Social Democrats’ Spokesperson for Children, Councillor Jennifer Whitmore, has called for public health guidelines for parents on the use of computer games amid growing concerns about their addictive effects.

Cllr Whitmore made the call following today’s recognition by the World Health Organisation of addiction to video games as a mental disorder.

Cllr Whitmore said:

“The computer game industry is developing much faster than our understanding of its potential impacts on users, particularly on children whose brains are still developing.

“Today’s new WHO classification must serve as a wake-up call for the government to get to grips with this issue. A recent scientific study from the California State University has found that Fortnite and other addictive video games can affect children’s brains in the same way as alcoholism or drug abuse. And now we see the WHO officially classifying ‘gaming disorder’ as a mental health condition.”

Cllr Whitmore added:

“Fortnite is a game that keeps coming up when I talk to parents of children and teens. It is incredibly popular with children, as it is fast paced, competitive and children can play online with their friends.

“There is a large social element to this game, which I believe makes it incredibly popular. However, this can also mean that children find it very difficult to switch off from it and parents can find it difficult to manage.

“Parents have a key role to play in determining the nature of their children’s use of video games, both in terms of how much time is spent playing games, as well as the content of the games. However, much of the time parents do not have the knowledge to assist them to make those decisions.

“It is important that Government take the lead on this issue. An expert working group or task force should be established to look at the impact of gaming on children, from physical, mental and emotional perspectives.

“This information should be used to inform public health guidelines to provide parents with the tools that they need to manage this at home. There also needs to be a review of the regulations surrounding the labelling, marketing and age-profiling of these games.”

ENDS

18 June 2018