Gaming addiction is officially a mental health disorder according to the WHO. Here are signs of addiction to watch for and tips to help your kids play safely.
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World Health Organization Lists Gaming Addiction As New Mental Health Disorder

Gaming addiction is officially a mental health disorder according to the WHO. Here are signs of addiction to watch for and tips to help your kids play safely.

By Tessa Adams of Family Footnote

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced it will add Gaming Addiction to the 2018 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Newsweek reports that this is the first addition to the manual since the 1990s. A person would have to show symptoms for a year in order to be considered addicted. This is a controversial addition, but I find myself nodding my head in agreement with what the WHO is proposing.

In my home, we have an Xbox, tablets, and computers, so I am always thinking about the balance we need to strike between gaming and creative play. Curious as to what the warning signs were regarding video game addiction, I researched some ways parents can tell if their children suffer from this. Common Sense Media and Project Know list many different ways parents can decipher whether or not their children need to back away from the video games. All sources seem to agree on these indicators:

Top Six Addiction Indicators

  1. Sleep deprivation and lack of personal hygiene
  2. Poor work and academic performance
  3. Increased anxiety and mood swings if he or she is separated from a video game
  4. Avoidance of family members or friends
  5. Weight gain or weight loss
  6. Lying about how much time was spent gaming

Why is gaming so addictive?

In my research, I found that there are two avenues of addiction.

  1. Kids can get addicted to single-player games, feeling as though they need to play over and over again until they beat a level or game. This is a compulsive action and can be a serious obsession for children.
  2. Playing a video game online with other people. This type of gaming is the most addictive because it technically has no ending due to constantly changing campaigns and missions.

What Parents Can Do

However scary this new addiction can be for parents, there are ways to combat it and allow for healthy exposure time with video games. According to the Tech Addiction website, parents make all of the difference. Some of their tips include:

  1. Make sure kids are allowed to play games only after their other responsibilities have been met.
  2. Assure games are not their first source of activity or entertainment.
  3. Be aware of which games enter the home.
  4. View video game playing as a privilege.
  5. Access parental control settings or visit Common Sense Media to read about each game.
  6. Consider banning online gaming or role playing games as they are considered to be the highest in addictive gaming.
  7. Follow through with mandates. Give consequences when needed.
  8. Keep video games out of the bedrooms.
  9. Know the signs of gaming addiction.
  10. Look for signs of depression and anxiety if your child is gaming too often. Many who struggle use video games as an escape.


There are some interesting benefits to video game play. Kids work on critical thinking, analysis, problem solving, and more. However, if not maintained, children could easily find a way to slide into a gaming addiction. When my kids try to stay on a video game longer than I’ve said they could, I say things like, “Go out and make some memories and friends.” “Run around in reality and have some fun.” No matter how sarcastic and silly these statements are, I mean them.

I am not perfect. I have purchased video games for my kids, let them play on the games too long on some rainy days, and have even let them try games I didn’t check out first. I am not proud of these parent mishaps, but it’s a learning process. I do, however, appreciate that the list of indicators exists, so that I can tell others about them and work to make sure I do what’s necessary to never let my kids’ enjoyment of video games get to an addictive level.

This post was originally published on Family Footnote.


About the Author

Tessa A. Adams is a graduate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a Masters in reading. She is a language arts and creative writing teacher and is the co-author of the blog She has three children and when she is not mothering or teaching, she is writing. Her work can be found in Huffington Post Parent, Fine Lines Literary Journal, Empty Sink Publishing, Route 7 Review, Sammiches and Psych Meds, xoJane, and