There are just five weeks until Christmas and while many parents will be gearing up for the bargains they can grab in the upcoming sales, there is one gift a leading child psychologist is urging parents to keep off their shopping list this Christmas.
"Parents really need to reconsider buying the next greatest digital device, whether it's a smartphone or a gaming console for their kids, anything that is connected to the internet potentially opens up a can of worms," Dr Huu Kim Le has told 9Honey Parenting.
There are a whole list of problems that can come with these gifts, according to Dr Le who says, many of the parents he works with regret ever making that first purchase.
"Whether it's online predators or exposure to adult content or potentially addictive video games, there are potential downsides to any kind of device, which is bought with the intention of being fun, but for some families that I work with clinically,?they wish they could go back in time and undo that purchase."
Dr Le works closely with families who need help with gaming addiction and says there are now 100,000 Australian teenagers currently addicted to gaming: "that's a full house at the MCG".
So with a growing number of teenagers addicted to gaming, Dr Le is urging parents to prevent the problem before it even has a chance to begin.
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He says "we just need to view video games as not just a safe play thing anymore - it's a very sophisticated entertainment machine".?
In fact last year a 13-year-old-boy took his own life after being suspended, grounded and banned from using his games - a coronial inquest into his death revealed Australian authorities are not adequately addressing the issue here enough.
Dr Le says gaming addiction can happen quicker than parents think ¨C one mother he is working with says "it was all downhill" after her son received a high school laptop when he started year seven.
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"The mother said for 12 years of his life, he wasn't addicted to games because she had parental controls but as soon as he got into high school and got a laptop, the mother did the right thing and asked whether she could install some basic parental software to set some limits and the school essentially said it was in the too hard basket."
Now this boy is being treated for gaming addiction.
And while Dr Le knows we can't shield our kids from technology forever, it's important to set up strong boundaries regarding the internet and games, similar to what we would do in regards to cigarettes, vaping and alcohol ¨C because they're all "addictive substances".
"If you're okay with looking after your child for the rest of their lifeˇ that's up to you, but I think most parents out there want their kids to live to their full potential."
For more tips and information, you can listen to the Life Ed Podcast and download parent resources at lifeed.org.au/gaming