Picture this: your teenager sitting on the couch, mindlessly devouring junk food and soda, eyes glazed from hours of playing video games, day after day for the summer months. Summer is the highlight of the year for adolescents – no responsibilities and the taste of independence. All of the structure and scheduling that occurs during the school year is gone. With less structure and adult supervision, the summer is ripe with opportunities for teens to fall into bad habits, which can become larger issues like video game addiction.
A Teenage Gamer’s Perspective on Video Game Addiction
For 16-year-old Eli, gaming addiction, though he’s not comfortable with that term, is very real. Becoming aware of increasingly obsessive thoughts and behavior, understanding their consequences, and accepting that something has to change isn’t easy – even for an adult. Eli was forced to become aware of his issue after spending 14 hours straight playing his game of choice League of Legends.
Eli has been playing for almost a year along with several friends who got him into it. The initial difficulty required a lot of effort to get into the game, but it’s admittedly a growing priority in his life. Eli said, “[I’ve] wanted to play rather than go out to dinner. When I was swimming [on a competitive swim team], I was thinking about playing the game when I got home.” When asked if he’s ever thought, “Hmmm, I should be doing [blank], but I’d rather play the game,” he responded with an unequivocal, “Yes.”
“It’s probably a bad use of time… it’s difficult to slow down”, confessed Eli.
With over 108 characters – or champions – to choose from, League of Legends uses teamwork, coordination and a lot of planning. Eli says he chooses to play certain champions because they are more powerful than others – thus more fun to play – and, “because it’s satisfying to win!”
Needing at least an hour to play the game and dealing with potential “conflicts,” as Eli calls them – i.e. if you perform badly other players bully or get angry, this game potentially hits the triggers of many a human emotion and character flaw. For example, if you are “AFK” (away from keyboard) thus leaving the game, there are penalties, and you may not be allowed to play in the future. Possible exclusion and angering fellow players creates incentive to continue playing.
As a consequence of his excessive gaming, his dad finally took away Eli’s phone after several previous empty threats. Though Eli got it back shortly thereafter, the message was received. Without going cold turkey, his dad has now limited the amount of time Eli is alone with too much downtime to play video games. Now Eli goes with his twin brother to their dad’s house some nights to read until they fall asleep. Not only is Eli’s video game addiction being curbed, but they get more quality family time.
Eli said, “It’s up to the parents [to monitor video game use]. They think we don’t know any better.” There is truth in that young people may not know better; teens becoming hooked on video games may not recognize their growing compulsion to play because the addiction grows gradually.
Choosing Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy for Video Game Addiction
Each day is a chance to practice good parenting skills. Parents have the ability to pull their teens out of a toxic situation when they’re beginning to head down the wrong path. But should outside help be necessary, placing troubled adolescents or young adults with video game or internet addiction in an environment like Pacific Quest wilderness therapy can be incredibly beneficial. Students have a chance to think about their life’s direction while receiving therapeutic support as they learn and grow.
Because teenagers’ brains are still developing, adolescence is an ideal time for outdoor therapy. Destructive thought and behavior patterns can still be modified, mental health issues can be managed, and behavioral issues can be staved off by getting treatment as early as possible. When asked Eli what he thought about outdoor therapy programs like the one at Pacific Quest, he emphatically said, “It’s a good idea. It actually sounds much more fun than playing the game!” While wilderness therapy is about more than providing fun, Pacific Quest’s program is engaging in ways that video games can never be. With horticulture therapy, gardening activities require team work, planning, and responsibility in order to be successful. They also provide tangible rewards unlike the inconsequential points earned in video games. Instead of wasting away in front of the TV or computer, adolescents experience the outdoors and life, eat healthfully, and are active participants in life and the community.
Pacific Quest also helps families when necessary. For adolescents’ change to be sustainable, families also need an opportunity to express their feelings, ask questions, and receive help. Pacific Quest therapists can work with parents on how to develop parenting skills, communication skills, and ways to support their teen.
Technology is part of our daily lives, so it’s important to establish good tech habits early in order to live a balanced, healthy life.