By Dr. Hilarie Cash
ReStart Center for Digital Media Sustainability
Digital screens are everywhere in our lives, for young and old alike. Most of us need them for school or work. Most of us use them a lot for personal pleasure.
And even though these screens may be quite small (think cell phones or smart watches), they are a powerful force shaping our behavior from the moment we begin using them. How much we use them, what we use them for, and the age we begin regular use all influence how strongly computers impact our lives.
A huge factor for children is what parents’ use looks like and what the rules of use are in the family. Some families have strict boundaries, while others have none. And many parents struggle to answer the question ‘How much is too much?’
With emerging statistics about video game and technology usage and their impact on the brain, there is a new disorder proposed for inclusion in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5):
Internet Gaming Disorder.
The DSM-5 is the book that clinicians and insurance companies rely on to determine diagnoses. Those who have worked on the latest iteration of the DSM (psychiatrists, researchers and other clinicians) have propsed that Internet Gaming Disorder be included when the book is revised and more research has accumulated. As it is currently written, Internet Gaming Disorder would be diagnosed in someone who showed 5 or more of the following symptoms within a year:
- A preoccupation or obsession with Internet games
- Withdrawal symptoms when not playing (such as irritability, anger, anxiety, restlessness, depression)
- A buildup of tolerance to video gaming, requiring more or new content to achieve the desired effect
- Failed attempts to stop
- Loss of interest in other activities
- Use in spite of negative consequences
- Lying about use
- Use to relieve painful feelings
- The person has lost or put at risk an opportunity or relationship because of gaming
And just because the DSM only talks about Internet video gaming, there are multiple digital activities to which a person can get addicted: console games, social media, information seeking, fan fiction, pornography. The list goes on.
In this age where digital use is an everywhere, everyday part of our work and social lives, parents are seeking more and more understanding and education around what is responsible use of technology, both for themselves and for their children.
Parents need help determining:
- What should the rules be?
- What kinds of problems can develop from overuse?
- How can a person know if they or someone in the family has a problem?
- What can be done about it if there is a real problem?
I’ll be doing a special breakout session for fathers and their teenage sons at Higher Ground Men’s Conference Saturday, Feb. 27: GAME OVER: What You Need to Know About Gaming and Tech Addiction. I will be discussing the above questions in detail. We’ll also unpack each of the possible warning signs of gaming and tech addiction.
And, while my Higher Ground session will be geared toward fathers & sons, I welcome and encourage any man who is concerned about the level of his own tech usage to join us for this important discussion. At ReStart Center for Digital Media Sustainability, our hope is to not only provide families a program of support to break the tech addiction cycle, but we strive to equip parents with the knowledge and tools to clearly know where to draw the line to prevent normal usage and play from developing into a problem.
Higher Ground Men’s Conference is the premier gathering of men of faith in the Pacific Northwest for encouragement, straight talk and practical tools for living with resiliency and integrity in today’s fragmented and over-sexualized culture. 2016 event is Saturday, Feb. 27 at Westminster Chapel, Bellevue, and includes special tract of breakout sessions for Fathers & Sons.