Is your child addicted to gaming? How do you spot the signs of internet gaming addiction? What should you do if you think this is a problem? Should the NHS provide support?

Sky News, this morning, ran an interview between Kendal Parmer and Kay (no so empathetic) Burley where they discussed Kendal’s son one year absence from school due to his gaming addiction.

Meet Kendal Parmer

Kendal was articulate, bright, cool, composed and strong in the face of the seemingly rude questions from Kay. Here is a woman who knows her own mind and is determined to find help for her son through the NHS. Kay came under fire in the comments for asking pertinent questions, she seemed unsympathetic, as she always does, yet the questions she asked were ones we were all thinking.

  • Why not take the consoles away?
  • Block the internet?
  • Just send him to school?

Although Kendal insisted she’d tried everything, and responded with eloquence, she didn’t quite answer the questions in their entirety, and to me it appears she wants the NHS to take on the responsibility she should, as a parent.

Kendal is protesting that Internet Gaming Addiction needs to be recognised by the NHS, while more support should be made available. She seems to be of the impression that receiving this diagnosis would end her son’s problems.

When faced with the question of, “why don’t you just get rid of technology” she asked if a household would get rid of food should it be a food addiction. She’s missed the point. If a child has a food addiction, parents replace all unhealthy choices with nutritious options, leaving only the good stuff available. The child rarely receives help from the NHS, except, maybe in the form of counselling or CBT to help control the cravings, this in itself is sporadic.

What help does Kendal envisage she’ll receive if she receives the golden diagnosis? Does she believe there will be millions invested in Internet Gaming Rehabilitation as this is highly unlikely. In fact it seems odd that she’s looking to the NHS for support in this, shouldn’t she start with the school? Couldn’t she volunteer to go in and speak to the children about this, couldn’t she connect with psychologists who can help her understand her son’s pattern of behaviour?

No Parent is Perfect but We All Like to Judge

I’m trying not to judge, after all, I have a 13 and 17-year-old who are probably a little addicted too. My 17 year old is autistic and finds it easier to communicate with people online than he does face to face. He has a “rainman” like memory for facts, figures and statistics, and will often talk to me for hours about his adventures in the online world.

My 13 year old meanwhile feels more confident online. I’ve watched though as her mood has changed when trolls have appeared, or when she hasn’t received as many likes for her video edits as she’d like. Luckily, the majority of her time online is spent writing and reading fan fiction, while pursuing her love of all things anime but still she spends more time than I’m comfortable with. Why then, aren’t I backing Kendal and fighting for the NHS to help my children?

Internet Gaming Addiction Treatment Starts at Home

I believe the treatment starts at home. When I thought my two were a little addicted, I decided we should all have a technology detox. We said our goodbyes on social media and used the internet only for work and homework. We managed this for a full month and when it came to getting back online, the kids were happy with time limits. Of course they moaned, but they saw the bigger picture. There are days, in the holidays when they’d happily sit in a darkened room playing Borderlands, Minecraft, Bed Wars all day and for me, sometimes, it would be easy to let them. (Who wants moaning teenagers about when you’re trying to do the housework, relax, garden, shop etc?) I have to be strict with myself, make them leave their rooms, make them come outside (even though they pretend to melt in sunlight), make them be a part of the day, whether it’s shopping or trampolining, doing something they love or hate.

Just Like Sugar, The Internet Will Not Disappear

The internet is a huge part of our children’s lives now and it’s not going away. I may have been a little addicted to Sonic the Hedgehog as a teen, before that I was addicted to TV. All technology has the potential to transport people to other worlds where they hide from responsibilities, but this doesn’t mean it needs NHS funding. Today I’m addicted to books and I’d love to spend my days in bed reading, but that’s not real life. Just as avoiding school and gaming isn’t the life of this child. Why is the internet on during school hours? Why does he need vitamins to replace the vitamins lacking from the sun? Why isn’t he left twiddling his thumbs so school seems like a good option. If he is having trouble with school, why isn’t he home schooled instead? It makes no sense. The NHS is at breaking point as it is without throwing new diseases into the mix.

I can only surmise that Kendal’s a bit scared, she’s trying to avoid the outbursts, or she’s happy to spend hours and days without the company of her son. Either way, she needs to be introduced to BT Access Control, where a single device (or six) can be blocked from accessing the internet and she needs to hide the ADSL filter during school hours.

Why isn’t it that simple? Am I, like hundreds of commenters, simply judging because I don’t have the problem, so I feel subconsciously superior as a parent? Or, is there really an easy solution that Kendal’s not following, is there something she’s not telling us? What happens when she takes the consoles away? Why does she give them back?

How to Spot the Signs of Internet Gaming Addiction

Most of us are addicted to technology in some form or other as it’s become a necessity in today’s day and age.

Many of us, as parents, have accepted that our children will have a relationship with the internet, and will often use it more than ourselves, as this is generation X, they were born into an internet age.

However, there are signs to look for, if you think your child may be addicted, these include (but are not limited to):

  • Refusal to participate in family activities
  • Decrease in time spent with real life friends
  • Conversing about nothing but gaming, the online world
  • Mood swings related to internet use
  • Late nights with internet use despite being tired
  • Only leaving their bedroom for meals

If you think your son or daughter may be addicted, try adding limits. You could use the internet as a reward (if a chore is done, you get the Wi-Fi password) or you could set specific times for devices to be connected.

At first, an addicted child will be a little moody when torn away from a screen, for a family day out or other event, but you will notice their mood lifting as time goes on.

If you’re worried about social interactions, ask if they’d like to invite their online friends round to play. Of course, technology will still be involved but they will have some face to face contact it may also allay any fears about who they are playing with online.

I’m no expert, by any stretch of the imagination, but unless Kendal wins her fight, and the NHS allocate funding to deal with Internet Gaming Addiction, we must tackle this problem as parents ourselves. The easiest way to do that is just to turn the internet off.