Video Game Addiction – Advice for Parents
As a parent of five children, I’ve seen two of them gravitate towards video game play more than the other three. It’s interesting to me that gaming has been a draw to my sons versus my daughters.
Video game overuse, also referred to as video game addiction, is simply defined as the excessive and/or compulsive use of computer and video games to the point where it interrupts every day life.
Although it may surprise some of us, video game addiction is one of the fastest growing forms of addiction. Approximately 5-10% of youth who play video games actually become addicted, meaning that just because your child seems to spend a significant amount of time playing games does not mean they are an “addict”. Often, it is used as a harmless form of entertainment during free-time, but it can sometimes evolve into an addiction.
If you are worried your child may be prone to video game addiction, there are some characteristics that indicate a greater potential to become addicted:
- easily bored
- has poor relationships with family members
- becoming a loner at school
- tendency toward sensation seeking
- impulsive due to control problems such as ADHD
- pre-existing conditions such as depression, anxiety, social phobia or compulsive disorders
- doesn’t take breaks from gaming easily and challenges parental requests to do so
Parents who suspect that their kid(s) are becoming addicted to video games should watch for these warning signs:
- increasing amount of time spent playing
- being preoccupied with gaming during other activities
- using games to escape social problems, stress or depression
- lying to family members and friends about gaming habits
- becoming irritable when told to reduce play-time
- decrease in time spent with family and friends
- lack of motivation towards school work or job
- falling asleep in classes
- dropping out of extracurriculars such as clubs or sports
- not getting day-to-day responsibilities done such as homework or chores
Although many of these signs are behavioral, there are also physical signs indicative of gaming addiction:
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- sleep disturbances
- back or neck aches as well as headaches
- dry eyes
- decline in healthy eating habits or neglect of personal hygiene
I’m sure after reading through these potential indicators of gaming addiction you’re wondering what the next step is if your child seems to exhibit some of these signs. To begin, let your child know that you’re concerned about the large amount of time spent gaming. Be sure to discuss all the video game addiction symptoms and progression patterns, particularly the ones which you have observed in your child/teen.
Even if your child isn’t showing a lot of the signs of addiction, it is always good to discuss time management with her/him and set healthy limits. This is easiest to do when video game systems and/or computers are in a living area where usage can be monitored.
If excessive gaming continues, the absolute last-resort solution is to seek professional help. Keep in mind that it is rare for kids’ gaming to reach this point, especially if time limits and rules regarding video games are established early and enforced.
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