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Addicted to Video Games

Compulsive video gaming is a modern-day psychological disorder. Read how parents can deal with video game addiction at home.

Is your child spending way too much time in front of the game console? Or is his style of gameplay suggesting a tendency towards aggression?

Spot the Signs of Video Game Addiction

If a child exhibits signs of excessive gaming, you should seek professional help, either through his school's counselors or a private mental health professional. If such behavior is not addressed early, it may lead to serious consequences for the young gamer, such as excessive use, and exposure to violence.

Five Symptoms Of Excessive (Or Aggressive) Video Gaming

  • The child needs to play longer and longer to get the same level of satisfaction. It may be just 15 minutes extra initially, but playing time may increase until even a couple of hours are not enough.
  • His thoughts and behavior are fixed on the idea of gaming, even when doing homework. He structures his life around gaming, to the exclusion of other healthy activities.
  • He is restless and agitated when he is not engaged in gaming.
  • He wants to stop playing, but cannot bring himself to do so.
  • He gets into arguments easily with family members.

Excess Baggage

Excessive gaming happens most often with role-playing and real-time strategy games which require players to take time to build up the status of their characters. Their continuous nature means that gamers who stop playing may lose out to their opponents. Players who are addicted can suffer from problems such as poor eating or sleep habits, trouble with school attendance and schoolwork, social isolation and depression.

There is extensive research evidence that playing a lot of violent games can lead to aggressive thoughts and feelings. Players of such games may accept physical violence as being 'normal', are more likely to have hostile intentions and less empathy towards others.

All's Not Lost

However, the situation is not always as dire as you might make it out to be. After all, a child may spend a couple of hours gaming a day, and still function as a normal person at school. There are even some advantages to gaming! Moderation and balance is the key, and research has shown that low-frequency gamers stand to gain the most health benefits.

The Benefits Of Game Playing

  • Help develop strategic thinking and planning skills, and even a sense of accomplishment when a certain challenge is overcome.
  • Improve visual information process and eye-hand coordination, leading to quicker reaction time, and improved peripheral vision. (For action gamers)
  • Develop a character online. Those who interact with others online and are good at games tend to have higher self-esteem than non-players.
  • Help players make new friends and improve relationships. Eg. Online gaming communities such as Everquest require co-operation in order to do a task.
  • Provide an outlet for pent-up emotions, and help occupy the attention of those with attention deficit disorder.
  • Provide an escape from boredom and loneliness. Players associate game-playing with positive feelings of excitement and challenge.
  • Distract sufferers of chronic pain by distracting their attention, and can be used as a method of pain management.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Be aware of games that are available on the market and choose appropriate games for your children. Some game manufacturers use the Entertainment Software Rating Board system (Early Childhood, Everyone, Teen, Mature). Look at these labels as a guide before purchasing the games. Monitor and set limits on their choice of games as they can't appreciate the meaning of some of the violence. Older kids are better at this, but it depends on age and maturity.
  • Understand why they enjoy playing the games and realize that some games can't be saved midway.
  • Supervise and monitor the amount of time they spend on games. Get them to set their own limits. (Research has shown that players who do not spend a lot of time on gaming are less likely to develop aggressive tendencies.)
  • Play games with them and explain the appropriateness of the emotions involved. Use it as an opportunity to discuss issues such as gender and race stereotyping and the inappropriateness of violent solutions to real-life problems.
  • Encourage them to have exciting and enjoyable activities such as sports and other hobbies.
  • Communicate your concern in a way that they can accept. Use a soft approach, by asking questions like "If you are in my shoes, what would you do?" Scolding them might worsen the situation.

Sources:

  • Information adapted from "A Parents' Guide to Electronic Games", a brochure produced by PAGi (Parents Advisory Group for the Internet ).

APA Reference
Writer, H. (2008, December 18). Addicted to Video Games, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/addictions/addicted-to-video-games

Last Updated: August 15, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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