Published in El Pais, 26 February 2022.
Yesterday I attended a talk on the prevention of gaming in boys (this term also encompasses girls) by researchers from IRIS Zorg, based on the results of a study in the Netherlands. Several interesting data were presented that I want to summarize in this note.
- The brain of young people is not yet developed and therefore they act more out of emotion than reason. Consequently, it is important that parents closely guide their development to avoid compulsive or addictive acts. One of these is spending a lot of time playing games on the computer or consoles.
- With COVID-19, many kids have had less movement, less contact with friends, fewer hobbies or sports, and less school. Many have been spending more time on their phones, computers, or consoles. But, before COVID-19, this was already a worrying trend and risk for future health. 74% of men and 26% of women in the Netherlands are gamers which means they spend up to 14 hours/week on this. Boys with addictive risk behaviors are those who spend 23 hours/week or more and men are at greater risk with 87% and women with 13%. This implies that thanks to gaming they suffer from sleep problems, mental problems such as anxiety and stress, and physical problems (overweight, back or muscle pain).
- Although gaming (games) motivates a sedentary lifestyle, it is important to indicate that it also develops autonomy, a sense of competence, a strategic vision, it also improves decisions towards objectives, and a sense of group work.
- For parents, it is important to limit this behavior by setting a good example, inquiring about their children’s weaknesses, setting usage restrictions, and rewarding them when they comply with those restrictions. And enforce the restrictions for years and not just when you get angry. Set clear limits.
- It is important to fill those hours with healthy activities such as music or sports. Good routines lead to socialization and customs that will last in their lives.
- Failure to avoid compulsive or addictive behaviors will cause kids to have those same tendencies with other things that come their way later in life.
- Gaming or other addictions are an escape from the reality that children live perhaps because of aggressive environments or parents who are very distant from them.
Talk to your children and help them now meantime they are still developing and learning.