According to the American Medical Association, approximately 90 percent of American youth enjoy video games. Eight and half to fifteen percent of those gamers play so excessively that they are addicted.
The term “addict” used to be reserved for individuals involved with drugs and alcohol, but video games are redefining the word. Addiction now refers to any situation that was initially thought to be pleasurable but over a period of time becomes needed to feel “normal.” Addiction no longer refers to drugs and alcohol; rather, there are a variety of substances and activities one can become compulsively dependent upon.
Video games are actually designed to be addictive. Great graphics, realistic characters, and just the right amount of challenge often makes interacting with computers more rewarding than spending time with friends. It starts with the high score and the desire to not only beat others but also set a personal best. This often causes players to seek out online communities where “the game” is the common thread. Cyber relationships are formed, and the compulsion to play and interact on the internet replaces face-to-face contact.
The symptoms of video game addiction are obvious, but many parents choose to overlook the signs because the kids are at home and the dangers of the “outside” world remain outside. The first and most obvious indicator is that your teen spends most of his waking hours in front of a screen. This leads to falling asleep at school, slumping grades, and dropping out of social activities. These kids also lie about how much time they spend online and are irritable when their fingers are not around a game controller. Physical signs such as carpel tunnel, back aches, and dry eyes may also be present.
It is natural for kids and parents to argue about computer use, but parents needs to set ground rules and stick to the plan to help kids avoid addiction.
- Don’t just limit game time, set parameters around all screen time.
- Predetermine consequences to avoid arguments when rules are violated.
- Keep video game and computers out of the bedroom to avoid late night playtime and “sneaky” access.
- Take games away for an appropriate amount of time if your kids refuse to take a break.
- Seek professional help if the problem persists and causes undue stress.
In a world where kids often feel powerless, cyberspace is a place where one can feel in control. Stick with your household rules and when your kids say they have nothing else to do but play video games, remind them there are always household chores to be done.