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Growing Up Online

Gaming - Facts for youth

What is gaming?

Gaming is the practice of playing games using digital technology.

There are offline and online games.

  • Online gaming includes any game you play online or access on a digital device, such as a computer, smartphone, tablet, or gaming console (like an Xbox and PlayStation).
  • Offline gaming can be played without an internet connection (offline). These games still include screen time and have some of the same risks as online games.

Gaming allows users to develop their skills and gain rewards. Types of gaming include:

  • educational games
  • puzzles
  • role-playing
  • sports
  • action
  • simulations or pretend games (games that copy an activity from real life, such as driving a train, submarine, race car, or space ship or playing a sport)
  • real-time strategy (games that allow players to play without waiting to take turns)
  • first-person shooter (the player has a gun or other weapon and experiences the game as the shooter)
  • multiplayer or single player

There are content ratings for games, just like there are for TV shows, movies, and comic books. In Canada, you may not be able to download or buy certain video games if you’re under 18.

Some games are educational and others are violent. Having parental controls and knowing the content ratings will help keep you safe and prevent you for playing games that aren’t.

Parental controls can help you:

  • set time limits on how much your child uses their device
  • track your child’s calls, texts, location, and social media activity
  • filter certain types of web content to protect your child from things you don’t want them to see online

How common is online gaming?

Online gaming is very common in youth.

  • More than 8 out of 10 youth play online games.
  • Nearly 3 out of 10 video game users (called gamers) are under the age of 18.

If you play online games regularly, there’s a 1 in 10 chance that you may start to show signs of an addiction.

Are you at risk?

In most cases, gaming won’t become a problem. But you may be at risk of having problems with gaming if you:

  • don’t have friends outside of gaming
  • are very shy and prefer to spend time alone
  • have a medical condition that limits your physical activity
  • tend to act before you think things through
  • are depressed, anxious, nervous, or worry often
  • are dealing with trauma
  • don’t care well for yourself, like not eating regularly or eating enough healthy foods
  • have parents that don’t often guide you in the decisions you make or set boundaries for how you act
  • have a behaviour or emotional disorder, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)

Why can gaming be a problem?

Gaming can become a problem when it harms your mental or physical health, or has an unwanted effects on your day-to-day life. Some problems that can happen with gaming include:

  • worse grades
  • not being able to pay attention in school or to other things as long as you used to
  • more health problems than others your age who play less
  • fewer real-life relationships
  • relationship problems
  • depression and anxiety symptoms
  • not enjoying other activities as much as you used to

How do you know if you might have a problem with gaming?

It’s not always easy to know if you have a problem with gaming. If you notice changes in your life or people you know well say you’ve changed, you may want to talk to someone about your gaming.

Warning signs include:

  • worsening health (this can include your physical, mental, and emotional health)
  • losing friends or have trouble keeping plans you make
  • not being able to stop thinking about gaming (obsessing)
  • a low self-esteem, doubting yourself, and thinking you’re not good enough creating a different version of yourself in the games you play, then looking for and believing the feedback you get
  • thinking that you can only do things well online
  • feeling more confident and comfortable with others online than in person

Signs of an addiction include:

  • thinking about gaming all the time
  • having trouble controlling your mood, feeling sad or angry without a reason, or having other mood changes
  • needing to play longer to still enjoy (having a higher tolerance)
  • feeling angry and upset when you’re not playing (having withdrawal)
  • not getting along with or having trouble connecting with your parents, siblings, and friends
  • feeling like you’re not meeting expectations of yourself and others
  • finding it hard to make or keep friends outside of gaming
  • telling yourself to cut back or stop playing but you can’t

You may be thinking:

Remember that:

“I don’t want to set any limits on my gaming. I don’t care about being tired or missing out on other things.”

You can become addicted to gaming. And it’s important for you to enjoy other parts of your life. Your brain may start to only feel good when you’re gaming. This can make it hard for you to enjoy other things.

“I love gaming and I don’t want to stop.”

There are good things about gaming. But problems can start if you play too much. You need to grow and develop in other areas of your life. Doing different types of activities helps you have more balance in your life.

“My parents are mean and unfair.”

It’s hard when you want to do something, but your parents don’t let you. But it’s important to make time for homework, physical activities, and family and friends.

For help and support, contact: Alberta Health Services Youth Addiction Services at 1-866-332-2322 (toll free in Alberta).

See the Resources section for more information.

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