Prince Harry said this month that he wants Fortnight to be banned. Gaming addiction is listed as a mental health condition by the World Health Organization as well. So what are the signs of gaming addiction and what can you do if you think you might have a problem. Chris Berrow spoke to Dr. Louise Theodosiou, a leading adolescent psychiatrist with the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Louise - There are ways of encouraging people to continue to use digital technology when it may be less helpful for them to do so. For example people may continue to game if they are reminded that other people in a game that they are playing cooperatively with other people will be continuing to embark conquests. They may also receive reminders telling them that there will be time limited quests available for a short period of time that would enhance their character. They may be reminded that their character is online and waiting for them. These concepts of persuasive technology can be seen as encouraging people to return to games at points when actually they had decided not to.
Chris - Is there a particular age group that's affected by something like this?
Louise - What we know is that increasingly people are gaming at all ages of life. It is true that more younger people are gaming. However what we have to acknowledge is that gaming is not in and of itself a negative thing.
Chris - Do you become disconnected from the real world?
Louise - Yes there are situations where people may find that they are less likely to engage in reality. If for example you are feeling very anxious in the real world you don't want to leave the house. You don't feel accepted by your peers. You find being in open space is very anxiety producing. You do not feel that you're doing well at school in all of these circumstances. People may find that they are becoming less involved in the real world, and that the virtual world is becoming a place where they feel much safer. Yes this can of course be problematic.
Chris - Do you feel like games companies have a responsibility towards their own customers when it comes to something like gaming addiction?
Louise - Yes indeed they do. What we would recommend is that games companies acknowledge some of the persuasive strategies that may be used for example notifications and time limited quests. We would also recommend games companies to keep an eye on the amount of time that young people and indeed games of any age are spending on games.
Chris - And what can parents do if they're listening to this.
Louise - If a parent is listening to this and is worried what they need to remember is that ultimately the best way of addressing this is to speak to their children. Say that you recognize that gaming is important to them but that that needs to be a balance of activities. What we would also encourage people to do is to not allow children to be gaming after a certain time at night. Although we recognize that this gets much more difficult as children get older. Addressing the accompanying mental health needs is a process that can be supported either through school nurses or possibly through primary care. You can of course then liaise with mental health services.