Last Updated on 21st February 2020

There is nothing wrong with gaming in moderation, but if you are concerned that a young person in your care has problematic behaviours toward gaming, it’s best to seek support. So far there have been several treatment options identified including therapeutic counselling, medication and/or self-help groups. Healthy habits can support young people to maintain positive gaming behaviours.


The NHS has launched a new service which will tackle behaviours associated with ‘gaming disorders’. The new ‘Centre for Internet and Gaming Disorders’ will support young people who are ‘seriously addicted’ to gaming.

This year, gaming disorder was designated as a mental health condition by the World Health Organisation (WHO). They explain it as “pattern of gaming behaviours characterised by impaired control of gaming” and giving priority to gaming over daily activities despite negative consequences.

According to WHO, ‘gaming disorder’ involves patterns of behaviour so severe that they result in a ‘significant impairment’ in education, social and family activities for at least 12 months.

The WHO have offered reassurance that ‘gaming disorder’ will only affect a small proportion of those who play games. Setting positive boundaries around game playing can support young people to develop healthy gaming habits.

Dr. Linda Papadopoulos a Psychologist and Internet Matters Ambassador gives the following advice:

“Put parameters down when it comes to how long they’re allowed to play- don’t allow them to have tech in their rooms after lights out and ensure that they have alternative activities whether they be sports or clubs that make them engage with their peers in the real world- if you are still concerned then seek the help of a professional counsellor.”

It’s important to note that young people with existing mental health needs incl. depression, anxiety, ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be more susceptible to ‘gaming disorder’.


Symptoms of ‘gaming disorder’ can be:

  • Choosing to play games rather than socialise or do activities they previously enjoyed

  • Lying about how the amount of time spent on gaming

  • Inability to concentrate or focus on learning or participating in school or sports

  • Feeling irritable, impatient and restless without access to games

  • Excessive desire to be alone to play games

  • Constant tiredness, low mood and an inability to sleep

  • Headaches, eye strain, neck pain and repetitive strain injury caused by gaming


You may want to speak to your GP in the first instance or a parent’s advice line.


For confidential parenting and family support you can contact Family Lives on their website or on 0808 800 2222.

If you are a professional with concerns about a young person’s gaming habits you can contact the NSPCC Confidential Child Protection Helpline via email or on 0808 800 5000.

If you have concerns about the immediate safety of a young person, you should contact the emergency services on 999 (emergency number).