Gaming disorder? Problematic gaming? Internet gaming disorder? Screen addiction? Technology addiction? Whatever you want to call it, whatever you title it, it’s real.
I see it day in and day out.
Kids staying up late at night to game, teenagers gambling online, teens addicted to Apex Legends or Fortnite. I see it, I see it all.
One question I get asked a lot in my clinic, through my website, in school presentations, in keynotes and on my social media is “What are some of the warning signs?”
These parents and teachers (and actually fairly commonly grandparents too) are in a situation where gaming and technology might be starting to become a problem in the home or at school but aren’t quite sure.
I’ve complied some of the common red flags that I see – this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list by any means but these are just some of the most common things I see when it comes to teens and kids when gaming, screens and technology start to become an issue.
Dropping out of team sports, refusing to attend sport
Avoiding going to any family events
Distancing themselves from old friendship groups and not replacing them with new ones
Older teens not going out at all on the weekends
Little or even no face-to-face contact with friends during school holidays
Declining invitations from friends to hang out
Significant drop in grades or marks/results at school
Panic at night when it’s bedtime and they haven’t finished all their work or homework/assignments
Pattern of not completing homework or assessments on time
Missing or avoiding days of school, all the way to flat out school avoidance or school refusal
Increasing difficulty getting them to follow rules (although this one can just be “normal” teenage behaviour!)
More frequent swearing and verbal aggression at home
Increasingly or regularly breaking things at home
Physical aggression of any kind
Increasing frequency and/or duration of emotional outbursts (again, this can be “normal teenager behaviour, this alone doesn’t necessarily mean you have a problem with screen use on your hands)
Secretive attempts to stay up late or waking up early to get online
Staying up late to game, or staying up all night to game
Avoiding sport or extra curricular activities to get on screens
Refusing family meals or showering due to screen time
Refusing to get out of bed (although again, this can be “normal” teenage behaviour!)