Coronavirus: Concern teens spending too much lockdown time gaming

For many of us, lockdown may be taking its toll.

Without school sport and social gatherings, young Kiwis have been forced into a new normal.

And with many spending more time on screens, there's concern too much tech could have a lasting impact.

Gaming. It's entertainment kids and teens often turn to.

But with lockdown giving us all time to fill, for many gaming has ramped up.

"I've been gaming, I've been learning a new language, I've been gaming some more," Macauley Cunningham says.

With social gatherings out, Cunningham says gaming with friends instead is what's helping him through.

"It lets you hang out with friends when you can't in real life. You have the same kind of banter and energy you would with the actual group," he says.

Cunningham only games for a few hours a day but reckons his peers could become addicted.

"A couple of them, they are literally all day. They have nothing else to do," he says.

For Lily Wright, NCEA means most of her screen is dominated by schoolwork. She says for others gaming's taken over.

"I have a few guy friends who are just gaming and having their time away and aren't doing work," she says.

Bank data indicates a general spike in lockdown gaming. According to ANZ, card spending on digital games is up 320 percent for the first 21 days of April, compared to the same period last year.

Contrast that to increased spending on digital books, movies and music, up 58 percent. Grocery spending is up 25 percent.

Net Addiction NZ says gaming addiction should not be diagnosed based on behaviours over a short and stressful period of time like lockdown.

It stresses time spent on an activity is not a useful indicator of addiction.

Psychologist Sara Chatwin believes all in moderation, especially at a time when routines have been turned upside-down.

"Pre-lockdown we were seeing increasing numbers of teens and anxiety, teens and depressive symptoms, so certainly this is just going to exacerbate those things," she says.

As we near level 3, Chatwin's urging us all to try to be understanding towards the young gamers in our lives - and for parents to help them find other ways to pass the time.