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Video Game Addiction

Video game addiction has caught the parenting world off guard. No child is immune to the addictive elements found in video games today. Parents are losing their kids to the gaming world and kids are losing their real-life potential.

Our content is written with boys in mind, however, girls struggle with video game addiction too.

Video Game Addiction

Video game addiction has caught the parenting world off guard. No child is immune to the addictive elements found in video games today. Parents are losing their kids to the gaming world and kids are losing their real-life potential.

Our content is written with boys in mind, however, girls struggle with video game addiction too.

Is video game addiction a real thing?

Can a child really be addicted to an entertainment screen activity like playing video games? Science says yes. The World Health Organization has classified gaming disorder as a disease and has included the ICD code in the 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). When a gaming habit reaches an intensity that results in distress or significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational or occupational functioning, parents should take action.

What is video game addiction?

A video game addiction is identified when the player continues to play even after suffering negative consequences and losses in areas including relationships, grades, work, exercise, or sleep. Just like gambling or pornography, this process addiction changes the brain, and slowly replaces motivation for other interests and activities in a child’s real physical life, such as sports, school, friendships, and most importantly, his relationship with his family

Older video games like Pac Man were limited in scope and persuasive design elements. It was hard to get hooked when you could only play for as long as your  allowance would allow. But today’s video games have no time limits, they are more intense, and their addictive qualities are greater. Hard core violence, police shootings, strip clubs, rapes, and sexual content exists in gaming platforms and online gaming chats. To make matters worse, every game, regardless of its rating, is available for every age. Violent games like Fortnite are being played by young audiences because parents believe that cartoon violence is okay for kids; it is not.

Kids enter a world of interactive content so graphic that the human brain can’t distinguish between what’s real and what’s not.

What Causes Gaming Addiction?

Like any addiction, the underlying cause of video gaming addiction is the physical release of neurochemicals in the brain during play. Unlike a passive TV experience, the intense interactive nature of gaming is at the top of the list for dopamine production.

Gaming also offers an emotional escape when life gets hard and emotional triggers are present. The activity of playing a video game can fill a void and meet the most  basic human needs—connection, purpose, autonomy, competition. Video games can deter children from wanting to fill these needs in the real world. The child becomes dependent on the virtual world to meet needs that were once met in a healthy manner in the real world.

Games trigger chemical changes in the brain.

Unlike watching a movie or playing a board game, video games trigger a constant flow of unnaturally high amounts of dopamine in the reward center of the brain. With continuous high doses of dopamine, the brain will begin to reduce production of the chemical in order to restore  balance. Now your child needs to play more to reach the same good feeling he has grown accustomed to. He is desensitized. Boredom sets inand a craving for more novel and more exciting content begins.

Games are loaded with persuasive design elements.

Video game science uses the brain’s natural reward system to hook the player. This science centers around the way rewards are expected and delivered. It works well because the brain sees rewards as being important for survival. When rewards are unexpected, the player is likely to play longer. The most successful game designers utilize the science behind intermittent rewards. The brain kicks in with more dopamine in anticipation that something good is around the corner. When the reward becomes expected or predictable, the brain stops delivering dopamine and the player moves on to a new game.  

Young developing brains are not built to manage and resist the powerful, scientific, persuasive design elements found in this generation of video games, putting this age group at high risk for developing gaming dependencies and addictions.

Games replace other activities & form bad habits.

All kids crave low-effort, high-reward activities over hard work. Video games fall into this category; they get in the way of choosing hard work and other important life skills. The instant gratification plus the dopamine-producing nature of the game will be more exciting than reading, exercising, playing outside, learning life skills, and figuring out how to get along with others.

Studies show that the brains of teenagers who are heavy video gamers look similar to those of addicts. With increased game play comes a craving for more game play and rewards, hence the game habit is formed. Just like the pattern with other addictions, teens must continue to log more gaming hours in order to get the same feelings and maintain the same dopamine levels. When dopamine drops, a withdrawal is created similar to other addictive activities. Little gamers grow up to be big gamers and children will not naturally outgrow this habit.

What are the warning signs of video game addiction?

If your child can’t list three things he likes more than video games, he may be headed for trouble. Below are some common signs of a gaming disorder:

How to prevent a video game addiction?

As with any addiction, the habit must be replaced with a better activity that is not addictive. When parents commit to adding replacement activities that include physical activities, creative hobbies, in-person time with family and friends, they will begin to see improvement. Here are some of the best ways to reverse and prevent youth gaming addiction: 

Pause video games through adolescence. 

Video games are not necessary or mandatory for childhood. Parents who choose to skip the video gaming activity altogether will find that their child will fill their time with other habits and productive activities that are offered to them. In addition, when parents choose to allow their child to develop potential and life skills through non-addictive activities, there is less conflict in the home.

Create a friend-friendly environment. Every teen desires to build friendships but online gaming friendships are not equivalent to in-person relationships. When parents prioritize and plan in-person social get-togethers at an early age, teens will desire to continue that pattern through adolescence. Make your home the non-video gaming home where your kid’s friends want to hang out. 

Foster healthy hobbies and extracurricular interests. Make exercise a priority in your family. Encourage sports, biking, hiking, running, and spending time outdoors. Discover lifetime hobbies that the whole family can enjoy together. Expand your teen’s world by exposing him to new hobbies and help him seek out peers with interesting hobbies. Studies show that teens do much better when they are engaged in two extracurricular activities during high school. This gets your teen out of isolation and into a social setting. Learning new skills also leads to more purpose, meaning, and confidence.

Become your child’s coach. Think of your parenting role as that of a coach and lead your teen. Schedule regular time on your calendar for spending time with your child. Keeping your child close to your family unit (or team) by talking about values and investing time with them will go a long way toward preventing gaming addiction.  

Focus on strengthening family attachment. Your son’s gaming time has likely replaced the important role of his family time in his life. Some gamers describe their gaming world as their family. Make every effort to designate non-tech times during the week and weekends to support his need for family attachment. This will require  purposeful work on your part. Take the lead by providing a ScreenStrong lifestyle and demonstrate unconditional love during the adolescent years.

What’s Next

When you know better, you do better. There is much research around digital addictions. We have more information than we have ever had. We also know that digital addictions can be easily prevented. There are healthy, fun, risk-free screen alternatives. ScreenStrong has the answers, community, and support you need to have happier, healthier kids. It’s time to stand up for kids, stand out from the crowd, and be ScreenStrong.

Disclaimer: This information is not a replacement for the therapy or treatment center necessary to help an at-risk or addicted child. If you feel like your child will potentially do bodily harm to you, himself or herself, seek professional help.

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