Many adolescents and young adults enjoy video games as a recreational activity, but a select few develop a problem with video games, which can ultimately lead to a video game addiction. Approximately 15% of gamers have compulsive gaming issues, and up to 4% of gamers become pathologically addicted to playing video games. The issue has become so pervasive that in 2018 the World Health Organization officially recognized Gaming Disorder as a mental health issue. Video game addiction has become a problem for individuals of all ages, but has predominantly affected adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 34.
Oftentimes it is parents who attempt to intervene on their child’s maladaptive gaming behavior, usually only after significant problems have resulted. While a video game addiction can be mitigated at any time into one’s gaming problem, the issue is progressive and should be addressed as early as possible. As such, it is important for caregivers to be aware of the signs of problematic video gaming in order to intervene as soon as possible.
What Is Video Game Addiction?
Video game addiction, also known as gaming addiction or gaming disorder, involves the persistent or recurrent pathological compulsion and obsession to play video games despite negative consequences to personal and/or professional activities such as educational issues, career problems, disruption of relationships, poor sleep hygiene, mental health or physical health issues, and other such negative consequences. For an individual addicted to playing video games, gaming becomes the primary activity of daily life, and the addicted individual feels an uncontrollable urge to continue to game despite adverse effects.
Video game addiction falls on a spectrum of mild problematic gaming to a severe pathological gaming addiction. Any gaming that causes distress or life consequences could signify a problematic relationship with gaming. Whether gaming is a mild occasional issue or a pervasive consistent problem, your relationship with gaming is something you should take a closer look at. Some may benefit from receiving professional help from a video game addiction specialist, especially those who are unable to stop or moderate their gaming on their own.
Signs Of A Video Game Addiction
Some signs and symptoms of video game addiction may include:
What Can I Do If My Child Has A Video Game Addiction?
Video games hijack the brain’s reward system, leaving excessive gamers dependent on video games to experience pleasure. As such, intervening in your son’s or daughter’s video game addiction can be challenging and overwhelming. Oftentimes adolescents and young adults who experience a video game addiction do not see it as a problem, or are unwilling and resistant to change. Others may be willing to stop or moderate their gaming, only to come to find that they are unable to do so.
In severe cases or cases in which failed attempts have been made to disrupt a video game addiction, seeking out support and guidance from a video game addiction professional may be necessary. When children are resistant to getting help for their video game addiction, a professional intervention may be needed. However, prior to seeking out professional help reasonable attempts should be made to address a gaming addiction within the family unit.
Each child and family are unique, and therefore different strategies will work better for some families than for others. Generally, relying on an authoritarian parenting style such as banning video games in the home does not work, or may stop gaming but lead to other issues. Alternatively, using a collaborative approach with children often works best.
For example, agree as a family what games can be played, when they can be played, and for how long they can be played. Other family members can set their own goals, such as reducing screen time. Family members will need to hold each other accountable to following family rules. Furthermore, it is important to listen to your child’s needs and practice effective communication regarding your concerns and expectations around gaming.
Modeling healthy behavior as a caregiver will also be very important. If you are constantly on a digital device such as your phone, laptop or television your child may view you as a hypocrite for telling them not to game, and perceive excessive digital use as acceptable. Furthermore, engaging in healthy behaviors such as following a regular sleep routine, eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, getting out in nature, engaging in non-digital hobbies, and other such forms of self-care will not only model good behaviors for your child, but can also be a source for bonding. Additionally, taking the time to engage in activities with your child will help them fill up idle time and reduce boredom.
When needed, working with a video game addiction specialist can help your child gain insight into the harmful effects of excessive gaming, help them understand the patterns that trigger their pathological gaming behaviors, help them to identify unhealthy or irrational beliefs they may have that contribute to their behaviors around gaming, address underlying issues such as mental health or trauma, and teach them ways to replace gaming activity with healthy behaviors.
Video game addiction specialists may include but are not limited to therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, and video game recovery coaches that specialize in video game addiction or gaming disorders.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy “The Ultimate Guide To Video Game Addiction.”
For more information on video game addiction and recovery please read Family Addiction Specialist’s Digital Addiction and Gaming Recovery service page.
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