Is My Child Suffering From Gaming Addiction?

kids playing video gamesThe number of children addicted to video games is increasing at an alarming rate. More and more kids are choosing the television and PC screens over interpersonal interactions with friends and family. Games have become so advanced that they have the power to captivate players like never before. Let's take a look at some signs of video game addiction along with some parenting strategies that can wean kids off of video games.

Signs Of Addiction

Your child may be addicted to video games if he spends most of his free time in front of the screen and has developed an anti-social personality. If the first thing he does when he gets home from school is head over to his console for some Xbox Live or his PC for an online game like World Of Warcraft, he may have a problem. Kids are using video games to escape from reality. Although it is good thing that many games allow for players to socialize with other players, socializing over gaming should not replace in-person socializing with friends.

Facts & Figures

The American Psychiatric Association has been notoriously slow to recognize Internet/screen addictions. However, the latest Diagnostic and Statistics Manual released by the APA has acknowledged that gaming addiction warrants further study. Additionally, most researchers and scholarly groups in the US and in other countries identify gaming addiction as a true disorder.

Research scientist Douglas Gentile conducted a video game addiction study and found that up to 9% of children show signs of video game addiction. The Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a survey of 2,000 kids between the ages of 8 and 18 and found that the average child's screen time was 7 hours and 38 minutes a day. Over the duration of a week, this equates to 53 hours. This is a serious problem. Children are using screens, and in particular video games, to escape from their real world problems.

Defining Addiction

Many parents and kids wonder how “addiction” is defined. WebMD.com psychiatrist Michael Brody's defines video game addiction by saying, "It occurs when an individual needs more of the behavior to keep him going and if he doesn't get more, his mood sours. It's not necessarily the number of hours that the child spends staring into the screen that is the problem. What's more important is how the video games impact a child's life. Does he no longer spend quality time with the family? Has his health eroded? Are his grades suffering? Has he lost connections with his former 'real life' friends? Does he become irritable when you take his video games away? If the answer to the majority of these questions is 'yes', then your child likely has a video game addiction".

Strategies To End Video Game Addiction

Any parent who makes the attempt to reduce his child's video game addiction is in for quite a battle. Taking away the games isn't the best solution, as most kids have at least one real world friend who has his own video game consoles and PC games. He can easily play games at his friend's place. Just like any other addict, he'll find a way to get his fix no matter what.

Parents need to spend time with their child to find out what his interests are outside of gaming. Discuss what it is about video games that he likes so much. If he indicates that he likes to interact with others through online gaming, he is yearning for social stimulation. Humans are social creatures and interacting with others solely through a screen is not healthy.

Do everything in your power to help him pinpoint an interest outside of gaming and find a crowd with similar tastes. If he doesn't have any interests outside of gaming, don't let him sink back into the video game hole. Spend more time with him yourself so that he feels less isolated. 

If he loves the visuals, music or the competitive aspect, build on that. Buy him a musical instrument and pay for lessons. Purchase art supplies and spend some quality time with him where you can both create drawings, paintings and other works of art.

Most children will admit that they enjoy the challenges that video games provide. Competing with others spikes their adrenaline and dopamine levels. The trick is to replace this rush with a source of competition away from the screen. Find a sport that your child enjoys. If he likes baseball, sign him up for the local little league. This will require much more of a time commitment on the parents' behalf than allowing your child to escape into a the fictional world of video games. Yet it could break his addiction and empower him to forge meaningful real world connections to people of his own age.

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