UAE: Does your kid suffer from ‘gaming disorder'? Here are the warning signs to watch out for

UAE ministry asks parents to see to it that kids are not overusing their gadgets

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Angel Tesorero

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Published: Fri 26 Jan 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 28 Jan 2024, 2:26 PM

We should not get used to seeing kids glued to their smartphones playing online games instead of interacting at social events, or teenagers spending long hours focused on their tablets and laptops.

Health authorities said parents should see to it their kids are not overusing their gadgets. The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap) recently tweeted the tell-tale signs to watch out for to prevent the young ones from having a ‘gaming disorder’ or heightened priority given to digital gaming over other activities.

3 warning signs and prevention

Here are the tell-tale signs:

Is your child fixating and continuously thinking about electronic games?

Is he/she losing interest in other activities and hobbies?

Is your child experiencing rapid mood swings and anger issues?

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Mohap said the best way to avoid gaming disorder is for parents to establish agreed-upon gaming hours with their child, gradually reducing the gaming hours to a reasonable limit of one hour per day.

“Is it also important to involve the child in decisions about gaming hours,” noted Mohap, adding: “Discuss the negative effects of prolonged gaming, and encourage the practice of self-control skills.

The first step to reducing electronic game usage is to talk to the child about why he/she enjoys it and prevent him/her from having a gaming disorder.

Know the root cause

“Children who are addicted to social media and gaming tend to be tense, unable to relax, and sleep-deprived,” warned Dr Simy Mathew, specialist paediatrics at Canadian Specialist Hospital in Dubai.

Dr Simy Mathew.
Dr Simy Mathew.

“There were parents who brought their kids to OPD (out-patient department) with most of the above problems, not knowing the root cause was gaming or media addiction,” she told Khaleej Times.

She added a gaming disorder, if left unchecked, can lead to mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. “It can also reduce self-confidence, life satisfaction, and emotional stability.

“Spending more time with a smartphone or gadget rather than having face-to-face interactions causes social withdrawal and hinders the development of social skills of children. A child who spends too much time in front of a screen also lack physical fitness and may develop musculoskeletal problems,” Dr Mathew added.

Alarming trend

Eyesight problems are another result of too much gaming. Increased screen time can cause blurred vision, headaches, discomfort, and eyestrain, noted Dr Julia Sempere Matarredona, ophthalmologist at Barraquer Eye Hospital Dubai.

Dr Julia Sempere Matarredona.
Dr Julia Sempere Matarredona.

She said: “In recent years, concern about excessive exposure to digital screens in childhood has been increasing, especially after the pandemic.

“The current concern is about long-term effects of screen exposure in children. The time recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for screen time is no more than two hours a day in children apart from school time,” Matarredona added.

She noted there is an alarming trend of overusing the screen in children that results in myopia or nearsightedness, with the number of people developing myopia around the world – according to medical studies – has nearly doubled since 1971.

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“Screens have an addictive effect on children that is not recommended for their cognitive development. We should be increasingly aware that screens can affect the visual health of our little ones and it is our obligation to proactively take care of their vision from childhood itself,” Dr Matarredona underscored.

What parents should do

Health authorities said parents must do the following:

- Set boundaries and a daily period when there is no device use.

- Reduce device time gradually instead of stopping it abruptly.

- Replace content instead of stopping usage.

- Replace device use with other enjoyable activities.

- Make a list of things that must be done before device time.

- Prioritise device use that has a positive impact.


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