The latest video game is all your child talks about. He rushes to play it after school and gets agitated when he has to turn it off. You can see the changes in his behavior, but is there really such a thing as video game addiction?
According to the World Health Organization, video games can be addictive and those affected by them can, and should, receive help and intervention.
Parents who have been struggling with children who display classic signs of addictive behavior have known that video games can have a negative impact on children’s social, educational, and emotional lives for years. If you are concerned about your child’s video game addiction, rest assured that there is hope.
Battling Video Game Addiction
Warning Signs of Video Game Addiction
Like many addictive behaviors, video game addiction can manifest itself in a variety of ways. From preoccupation to withdrawal to loss of interest in other activities, players often focus on playing video games to the exclusion of other events in their lives.
While video game addiction is most often seen in males between the ages of 12 and 20, the percentage of the population who have an addiction severe enough to be classified is extremely low.
According to a study in The American Journal of Psychiatry, only between 0.3%-1% of the entire population “might qualify for a potential acute diagnosis of Internet gaming disorder.” In fact, the study suggested that there were very few behavioral correlations between video game playing and the behaviors that would warrant a diagnosis and treatment.
For parents, this number is reassuring, but it still leaves questions and concerns over children’s seemingly out of control behavior concerning video games.
Positives of Video Gaming
Think playing video games is all bad? Think again.
Internet video games are filled with important social, academic, and life skill lessons that children need as they develop. From learning how to work with others to strategy and problem solving, video games offer children and adults an arena in which to grow the skills that will help them function and excel and school and work.
Educational video games also add another level of benefit to traditional games by helping players focus on specific subject areas. Math video games are a prime example of educational video games that have become prevalent in many children’s daily lives. They are often used in schools to give students extra practice solving equations instead of traditional worksheets. The added element of gameplay not only makes math practice more fun, but it also builds fluency or the ability to quickly and easily recall facts.
Socially, video games allow players to connect with friends and relatives who live in different states or even countries. They build connections and help breakdown stereotypes as players join together to solve a problem or battle against a common enemy.
This is where I try and tell myself that some of their gaming time is positive. I have seen an increase in their circle of friends. Before their love of Fortnite, they only played with other boys that liked football or soccer. Now they are gaming and conversing through the game with a much larger variety of friends. I see them talking with kids at their bus stop that they never interacted very much before the game.
While there may be negative aspects of video game playing, there are also many positive aspects to it.
Overcoming and Preventing Video Game Addiction
Balance is key when it comes to playing video games. Parents can begin by setting up rules for video game usage that work with their families needs and beliefs.
Three Important Rules For Video Game Use:
- When They Can Be Played
Children do well when they have clear, concrete expectations of when they can do things. Video game playing is no exception. Set explicit rules about when they can be used and when they must be turned off. Take into consideration homework, the amount of sleep needed, and chores. If need be, take the console power cord at times when the games are not to be played.
2. How Long They Can Be Played
Set specific time limits for video game playing and adhere to them. It is up to each family to determine what amount of time they consider reasonable for video game playing. In addition to the amount of time per day or week, do not hesitate to set the specific hours when gaming can occur as well.
3. Behavior Expectations While Playing
Along with how long and when a child can play video games, be sure to set clear expectations about the type of behavior you expect them to exhibit while playing. From language to giving out personal information, the more information your child has about your expectations, the more likely he or she is to adhere to those guidelines to continue playing.
We have several conversations about how people can “trick” you into giving out personal information. I do a small role play where I try to trick them into giving me information. For example: “Hey, I have a friend that lives near you I think…which neighborhood are you in?” and other similar questions.
Setting clear guidelines and not being afraid to set limits for your child will help curb the occurrence of video game addiction. Do not be afraid to take power cords, turn off the wi-fi, or set parental controls. Your child depends on you to help set those limits.
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