Video Game Addiction: Is Your Child Addicted To Video Games?
Addiction is not just an adult problem. Kids can be addicts too. Video game addiction is on the rise in kids under 18, and the consequences can be severe. Eighty-eight percent of U.S. kids play video games; according to a Harris Poll Survey of 1,178 kids between 8 and 18, roughly ten percent may be video game addicts. These kids commonly have eight of the 11 symptoms seen in gambling addiction. Kids who are addicted to video games can suffer consequences such as:
o Inability to pay attention in school
o Low grades
o A desire to escape from reality
o Getting into fights
o Diminished interest in family, friends, social events, hobbies, and sports
o Inability to sleep due to time spent gaming
o Inability to stop playing games
o Spending more and more time online
Kids who are addicted to video games are more than twice as likely to have Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Boys are more likely than girls to develop a video game addiction and to have game addiction symptoms.
What Are The Symptoms Of Video Game Addiction?
Drawing the line between a child who enjoys gaming and a child who is addicted can be a tough call. Two classic symptoms of addiction are (1) the addict continues to act out the addiction regardless of consequences, and (2) the addict can’t stop using without help. Here are ten additional symptoms of video game addiction that parents can look out for. Does your child:
1. Play video games every day?
2. Play games instead of doing homework?
3. Become restless, preoccupied, irritable, and discontent when offline?
4. Play video games three to four hours a day? Every day?
5. Prefer gaming over everything else?
6. Have little interest in anything not game-related?
7. Lie about how much time they spend online?
8. Slack off on chores at home or at work?
9. Lose track of time while playing games?
10. Become depressed, violent, or angry if forced to stop playing?
Why Do Kids Get Addicted To Video Games?
No one really knows what causes addiction or why one person gets addicted while someone else does not. There is speculation that kids with poor social skills and those who can’t play sports are more likely to become video game addicts than other kids. We all want to be engaged with others in a positive way. When kids engage with video games, there’s no judgment and no fear of rejection. With video games, kids can take risks, make mistakes and try out new behaviors without being criticized or ridiculed. Kids can learn from their mistakes and improve their skills based on feedback. This brings satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.
Especially addictive, are online role-playing games that literally have no end. Kids assume roles and then interact with others who are also playing roles. In this setting, a child who is not successful at school or in social situations can become popular, respected and influential within the world of the game. Many of these games are played in teams, and kids are encouraged to interact with teammates to develop strategies to beat other teams.
How Is A Gaming Addiction Treated?
The first line of defense for parents is to be alert for early signs of gaming addiction and to set limits on Internet activity. The limits can be reinforced with negative consequences if ignored and positive consequences when heeded. If the video game addiction has become so severe that’s it’s no longer manageable at home, there are a variety of treatment options available:
o Cognitive or behavioral therapy
o Individual or group counseling
o Residential treatment programs
o Wilderness therapy
o Online Gamers Anonymous, a 12-Step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous
o Outpatient treatment programs
o Antidepressant medications such as Bupropion (Wellbutrin)
If your child needs help with a gaming addiction, consider seeing an addiction specialist. Many kids with a video game addiction have underlying psychiatric disorders like ADHD that predispose them to addiction. Treating an underlying disorder, if one exists, can sometimes help kids to abstain from gaming or to limit their time online.