How to tell if your child or teen is addicted to screen time or gaming

Gaming and screen time addiction behaviours can manifest differently in children and teens, but here are some common signs and behaviors to look out for:

  1. Preoccupation with Screens: Children or teens addicted to gaming or excessive screen time may constantly think about screens, eagerly anticipating the next opportunity to play games or engage with digital devices. They may exhibit restlessness or become irritable when unable to access screens.

  2. Loss of Interest in Other Activities: One significant indicator of addiction is a noticeable decline in interest or participation in activities that were once enjoyed, such as sports, hobbies, or social interactions. Screen time takes precedence over other aspects of their lives.

  3. Difficulty Controlling Usage: Children or teens addicted to screens may have difficulty controlling the amount of time spent on gaming or digital devices. They may struggle with adhering to agreed-upon screen-time limits and may feel compelled to continue using screens despite negative consequences.

  4. Neglected Responsibilities: Addiction to gaming and screen time can lead to neglect of academic responsibilities, chores, or personal hygiene. Falling grades, incomplete assignments, and poor performance in other areas of life may be observed.

  5. Withdrawal Symptoms: When access to screens is restricted or taken away, children or teens with addiction tendencies may exhibit withdrawal symptoms similar to those seen in substance-related addictions. These symptoms may include irritability, restlessness, anxiety, and even depression.

  6. Escalation of Usage: Addiction often leads to an escalation in screen time and gaming behavior. Children or teens may require increasing amounts of time to achieve the desired level of satisfaction or stimulation. They may also engage in secretive behavior to hide the extent of their screen time from parents or caregivers.

  7. Interference with Sleep: Excessive screen time, especially close to bedtime, can disrupt sleep patterns. Children or teens addicted to screens may experience difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep due to overstimulation from gaming or digital activities.

  8. Social Isolation: Excessive screen time can lead to social isolation. Children or teens may withdraw from social interactions, preferring to spend their time alone with screens rather than engaging with peers or participating in family activities.

It’s important to note that these behaviors alone may not indicate addiction, as occasional and controlled screen time is a part of modern life. However, if these behaviours are persistent, intense, and significantly impact various aspects of a child’s life, it may be a sign of an addiction issue.

If you suspect that a child or teen may be struggling with gaming or screen time addiction, it is advisable to seek professional guidance from healthcare providers, therapists, or counselors who specialize in behavioral addictions or child psychology.