It starts innocently enough. A child spends time learning how to play video games, use the controller and navigate to different areas of a game. Before long, the child receives the positive gratification of progressing to higher levels of the game. As they continue to win, they also continue to devote more and more time to improving their skill. The child challenges their friends to play, and may even play with people on the Internet. In fact, parents are often proud of their children’s skill at video games – at first.
And from the parent’s point of view, there’s an added benefit to a child spending so much time playing games at the computer or gaming console: video games happen to be a great “babysitter” for kids who may otherwise have trouble sitting still. What’s more, video games certainly seem to have some redeeming value, as the child playing them is actively engaged, much more so than when passively watching television.
That’s exactly why a compulsive gaming addiction is so insidious. Video game addiction is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, something that takes hold before parents realize that it has become a problem. You may need help to determine if your child simply spends a lot of time at an activity they love, or if it’s become a clinical impulse control disorder. It’s always wise to consult a professional, but read on to learn more about warning signs and problems associated with video game addiction.
Gambling with a Gaming Addiction
To begin to understand the dangers of video game addiction, try shifting how you think about gaming by putting it in the same category as a word that’s very close to “gaming” – gambling. Then think about some of the warning signs of gambling addiction, and ask yourself if your child is showing these same characteristics:
- Compulsive need to spend more and more time engaged in the activity
- Irritability or extreme anxiety when deprived of the activity
When you try to tear your child away from the video game console, they may come up with a whole range of excuses for why they need to play video games at that precise moment, and may beg or negotiate for more time – or they may simply ignore you. After all, they’re in a different world, their private gaming world, and it’s one they’re beginning to prefer to the real one that the rest of the family lives in.
Twelve-year-old Kevin has been struggling all his life with severe problems in communication, social interactions, and impulse control. His parents have gone from doctor to doctor, and each one has a different diagnosis: bipolar disorder, Asperger Syndrome, attention deficit disorder, and so forth.
Kevin’s mother quit working when Kevin was only a preschooler. Much of her day is spent transporting Kevin to his various therapists and psychologists. Over the years, she and her husband have tried many different approaches including gluten-free diets, sensory integration rooms, magnetic bracelets, and more. Every new approach, like every new medication, seems to help for a while and then stops working.
Kevin’s therapists keep demanding more from the family – everyone is supposed to be consistent in how they act toward Kevin. Kevin must have regular hours for meals, outdoor play, and therapy. They should work with him on dressing himself, personal hygiene, and table manners. Kevin’s protocol takes away from sibling time and from his parents’ marriage. Everything is a struggle with this child – getting him to bathe, change his clothes, limit computer games – even to get up in the morning.
Kevin has never made friends at school; in fact, the other children consider him “odd” because of his behaviors. Now that he is in middle school, he is doing even worse academically and socially because he has to deal with several different teachers and classrooms. Kevin’s parents simply don’t know what to do next.
The Benefits of Boarding Schools
Children with behavioral and emotional problems can literally take over their families, and yet their progress can be extremely slow. Doctors, therapists, and teachers want the family to follow strict rules and guidelines, and then blame parents if the child backslides. Meanwhile, the child seems unhappy no matter what the family does.
Being a teenager isn’t always easy. It often means experiencing low self-esteem, becoming apathetic, feeling insecure and lacking motivation.
While it may be normal for your teen to go through many moods and emotions during their teenage years, it is important to make sure that their moods are not extreme enough to constitute teenage depression.
About 20 percent of teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood. Adolescent girls are twice as likely to experience depression as boys. Depression can strike at any time, and may be gradual. It can be triggered by almost any event, from getting into a fight with a friend to the pressure of applying for colleges.
Instead of persistently monitoring your teen and asking if they feel depressed, keep an eye out for some of the following signs of teenage depression:
• Isolation from family and friends
• Increased pessimism and hopelessness
• Lack of motivation and low energy
• Loss of interest in activities
• Increased irritability
• Erratic crying
• Low self-esteem
• Change in eating behaviors
• Drug or alcohol abuse
• Comments about suicide or running away from home