Over the last couple of years, I have had a few mothers who have come to see me at their wits end as their teenage children are spending longer and longer on either computer games or the Internet to the detriment of their other interests and also schoolwork.
One of my patients in particular is only 13 years old but spends every evening after school until 11pm every night on his Xbox and had recently been refusing to go to school. When I asked his mother what he does instead of going to school she told me he spent the time playing games on his Xbox or watching films. He has even been refusing to eat unless the food is brought up to him.
I was not surprised to read in the newspapers this week that children have been reported as spending up to a year watching television and computer screens before they reach the age of seven. Researchers have reported that child Internet addiction could cause brain changes like those seen in alcoholics and habitual cocaine user.
In addition to addiction, too much time in front of the screen can also lead to depression and other developmental problems. This addiction to screens, whether it be a phone, tablet device, computer or television, does seem to be starting earlier and earlier. I am constantly surprised when I go out for meals with my family and see other children watching films or playing games around the table instead of interacting with their families.
Although there is increasing recognition of addition to computer games there is a wide variation in the amount of help available for these children. In my own experience I have find support and help for these children and their families practically non-existent.
I hope this changes for the future, as the number of children with addiction problems is likely to continue to increase over the ensuing years.
Patient details have been changed