With the popularity of mobile devices, and the ability to be connected nearly anytime anywhere, children and teens are spending more and more time online and playing video games, whether at home or on the go. It is important to be aware of the signs of addictive, excessive, or compulsive behaviors towards screen media use, as this can be detrimental to a child’s physical, emotional and mental health.
How can Problematic Interactive Media Use (PIMU) affect children?
Ongoing research shows that when media are overused or used compulsively, they can interfere with a child’s daily life and lead to poor school performance, family conflicts, emotional and psychological concerns and relationship problems. While these problems have been called a variety of different names such as, “Internet Addiction”, “Internet Gaming Disorder” and “Media Addiction”, these terms all refer to Problematic Interactive Media Use (PIMU).
- Problematic Interactive Media Use often appears in one of the following four ways:
- Video gaming–including excessive gaming on a computer, console, or mobile device, where the child or teen plays for hours on end, often only taking breaks when forced.
- Social media–including using social media as a primary way to connect with others instead of through face-to-face communication.
- Pornography–including obsessive pornography use that results in sexual dysfunction.
- Information-seeking–including spending hours of time online surfing websites and binge-watching videos in place of other activities.
- While one of the most common symptoms of PIMU is a fixation with screen media, other symptoms exist. If your child changes in any of the following areas, be sure to talk to your child, and your child’s doctor:
- Children and teens suffering from PIMU may also suffer from other conditions, such as ADHD, social anxiety, depression, and substance use. PIMU can also contribute to health problems, such as weight gain, eating disorders, and problems sleeping.
- Screen media cannot be avoided easily, as children and teens will need access to the Internet for school, socializing, and entertainment. Review how long, how often, and how many screens are used in order to better understand how media are used by all members of the family—including yourself.
What YOU Can Do
Although many children and teens use the internet, mobile devices and video games, making sure that they do so as part of a balanced diet of experiences can help ensure that they don’t overuse or develop compulsive behaviors around media use. Here are several suggestions to help you guide your child’s media use:
Do you know a teen who wants to learn more about time management?
Visit the Center for Young Women’s Health at Boston Children’s Hospital.