Spending a lot of time playing video games doesn’t necessarily qualify as an addiction for children and young adults. The question that needs to be asked is: Can they always control their gaming activity?”
Video game addiction signs and symptoms to watch for in children and young adults include, but are not limited to:
- They are lying about or minimizing time spent playing video games. (Does your child tell you they spent 1 hour playing, but you know they played for 2 hours or more? Perhaps they are even lying about computer or video game use so that computer or video game privileges aren’t taken away. )
- They exhibit defensive behavior. (Are you getting an angry reaction or an outright denial when asking your child about their video game playing?)
- Most of their “free time,” non-school hours are spent on the computer or playing video games. Other parts of their life, like hobbies, schoolwork, friends, or sports can become neglected, because they are devoting more and more time to game play.
- They are fatigued all the time, perhaps even falling asleep in school.
- They are hiding feelings. Some kids and teens turn to video games as an escape, to avoid dealing with upsetting emotions, real-life problems and even anxiety, or depression.
- They are not keeping up with homework and/or not turning in assignments on time.
- They exhibit worsening irritable, cranky or agitated behavior when not playing video games on TV or the computer.
- Keeping documentation and logs of when your child plays and for how long, what are the problems that are resulting from gaming and how your child reacts to time limits will help if there is a potential problem and you intend to seek professional help.
Get it under “control “
If you are concerned about the amount of time your child or young adult is playing any kind of video games and the possibility of addiction to video games, take action! Limiting the amount of play should put some balance back into their lives, and make way for other activities and help avoid possible addiction to video games.
However, if attempts to limit game playing are marked anger and increased aggression in your child, it means that there is an addictive quality to their playing and they may actually have an “addiction to video games.” If this is the case, playing needs to be ceased altogether. Because limiting game time, as some people have suggested, to an hour a day lets say, may be comparable to an alcoholic saying they’re only going to drink one beer!
Treatment for video game addiction is similar to detox for other addictions, with one important difference: Computers have become an important part of everyday life. Even in school computers are now used on a daily basis. So just like with a food addiction, for example, children and young adults with a video game addiction must learn to live with it being around them all the time and to be responsible.
As ironic as it may sound, there are actually computer applications available now that can be downloaded and configured to block access to the internet- namely Freedom © and SelfControl ©. This may support initial efforts at gaining control and responsibility.
However, a mere distraction or deterrent to keep your child from being on the Internet won’t be of much help to get over video game addictions. Getting the actual habit out of their system completely is what seems to really matter. Perhaps the biggest key to getting gaming under control is to show gamers they are powerless over their addiction, and then teach them “real-life excitement as opposed to online excitement.”
Some other helpful tips and suggestions for your child may be: Exercise– going for a walk, to the park, to a sports/rec center etc…/ Develop a hobby- learning to play an instrument, paint, sing, dance etc…/ Allocate specific time for using the computer for things other than video games/ Have them use reference books instead of always looking things up on the computer/ Go to bed early.
Parents report amazing results from limiting video game usage or removing it completely for children working through a video game addiction. Freedom from the addiction allows kids to actually start going outside to play, regain interest in their toys, friends, school and to join in family activities. Most importantly, getting these addictions under control allows children their most cherished right- the right to be happy, joyous and free!