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Examining the Causes and Effects of Children’s iPad Gaming Addiction
Examining the Causes and Effects of Children’s iPad Gaming Addiction
Before smartphones, tablets, video games, and apps, parents had to think of other ways to
entertain and educate their children when taking a road trip, eating in a restaurant, or spending
time at home. As one of the first mobile devices that offered Internet connectivity from anywhere
at any time, the iPad emerged as a popular device for adults and children to access websites,
social media, and apps (Uyun et al., 2021). Today’s children born after 2000 are known as digital
natives because they have only ever known the availability of technology like iPads, smart
phones, and laptops to entertain and educate themselves (Uyun et al., 2021). However, there are
some children who may not balance the time they spend on iPads and become addicted to
playing games and apps on the device. This essay examines the potential cause and effect chain
where a child plays on an iPad and becomes addicted, starting when the child uses an iPad given
to them by their parents and then followed by a series of causes that include playing games on
the iPad, playing games more often on the iPad because it is so fun, and neglecting
responsibilities and themselves in the process, which then leads to the effect that the child has
become addicted to the iPad.
To start examining this cause and effect chain, let’s start by looking at the cause of a
parent providing an iPad. In the causal chain of using an iPad to becoming addicted, research
suggests that parents providing an iPad and the amount of time they allow the child to use the
device as part of their parenting style plays a role (Uyun et al., 2021). For example, when
considering the three types of parenting styles – authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive – the
authoritarian style of parenting appears to lead to the greatest amount of gaming addiction
because it impacts a child’s “psychosocial development” and leads to greater social anxiety
(Uyun et al., 2021, 51). While it would seem like the permissive style of parenting would lead to
a child playing the most hours on an iPad, this strategy appears to not lead to addiction nor does
the authoritative parenting style that offers good communication with children about balancing
hours on devices like an iPad with their other responsibilities (Uyun et al., 2021). Therefore,
parents providing an iPad can influence the causal chain toward addiction, but the parental style
they choose to use can also impact the chain toward addiction or away from it.
While the mobile device is the vehicle that potentially enables the addiction for children,
the next step in the cause and effect chain, which is the variety of engrossing games, makes
children want to play on the iPad for countless hours and dominating their time. If the iPad was
not able to offer so many types of fun games, children would likely not be as interested in the
mobile device. The variety not only appeals to children’s desire to do things they enjoy, but they
also actively seek out a way to make connections through the games, including shaping their
self-identity and self-worth (King & Delfabbro, 2016). Therefore, the more they make
connections and see positive results from playing the variety of games, the more likely they are
to continue playing in order to continue receiving that positive response (King & Delfabbro,
2016). The available research also suggests that those children who are not receiving positive
reinforcement from other sources outside the game, such as their parents or authority figures as
well as their peers, the more likely they are to continue spending time on the various games on
their iPad or other device (King & Delfabbro, 2016).
Once the child is fixated on the games because they are so fun and provide a positive
feeling, the next step in the cause and effect chain is the possibility that the child becomes
addicted to the iPad. The addiction to the iPad can be identified in those children where they
spend more time on gaming than other activities that are critical to their development, including
reduced focus on learning as well as decreased physical endurance from lack of exercise (Uyun
et al., 2021). Referred to as pathological gaming, the use of an iPad becomes unhealthy when
there is “excessive and persistent involvement with video games that interferes with a youth’s
psychological, social, family, and school functioning” (Domoff et al., 2019, 3). According to
some who have researched the issue in children, the addiction with gaming and gaming devices
has been caused by a level of tolerance similar to what others experience with different types of
addiction known as tolerance (Domoff et al., 2019). For children who are not able to balance
their time with gaming, they “need to use video games for increasingly longer times to achieve
the same effect” (Domoff et al., 2019, 3). Therefore, the preference for gaming may also be
because it serves as an escape from life, relationships, and other situations where they do not feel
comfortable or that do not bring the same level of happiness and satisfaction as the games (Choo
et al., 2015).
