Problematic Video Game & Internet Use: Are We Asking the Right Questions?
Current screening tools for problematic gaming and internet use have proven helpful in both the research and clinical realms, but have limitations. Screenings are typically developed around behavioral addiction (especially gambling) and impulse control models, but these models may not be sufficient in explaining complicated electronic toxicity phenomenon. Furthermore, from a clinical perspective current screenings may not be sensitive enough to pick up problematic use in an individual who may be not be “addicted” per se but who nevertheless would benefit from abstinence or a prescribed “electronic fast”.
In practice, it is typically a child—perhaps even be an adult child—who is suffering from too much screen-time—but it’s the parent who brings (drags?) them in. In the vast majority of cases, the child (including adult children) will not acknowledge that screens are a problem and will lie about usage, effects, and consequences. Additionally, in the majority of cases the parent has little awareness that screens might be a contributing culprit (if not THE culprit) to their child’s woes.
Although the questions below may not be stringent enough for a formal research study, they are designed to help parents become aware of how screens may be impacting a child’s mental health and functioning. Here are some questions parents should consider regarding their child’s interactive screen- time ("IST"); they are primarily centered around the child’s affect (mood) and emotion in relation to screens.
Interactive screen-time can have significant negative effects on mood, attitude, organization skills, focus, memory, social interactions, and the ability to regulate oneself when stressed. In short, IST causes a stress response and may therefore cause dysfunction in school, at home, or socially even with minimal but regular use. Parents, clinicians, and educators need to be more aware of electronics' impact since addressing it can improve functioning dramatically.
 Interactive Screen-Time (IST) refers to using electronic media devices (smartphones, computers/laptops/ipads, videogames, etc) with which one interacts. IST may be more dysregulating than passive screentime (e.g. watching television on a non-interactive device).