Video Game Addiction: Children and Adolescents

Video Game Addiction: Children and Adolescents

In earlier days, we often used to think of addiction being only related to smoking, alcohol or illegal drugs. These were labelled as substance-related addictions. More recently, different types of addictions are seen in children and among adolescents: the internet, video games, smartphones, gambling, exercise, pornography, shopping, food and so on. Addiction is considered a chronic disorder that occurs when a person develops an uncontrollable habit of using substances or participating in behaviours despite negative consequences. As per DSM-V “Persistent and recurrent use of the internet to engage in games, often with other players, leads to clinically significant impairment or distress.

Who is affected more?

1. The children who struggle with social interrelations or lack of skills to play team sports.

2. Children who lack rewarding or nurturing relationships or who suffer from poor social or coping skills are at a greater risk of developing inappropriate or excessive online habits.

3. Children feel lonely and alienated when both the parents are working when have problems making new friends, they turn to invisible strangers in online chat rooms looking for the attention and companionship missing from their real lives.

4. Children from families with significant problems at home or who have experienced bullying or other difficulties like socializing in school and extracurricular activities, generally, try to cope with their problems by spending time online.

5. Parents are also contributing more to this addiction. In order to keep their children quiet during endless car trips, frequent get-togethers at home or long, unstructured days of summer vacations or any holidays. They provide their children with phones rather than making them interact.

Problems Caused By Video Game Addiction:

Video games addiction does not have the same impact on everyone who experiences it. Following are the problems associated with unhealthy video games.

1. Emotional Problems – People struggling with video game addiction may be at a greater risk for depression, loneliness, social anxiety and feelings of shame or embarrassment for spending so much time playing games.

2. Financial Problems- This may not be true for children, but adolescents and adults may find themselves spending large sums of money on new computer equipment, consoles, subscription fees and new video games.

3. Health Problems- Children and Adolescents addicted to video games often develop poor sleep habits (due to late night gaming sessions), may neglect personal hygiene, may get very little physical activity, and may make poor choices with regard to eating. Excessive video gaming has been linked to childhood obesity.

4. Social Problems- As addiction worsens, children tend to spend more time playing on the video game and less time with friends and family. The addict may claim that he or she has “lots of friends online” yet still experience loneliness, depression and social isolation due to lack of in-person contact with others.

5. Family Problems- Poor family relationships may increase the likelihood of video games addiction.

Tips for Parents

1. Break the Cycle of Conflict:

If your relationship with your child is full of fights, tension, conflicts and negativity, you need to break that cycle. The fighting is not healthy for either of you and the longer it goes on, the deeper you get entrenched in this pattern. Breaking this cycle will need conscious and deliberate effort and we want to convey our intentions clearly to our child.

2. Learn about gaming and its culture:

If you want to change your child’s behaviour, you’ll have to first understand the behaviour. This means we need you to do a bit of homework yourself. Remember you don’t have to like gaming rather than understand what your child is doing. Further, understand the following –

a. The benefits and opportunities for gaming.
b. The risks and concerns of gaming.
c. The history of gaming and so on.

3. Express your interest in gaming and discuss the positives:

You’ve read about gaming and have a good understanding of the positives and the opportunities gaming brings to the world. It’s time to let your child know about this.

The purpose of discussing the benefits of gaming is to create common ground. Don’t get into a conflict!

Discussing the positives of gaming will not strengthen the argument that your child should play more. (Which is probably the argument your child is using!) You’re not necessarily changing your position or opinion. All you’re doing is discussing, conversing and connecting to your child. So keep the conversation nice and neutral.

Stay positive. Avoid digressing into what you think your child should be doing.

E.g. “I also want you to be healthy and do your homework.” Changing unhealthy behaviour will come later.

4. Express your interest in child’s gaming and praise their achievements:

Ask your child how their game works. Discuss and praise your child’s achievements in the game. It’s likely this will again create a genuine openness and connection between you two. And as you remember this is the very thing we’re trying to achieve here.

Many parents walk into the clinic complaining about their child being more on the internet playing video games. They are very negative about their child’s behaviour and actions. They express dissatisfaction for their lack of interest in studies and social circles, ready for regular conflicts and having very less communication.

To summarize, the parents play an important and integral role in shaping their child’s personality. They should create a supportive positive environment at home by creating a genuine connection with the child, just by being a good listener and carrying out communication without conflict.

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