Today is a big day for parents and teens living in the digital world.  The U.N. Health Agency has classified compulsive video game playing as a mental health condition. “In its latest revision to a disease classification manual, the U.N. health agency said Monday that compulsively playing video games now qualifies as a mental health condition.” – Times

In working with teens and school counselors for many years, gaming addiction is a frequent conversation. A teen I worked with recently, who is a sweet and kind personality, was gaming with strangers who told him to “kill his dad,” when his father told him to get off Xbox for the night. When his dad saw that, they decided to take a break from Xbox and come back to it with a new set of safeties and boundaries. The teen uncharacteristically ran away and after being found tried to hit his dad. It took time away from the screen for this family to get their sweet boy back. This is the ugly truth behind device and gaming addiction that is a familiar story among many families.  

What does this mean and how do I know if my child has this? According to  W.H.O. (World Health Organization):

What is gaming disorder?

Gaming disorder is defined in the draft 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behavior pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.

Why is gaming disorder being included in ICD-11?

A decision on inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 is based on reviews of available evidence and reflects a consensus of experts from different disciplines and geographical regions that were involved in the process of technical consultations undertaken by WHO in the process of ICD-11 development.

The inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 follows the development of treatment programmes for people with health conditions identical to those characteristic of gaming disorder in many parts of the world, and will result in the increased attention of health professionals to the risks of development of this disorder and, accordingly, to relevant prevention and treatment measures.”

Information from: W.H.O.

This means that if your child is showing signs of a gaming addiction which is about 9% of kids today (a much larger percentage who struggle with a behavioral challenge due to violent games). (For symptoms of gaming addiction: They can receive the treatment they need through therapy or other form covered by insurance. Though it’s such a new classification, the amount of coverage is minimal and with few selected providers.

Many people want to brush the classification under the rug and say, “this doesn’t mean it is going to happen to my child.”  Hopefully not, but why risk it and what is the benefit of spending hours and hours alone or with Gaming Addiction For Kids And Teens Mental Health 768x529 Acf Croppedonline strangers gaming? Like many of the digital dangers our kids face, it is more comfortable as parents to look the other way (myself included). As a working mom it’s much easier to let them go to their screens so I can finish up an article or an email, but what is the cost? Mental health professionals offices are filled with people whose lives have been taken over by their digital devices. “Now, mental health professionals say they increasingly see players who have lost control.” –N.Y. Times

Our children are the target of the gaming industry. For a generation that is exposed to constant sexualization, violence and negative headlines on social media, the gaming companies push boundaries to keep them excited and engaged. The games our kids are playing are often hooking them by the adrenalin rush they are getting by virtually experiencing killing, breaking the law and other behavior they would get grounded for years for doing in the “real world,” and it is messing with their adolescent developing brains. Not all games are wrong, my kids do game, but being involved in how much, with who and what games are crucial in helping them stay within the boundaries of emotional and mental health.  The gaming industry earned $300 million a month on Fortune alone, is pushing back. We as parents need to stand firm and continue to advocate for our children.

A few tips:

  1. Set up parental safeties on your child’s gaming consoles and devices if they are no matter the age.
  2. Turn off the ability for them to game with strangers.
  3. Know what games they are playing (play with them a few times, so you understand how the game works). Don’t take their word for it even when you have a super honest kid, they will still sugar coat the game if they want to play it.  For parent reviews on games go to
  4. Let them earn playing time with a limit on how much they can play per day. Some consoles, like Nintendo Switch, have the built-in ability to set it to shut down when time’s up.
  5. Take full days to not game. If your child has an unusual reaction to not being able to play, they may have a significant problem more than really liking to game.
  6. Watch for behavior changes related to not only the amount of time playing, but also to the game they are playing. If they are acting more violent for example, lashing out at siblings, take a 2nd look at the game.  
  7. If you feel you need to make changes to your child’s gaming life and receive extreme pushback, stick to your boundaries. It takes about a month to re-establish good habits

Get help if needed. See a counselor or a treatment center:

List of resources:

*I have not personally vetted these resources so please do your homework. Feel free to contact me if you would like me to advocate for you throughout the process of getting your child the help they need.

List of Centers:

Computer Addiction Treatment

Ascend Healthcare

American Addiction Centers


Do you have stories about your experiences with gaming and kids that you’d like to share? What are your resources and tips?

Please share to help others! Buttons below :). 

Write a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow us @Bree_Jensen_