Gambling, Gaming, & Screen Time

"How much is too much?"

 

What is It?

Gambling is any game of chance that involves risking money or something else of value. Gaming includes video games, online gaming and live video interactive gaming. Screen Time includes gaming and gambling on line, surfing the net, MSN chatting, accessing Facebook or other social networks, texting, twitting, etc. Gambling, gaming, texting, surfing the net, and social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, My Space) interaction can all potentially lead to what is known as “process addiction” or “cyber addiction”.

 

Is What I’m Seeing Normal?

Gambling/gaming/internet/texting are all now a big part of our everyday lives. Many of us use it for work and school related activities as well as for maintaining relationships with friends, keeping in touch with the world, learning, and entertainment. Like adults, youth may gamble for enjoyment, excitement or to win money.

 

Should I be Worried?

While the vast majority of adults and youth game or gamble and spend time online, there are some for whom this becomes an excessive activity. There are times when youth, like adults, use gambling and other online activity as a way to cope with stress or other negative feelings. Gambling/gaming/screen time becomes problematic when a person spends so much time doing it that it begins to have negative consequences in their social life, school life, personal relationships, and in some cases, starts to affect their mood, personality, and physical and mental health. Some signs that your youth’s activity might be becoming a problem are:

  • He/she is  doing the activity for increasing amounts of time and frequency (e.g. for hours, every day)
  • There is an increasing amount of money being spent on the activity
  • The activity is keeping the youth from spending time with friends and family
  • When the youth is being secretive about the amount of time spent gambling or gaming
  • When you witness changes in his/her mood
  • When he/she is lashing out at friends and/or family members
  • When he/she brags about winning money gambling but does not talk about the losses.
  • When he/she misses classes at school so he /she can spend time online instead
  • When his/her academic performance drops dramatically (e. g. failing classes)
  • When he/she is staying up all night to be online

 

If you are noticing some of these signs in your youth’s behavior, you should speak to them or have them speak to someone  (e. g. a school social worker or counselor) to explore ways to keep their online activity safe and healthy.

 

Tips for Prevention and Wellness

 If you are concerned about your youth’s cyber activities, talk to them about your concerns and help them to set some guidelines and limits around their use. The following are things you can encourage you youth to do:

1.) Think of cyber activities as a form of entertainment and try to balance these activities with school work and other healthy activities in their life.

2.) Be aware that trying to cope with or avoid negative feelings and situations through gaming or other cyber activities can become problematic and lead to more negative consequences.

3.) Talk to someone at school or in your community if they don’t want to discuss the issue with you or feel you are unable to help them. Ask about resources in your community that can provide help.

4.) Take their friends, family and teachers seriously if they express concern about their cyber activity. They might be seeing something that the youth doesn’t. Hearing concerns from someone other than you as the parent/caregiver can be helpful to the youth in recognizing there may be a problem.

5.) Contract with you around how much time and/or money  they can spend on cyber activity and stick with the limits.

6.) Consider that the frequency and time spent on cyber activity increases the risk of the activity becoming problematic.

 Generally, it is a good idea to be aware of how much “screen time” your youth is spending so you can discuss setting limits with them to prevent their activity from becoming a problem. As always, prevention is the best medicine.

 

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