In our work with children and teens it is rare to encounter a young person who does not play video games. While the research varies on the percentages, a common estimate is that 90% of children play computer games while 10% of them are addicted. While many youth are able to effectively juggle the demands of school, family life, social life and technology, those who are unable to do so experience problems that often times lead to a variety of mental health issues. In this cases, it is important for the parents to become proactive in disrupting the formation of an addiction.
Internet computer games have an addictive dimension to them for which some young people are very vulnerable. Those children and teens impacted by gaming addiction often become depressed, their school work suffers, they drop other interests such as sports and the level of their social interaction decreases.
Experts suggest that video games fall into 3 motivational drives for teens:
Social: games include Minecraft and Farmville, where players can hang out with ‘friends’ and control their world.
Pleasure: games include Black Ops Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and World of Tanks; these games reward the player intermittently so they are motivated to keep playing to get the next pleasure hit. These games are often Massive Multi Player online games and are played against opponents all over the world.
Pain: games include World of Warcraft. They punish players who log off by threatening to take away any rewards or points that have been gamed so the players keep playing to secure their position and avoid loss.
How do parents know when their child needs help for a gaming addiction?
-Large amounts of time spent in Gaming: They spend more time on the computer than physically hanging out with their friends.
-Emotional Dependency on Gaming: The teen feels content when they’re online or playing games, but as soon as they have to stop, they become depressed, grouchy and irritable.
-Sleeping Problems: They go to bed very late and have trouble sleeping.
-Preoccupation with Gaming: They think about going online or playing when they are supposed to be focusing on other things, like doing school work or participating in other social activities.
Ideas for parents for helping a child overcome gaming addiction.
-Confront it: Help the child recognize they have a problem by engaging them in discussion about their struggles in school, in participation in social activities and lack of interest in other outside activities.
-Take Control: Manage their use of media and technology. You are the parent and you need to set the rules for the use of technology in your home. This may include limiting internet/computer time, taking away the use of hand held devices and rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior through technology privileges.
-Prioritize your child’s time: Computer games should be played in free time so help decide when free time is and what other commitments they might have (e.g. chores, homework, other activities).
-Enforce bed time rules: Train your child to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Often, someone addicted to computer games will stay up late. Get them to go to bed earlier each day, so instead of the early hours of the morning it is a reasonable time in the evening.
-Arrange recreational and social activities: Replace computer time with more productive activities. They can exercise, play sports, participate in community activities, read or do something else that stimulates and interests them.
-Encourage daily face to face interaction with peers: Encourage them to go out with their friends more. Provide opportunities for healthy peer interaction and activities ou