As hard as it might be to do what Beck described, Dr. Casey Green, an addiction specialist, said that could be what’s required to prevent a video game disorder.

“What you want to look for are problem behaviors that start to show up in kids. There’s certainly a large group of kids who can spend a large amount of time gaming and not suffer a lot of negative consequences,” Green said.

In 2018, the World Health Organization added gaming disorder as a disease. Doctors said the amount of time a child can spend playing is determined on a case-by-case basis.

But there are signs, Green said, that children are playing too much.

“Playing in secret, lying to family members about how much they’re gaming or playing, spending a real inordinate amount of time doing that. Maybe neglecting other relationships, friendships or other outdoor activities,” Green said.

Green acknowledges parents already have enough on their plate, but said it’s important to make sure kids aren’t glued to their screens. 

“I know it’s hard as parents, but it’s something that we have to be vigilant about how much time our kids are engaged in some of these activities," Green said. 

For Beck, that means focusing on activities outdoors.

“That’s one of the reasons we came to the park today,” Beck said. 

Green recommends putting down the controller and instead having the kids hit the playground.

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