Director of Internet Addiction Clinic @ Kidspace
The Rise of Gaming Addiction on Mobile Devices
Over the last eight years I have seen a steady increase of children and teenagers at the Internet Addiction Clinic @ Kidspace suffering from screen or gaming addiction. When speaking at School or Corporate Seminars many parents feel shell shocked that gaming addiction has “come out of nowhere!?” The truth is there are a multitude of reasons as to why gaming and screen addiction is more prevalent in children today than it was ten or twenty years ago (far too many for this article to do justice in any meaningful way). So, for now, I will just address one: the meteoric rise of gaming on mobile devices.
I can recall a time a few years ago when one of my go to recommendations to parents was to manage home internet WIFI access. While I still find this to be the most effective strategy, it has become more difficult for families to practically implement for two reasons.
Firstly, game developers are moving way faster than our research or parenting strategies ever will. A few years ago, the only way to play a desirable multiplayer strategic or first-person shooter game was on a desktop PC. These games slowly became compatible on smaller tablets. And finally, this year we have seen game developers release mobile versions of popular games. In an attempt to make the games more accessible to the masses (including children) game developers have ensured these mobile versions provide the multi-player social element while limiting the amount of data required. What does all this mean for the average family? Your child no longer requires your WIFI password to play.
Which brings me to the second point. Telecommunications companies in Australia have been rapidly increasing the amount of mobile data you receive on a plan. Monthly pre-paid plans that are targeted towards children or teenagers now offer 30-50GB data per month! Compare this to a few years ago when the average plan would provide 2-5GB. Cue every child in Australia “Mum, I’ve researched the best plan, and this is by far the cheapest for you” - while strategically steering their parents towards the never-ending data plan. All this, and we haven’t even touched on the problematic nature of “family sharing” and “automatic top ups” - both geared to “ensure there is no bill-shock at the end of the month”. In case some of you missed it, I’m fairly cynical about such features, and feel they allow some Telco’s to take the moral high ground while supplying unlimited data to children.
What’s the take home point you ask? Let’s face it, physically wrestling a child to hand over their phone is akin to asking for them to part with an appendage. It often leads to escalating conflict in the house. I would strongly encourage parents to consider the mobile data plan their children or family are on. In my experience you are more likely to be able to reign in a gaming addicted child from limiting their data. At the end of the day, in the absence of mobile data or WIFI their phone or device is just as boring to your child as their prescribed school books.