Doctors Have Been Seeing Game-Obsessed Children for Adult Health Issues

Child playing Fortnite video game.Michael Coghlan via Flickr

Did you know the World Health Organization recently deemed gaming as an official mental health disorder? Last year, it was published in the International Classification of Diseases as “Gaming Disorder.”

Although the topic of too much gaming keeps coming up in parenting discussions (and perhaps relationship discussions too), it may be hard to tell when it becomes too much. But doctors are saying that it’s causing health problems in children.

It is more than sleep deprivation. What doctors are seeing ventures into the territory of addiction, particularly with “Fortnite”. The uber-popular video game has hundreds of millions of players worldwide, with kids as young as 4 or 5 playing. There are older children who have reached the pro-level status and play the game in competitions and/or on live-streams – for money.

But at what price? According to some doctors in Boston, there is an uptick in “grownup” health problems in gamer children. Carpal tunnel and obesity are becoming more common with children who sit and play for hours. The lack of physical activity is taking a toll on their bodies.

One psychologist who was seeing a young patient for anger issues – who was an avid gamer – guesses that the child also suffered from hypertension from reacting to what happened in the game. It can make one’s blood pressure rise.

Anxiety, anger, depression, nightmares, and withdrawal are some of the words being used by parents and mental health experts when describing the behaviors of these kids. There have also been instances of children wetting themselves because they didn’t want to interrupt their game, indicating that addiction is real.

Although mental health professionals and pediatricians have found merit in using video games as an outlet, or even as a complement for certain physical activities, there are caveats. They suggest that parents limit screen time to no more than two hours a day.

If your child is in so deep that it will be difficult implement a structure, parents can also sit down and play along for the allotted amount of time. Another option is to relocate the console out of the bedroom and into a common area to allow for easier monitoring.

Whether you do that or not, you can take advantage of parental control settings on the gaming console or an app that limits screen time. This can help to ensure that your Fortnite-loving kiddo is getting enough sleep and schoolwork doesn’t suffer.

Moderation is key with Fortnite or any other game. The WHO asserts that at least one year of symptoms need to be present for someone to be considered as having gaming disorder. But parents should speak with their child’s doctor if they notice unhealthy changes in diet, weight, hygiene, sleep patterns, and mental behaviors.

We know that playing Fortnite can get intense, so if you have a young child in the home, pay attention to the signs of excessive play, including the constant yelling at the screen.

Do you have a Fortnite gamer in your life? Has your child had any health problems due to gaming? How do you monitor game playing time?