However, the causes that lead to the effect of iPad addiction could be much more
complex than the suggested cause and effect chain. Available research shows that the cause and
effect change may have other causes that lead certain children to becoming addicted versus all
children experiencing the same effect. Research studies have shown that those kids, ages 8 to 12,
that follow this cause and effect chain of gaming addiction are impacted by other causes, such as
social anxiety (Tas & Gunes, 2019). The impact of social anxiety and the struggle to interact
with their peers was especially found in boys of that age group who became addicted to games
(Tas & Gunes, 2019). Researchers also noted that the effect of experiencing addiction also may
be based on the age of the child and relationship with the parent (Domoff et al., 2019). For
example, one study found that younger children tend to be more reliant on their parents for
access to a gaming device like an iPad (Domoff et al., 2019). In contrast, an older child like an
adolescent or teen may have “more autonomy in their media use and have higher personal media
ownership rates” (Domoff et al., 2019, 3). A similar study concurred that access to devices and a
child’s sense of responsibility to their parents’ rules also determined whether a gaming device
and gaming would become an addiction (Pawlowska et al., 2018).
Also, there may be additional causes that impact the cause and effect chain of a child
using an iPad and becoming addicted. A related factor that involves parents may be the type of
relationship that a child has with one or more of their parents. Choo et al. (2015) found that
addictive disorders often result from a negative family dynamic. They noted that “codependence
is believed to develop due to long-term exposure to highly stressful family relationships, such as
the present living situation, or more commonly a dysfunctional family” (Choo et al., 2015,
1430). However, in families where there is a better functional dynamic and emphasis is placed
on children’s education, leisure, and social adjustment, the result is that children are less likely to
become easily addicted to gaming (Choo et al., 2015). Children in these families are also
presented with a wide range of learning and leisure activities so they can experience satisfaction
and happiness from more than one activity (Choo et al., 2015). Another factor to consider among
causes that lead to iPad addiction was that addiction seemed to be more prevalent outside of
urban areas in more suburban and rural areas (Pawlowska et al., 2019). There was a lower sense
of boredom and desire to “experience new sensations” in children that lived in rural
environments compared to those in city environments (Pawlowska et al., 2019). Finally, to add a
relevant factor that only impacted children and families during the last 16 months, the
appearance of COVID-19 and need to stay at home impacted children’s behavior, activity
selection, and social access as well as parenting strategies (Oliveira et al., 2021). This factor was
also included because it ties together some of the causes of iPad and gaming addiction to
illustrate how the cause and effect chain can be impacted by specific events or factors. In this
case, children were bored and alienated from their friends as well as experienced a significant
drop in activities and frustration from their parents and families due to the unprecedented
situation (Oliveira et al., 2021). Parents were seen as less likely to enforce limited iPad time as
they were focused on other issues that created family stress and a negative home environment
(Oliveira et al., 2021). The result was often extended iPad and gaming time that became the
primary activity for children.
In conclusion, this cause and effect chain shows how iPad use with children leads to the
effect of addiction in some kids. The causes that can lead to addiction include the introduction of
iPad use from parents who want their kids to have and use the devices followed by the capability
to access a wide range of fun games that become preferred over other activities. From there, the
causes of addiction include the child’s decision to play games on their iPad over doing their
chores and homework, taking showers and getting enough sleep. When all these causes lead the
child to decide that their iPad – and the games on it -- is more important than anything else in
their lives, they become addicted.
However, in the midst of researching and proving how the chain worked, also illustrates
that there are more potential causes involved. The causal chain can include parenting style,
communication and interaction between parents and their children, a child’s self-identity and
self-worth, peer relationships, and social anxiety. At each step in the cause and effect chain –
from a parent giving a child an iPad to discovering the positive environment and the fun the
mobile device offers to making a decision on how many hours to devote to that fun – there are
choices and behaviors that impact the effect and potential for addiction. Effectively navigating
and managing those choices and behaviors can be impacted by a number of factors that can
enable a child to stay balanced about using their iPad and playing games and having it become
unhealthy and turn into an addiction.
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