What Is “Video Game Addiction?”
“Addiction” is flung around a lot as a term. There’s a difference between “addiction” in the clinical sense, where regular use of drugs changes the brain chemistry; and “addiction” in the colloquial sense, which is becoming too obsessed with something. There’s still enormous dispute around whether these obsessions, and they could be just about anything, not just video games, cause any major change in the brain’s structure. There’s also some dispute over what causes these obsessions.
In some cases, the game is designed to appeal to our psychology. Many mobile games are designed to be “Skinner boxes,” stimulating reward centers for simply hitting a level.
However, there is a standard of behavior we can measure, and that’s whether your hobby is beginning to compromise other aspects of your life. If you see grades slip, if friends stop coming over, if they steal from your wallet to pay for games, if they do nothing but play games, then there’s a problem. In fact, the American Medical Association has a threshold; more than six hours a day represents a problem according to their standards.
The good news is the problem is relatively easy to solve.
Solving Video Game Addiction
Sit down your child and explain the situation. They will likely be unhappy with you, or even act out, over having their games taken away. But be firm. Take them off the games completely, for at least ninety days. Take away or lock out games on phones, consoles, and other gameplaying devices, and make it clear they won’t have them back unless certain rules are met. Be sure to contact the parents of friends and let them know what the rules are. If you feel overwhelmed, consider discussing the matter with a child psychologist, who can walk you through effective strategies.
Model good behavior, as well. If you’re playing a mobile game on your phone a lot, delete it. Discuss the situation with siblings, so they understand what’s happening and why. You may have best router for gaming for the whole family for a while.
Make it a requirement that your child joins an after-school activity, whether it’s a sport, a club, or something else that makes them get outside and meet friends. Once that’s been going for a while, have a second discussion, and explain again why you took the actions you did.
At your discretion, you can reintroduce gaming to the family. Also set certain standards where game time can be a reward, like good grades allows some gaming privileges. You can use internet monitoring software to help monitor how much time your child is spending on gameplay. Don’t, however, lift the locks set on various gaming machines; keep tight control of screen time going forward.
Of course, you can’t control everything. But by modeling good behavior, and making it clear that video games are only for occasional play, not obsessive day-long sessions, you can give your children a healthy relationship with video games. Need help? Contact us.