Does Video Game Addiction Really Exist?
Addiction is defined as a “persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.” Most people associate addiction with drug or alcohol use, or an activity like gambling. But there’s increasing evidence that people, especially teens and pre-teens, are developing computer-related addictions to the Internet and video games.
The concept of video game (sometimes called “gaming”) addiction is heavily debated among medical and mental health professionals. In early 2007, the American Medical Association (AMA) gathered scientific information dating from 1985 through 2007 on video games and their effects. The purpose was to “review and summarize the research data on the possible emotional and behavioral effects, including addiction potential, of video games…” The AMA discovered that, though more research is needed, the behaviors associated with video game overuse are similar to those of “pathological gambling” or gambling addiction.
The term “Internet Addiction” was first coined in the 1990s by researchers who observed people using the Internet so much that other areas of their lives suffered. The word “addiction” was used because of the similarities in dysfunction between those who overuse the Internet or video games and other, more readily acknowledged forms of addiction.
People who get caught up in Internet or video game overuse often neglect family, friends, and school. They develop dependence-like behaviors, becoming agitated, bored, or restless when they’re not gaming. Students often neglect homework, resulting in a decline in grades. They sometimes lose touch with their friends, choosing instead to invest in the “relationships” they develop while gaming. The antisocial aspect of gaming addiction is most common among those who play “massive multiplayer online role-playing games” or MMORPGs. These online games enable players to talk to each other, and a kind of online community is developed. When taken too far, however, the online community becomes more important than real-life friends and family.
Tired? Overbooked? Worn out? So is your teenager. Research suggests more than 70 percent of teens are stressed out. While many parents believe teenagers have nothing to worry about and warn that life only gets harder, the teen years may be the first time your child learns what stress is, how to manage it, and how to excel in the face of challenge.
According to a study of teens in Baltimore, the five most common sources of teen stress included school work (78%), parents (68%), romantic relationships (64%), friends (64%), and siblings (64%). Adolescents are learning to deal with difficult classes, competition to get into a top college, bullies, peer pressure, body and hormone changes, dating, drama with friends, family conflicts, negative feelings about themselves – and that’s just the beginning.
A Little Stress Goes a Long Way
Stress is the body’s natural response to challenge, allowing us to be alert and focused to meet the demands of daily life. When faced with a difficult situation, our brains trigger the “flight or fight” response, a primitive, automatic survival instinct, which produces a faster heart rate, increased blood flow to muscles, heightened senses, upset stomach, and a sense of fear or dread.
While a little stress can be healthy, feelings of anxiety and tension that are protracted over a long period of time can leave you feeling depleted or overwhelmed, weaken the body’s immune system, and cause other emotional and physical problems. The good news is our minds are powerful enough to turn off the stress response and turn on a “relaxation response,” which leads to decreased heart and breathing rate and a sense of well-being. By developing stress management skills to turn on the relaxation response, teens can feel less helpless and better equipped to handle life’s complications.