Gaming addiction, also referred to as tech addiction or technology addiction refers to teens who become obsessed to online games is becoming a common problem that families face.
With the advance in computer graphics and technology, online video games are increasingly more visually enticing to children and teens that are spending more time in front of computer screens playing games. Mental health experts are noting a trend in problems among these teen gamers. Among the problems observed include a detachment from the reality of life around them at the expense of school success, development of a social life, physical activity and family responsibilities. Some teen gamers forego eating and sleeping as they interact with screen characters such as enemy soldiers, zombies, aliens, wizards and monsters.
Video game addiction isn’t just limited to children and teens. The trend has even been noted in young adult gamers and even married men who spend hours daily engaged in on-line gaming.
Common behaviors among teen and young adult gaming addicts include staying online gaming for seven or eight hours at a time, staying up most of the night playing video games and choosing gaming over social and recreational activities.
Tech addicted teens argue that they are socializing while gaming because they play online with other gamers around the world and suggest that their online friends relate to them more than kids at school or in the neighborhood. They suggest that having relationships with characters in the game is an adequate substitute for face to face interaction with others. For many teen gaming addicts however, the game provides an escape for their struggling social life. A characteristic of some gamers includes struggles to make and maintain friendships in real life.
Skeptics argue that obsession with video games doesn’t constitute a genuine addiction disputing whether the dependency exhibited is the same type of physical craving triggered by drugs or alcohol. Parents of video games addicts would offer a differing opinion as the behaviors manifested by their children including lying, arguing, defiance, school failure, negative attitude and laziness are similar to behaviors noted in teens addicted to drugs or alcohol.
The types of games to which teens addict vary from shooter games to sci-fi adventure journeys. Many agree however that "massive multiplayer online roleplaying games"(MMPORG) as the most addictive. A gamers success in these types of games is entirely dependent on the amount of time the game is played. Occasional gaming playing in MMPORG leaves the gamer behind those who put in more time. This drives many teen gamers to revolving their life around playing the game.
For parents who are struggling with a teen obsessed with gaming, help is available. Family Bootcamp is an ideal intervention to assist both the addicted teen and the parents with the implementation of a family plan for managing teen gaming addictions.
More than ever before, many teens spend their time in front of a computer or television screen playing video games. Some skeptics question whether a video game addiction actually exists. Ask a parent with an addicted child and they will surely attest to the veracity of the addiction.
What is a gaming addiction?
While there is not a formal DSM diagnosis called “video game addiction” it can be classified as an impulse control disorder, and is very similar to pathological gambling. Video game addiction has also been referred to as video game overuse, excessive gaming, pathological or compulsive use of video games.
Many teens who are video game addicts use the Internet to access massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs). These games involve networks of individuals, all interacting with one another to play a game in an on-line virtual fantasy world. Similar to other addictions, teen gaming addicts use these games to associate with others through the Internet, as a replacement for authentic face to face human interaction, which many have been unable to find in their real life. Many teen gaming addicts develop an emotional attachment to on-line connections who they have never met in real life.
Recent studies on on-line gaming suggest that men and boys are more likely to become addicted to video games versus women and girls. The study found that nearly one in 10 youth gamers (ages 8-18) can be classified as pathological gamers or addicted to video-gaming.
How can I tell if my child has a video game addiction?
-Marathon gaming episodes-consistently playing longer than originally intended.
-Dishonesty with parents and others in an effort to hide the extent of their gaming.
-Obession with the Game.
-Using gaming as a sole means of finding satisfaction.
-Repeated, unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back or stop Game use.
-Feelings of restlessness, moodiness, depression, or irritability when attempting to cut down use of the Game.
-Loss of friends, school success and social activity because of gaming
-Using gaming to escape from problems and coping with feelings of hopelessness, guilt, anxiety and depression.
What help is available for gaming addiction?
There is help for teens struggling with a gaming addiction. Often times, professional treatment is needed. The Family Bootcamp program offers a five day wilderness expedition for teens and their parents that can be a great way to approach this problem and make changes to disrupt the addiction. See the Family Bootcamp website for the next expedition dates.
An increasingly common frustration we hear from parents is the competition that exists between them and their teen’s smart phone. Parent complaints cover a wide variety of concerns including trouble listening/focusing, obsessive game playing, viewing porn, sexting, cyber-bullying and staying up all night watching videos to name just a few. We all are aware of just how consumed we can become in our phones and of course, teens are no exception. While it is a fact that most teens are now packing smart phones, our belief is that there should not be a competition for a teen’s attention. Parents should always trump a smart phone. If you are losing this competition and your teen’s smart phone has more influence than you do, then we have eight suggestions for you to take control of the situation:
1. You as the Parent owns the phone—The teen needs to know you bought it, you pay the bill and you are simply “loaning” it to them. You set the password and you have the right to take the phone whenever you want.
2. The primary purpose of the teen having the phone is for YOU to contact THEM. The teen needs to understand that whenever the Caller ID says MOM or DAD that the call NEVER goes to voicemail.
3. You as the parent set the curfew for possession of the phone, and yes, there needs to be a curfew. The teen should not have possession of the phone beyond the time you set in the evening. You as the parent charge the phone in your safe keeping overnight and then assign to the teen’s possession again in the morning.
4. It is the teen’s responsibility to care for the phone. Lost or damaged phones are on him/her, not you as the parent.
5. There is a zero tolerance policy for dishonesty, deceit or manipulation of others. Any involvement in cyber-bullying or conversations that are hurtful to others are not tolerated. Parents are to be accepted as followers on all social networks. Message to the teen: Do not text, email, or say anything using the smartphone you would not say in person or with me as the parent in the room.
6. No porn and no sexting. Message to the teen: Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask me as the parent. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Do not send or receive pictures that in any way are revealing or sexual in nature. The development of a cyber-sex addiction will not occur on my watch.
7. Face to Face conversation always takes precedence. Message to teen: Never allow your smart phone to interfere with a face to face conversation with someone else. Do not text or browse while speaking with another human being or while you are supposed to be listening or paying attention to adults. You are not a rude person; do not allow the smart phone to change that.
8. The smart phone is an earned privilege. Message to teen: You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You may lose internet access on the phone or you may lose the privilege entirely. You must show me you can be trusted to possess a smart phone. Post the rules in plain sight and draft an agreement. Once you’ve set the ground rules, make sure the rules for your teen’s smart phone usage are crystal clear.