What’s fun for some can become an obsession for others. Learn the signs of and solutions for video game addiction.
Video games provide millions of hours of entertainment for people of all ages, but as a group, teenagers are on their computer or gaming console a lot. For most, playing is a harmless distraction, a fun way to spend free time. But for some, the urge to "game" gets out of control and becomes an obsession, negatively interfering with other aspects of their lives, such as school, athletics and relationships with friends and family. For these teens, gaming becomes an addiction — one that’s every bit as powerful and detrimental to their health and future as an addiction to alcohol or drugs.
Although it has yet to be formally recognized as a clinical diagnosis, gaming addiction is a serious problem affecting an alarming number of teens; recent statistics are shocking. In 2009, Science Daily reported on a study that showed nearly 1 in 10 teenagers in the United States are addicted to video games. A 2012 article in U.S News & World Report cited an Iowa State University study linking video game addition with the increased development of depression and anxiety in teens.
In 2009, Science Daily reported on a study that showed nearly 1 in 10 teenagers in the United States are addicted to video games.
So what can parents do?
First, recognize the signs that your teen might have a problem. If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, start paying more attention to your teen’s gaming habits.
- Do they seem overly preoccupied with video games, even when they are not playing them?
- Do they seem irritable and cranky when they are not playing?
- Are they defensive when you question them about their playing frequency or do the lie to hide how long they are playing?
- Are they ignoring friends, blowing off other activities they previously enjoyed and/or falling behind on schoolwork?
- Do they sometimes seem truly unaware of how much time they are spending playing?
- Do they seem tired all the time and have dry eyes and neck aches?
Second, try to understand what may be causing their addictive behavior. Just as alcoholics and drug addicts self-medicate with their substance of choice, many gaming addicts are using their playing time as an escape from problems or unwanted feelings like sadness, anger, inadequacy or social awkwardness.
According to WebMD, video game addiction is a serious psychological problem that has been steadily on the rise in teens in the last five years.
Finally, give them the help they need. Express your concern at the time they are spending on video games and explain what they are missing and damaging as a consequence. Strict limits on play time or the complete removal of access to all video game consoles and computers can nip the beginnings of a problem in the bud. But if your teen's interest in gaming has already ballooned into an addiction, stern talks and threats of punishment may not be the answer and could do more harm than good. In some cases, professional intervention is required. Your family doctor should be able to recommend a psychologist or therapist who helps teens with this issue.