Video games are big business and overtaking music sales. So it’s obvious that video games are a part of life for many.
But where do video games cross the line from innocent enjoyment to harmful addiction?
Defining Video Game Addiction
The American Medical Association has not included video game addiction in its Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the gold standard in defining mental illness.
However, some video game players begin to exhibit classic signs of a psychological addiction to playing, and there is some talk about adding it to the manual.
According to WebMd a person may be suffering from a video game addiction if they need more and more and they feel miserable or irritable if they are not able to play. It does not appear that video game addiction has a biological component, but that it is primarily satisfying a psychological need to escape or feel good about life.
Warning Signs of Video Game Addiction
WebMd lists a number of red flags that may indicate that video games are moving from hobby to addiction:
Increasing the amount of time spent playing video games, especially at the expense of friends and family.
Obsessively thinking about video games at work or during other activities.
Using games to escape problems in the real world.
Lying about the amount of time spent on video games.
Irritability when unable to play or reducing playing time.
Risks of Video Game Addiction
Playing too many video games may not seem like the worst addiction out there. After all, no one has ever been arrested for playing too many video games.
However, video game addiction can have subtle detrimental effects.
Too much time in front of the screen takes away from time that people would otherwise be spending socializing and can harm the ability to make and keep friends.
The obsessive behavior can also take away from other essential activities, such as completing homework or performing well at work.
Some inconclusive studies have also suggested that some video games can increase aggressive behavior.
In extreme cases, video game addiction can lead to lack of sleep, exercise and even meals, taking a toll on overall health.
Treatment of Video Game Addiction
The first step for someone worried their child or loved one may be addicted to video games is to take good records about how often the gamer plays and any negative effects resulting from playing. This is often necessary to help the gamer realize just how severe the problem has gotten.
Treatment for video game addiction faces similar problems to food addiction. Like food, it’s nearly impossible to navigate today’s world without using computers. This makes it necessary for the addict to stop playing all computer video games – a little can quickly become too much.
Outdoor activities apart from computers can provide a fun alternative to computer-based hobbies and start the addict on the road to a healthier lifestyle.
In extreme cases, it may be necessary to seek out the help of a psychologist or even a special video game “detox” center.
The key is for those worried that they or someone they care about may be addicted to video games is admit that there’s a problem and begin to seek out help.
Video Game Addiction – How Much Video Gaming is Too Much
Video game addiction is a serious problem that can negatively affect a child’s grades, social life and health; limiting video game playing time can help reduce the likelihood of addiction and ensure that a child has a well-rounded schedule of healthy activities. There are a number of simple ways to ensure that a child plays only a healthy amount of video games. Work with children to combat video game addiction.
Video Game Addiction – Monitor Video Game Playing Time
There are a number of signs that parents can watch for if they think their child may be addicted to video games. Withdrawal from academic and social activities in favor of playing games on the Xbox, Wii or Playstation can be a sign of addiction; if a child neglects his schoolwork or friends to play games, he may have a video game addiction. Once school starts, pay attention to a child’s grades; if his grades begin slipping due to playing video games, it’s time for him to make a lifestyle change.
Additionally, weight gain can be a sign of video game addiction. Sedentary teens are more likely to become obese, and teen obesity is a major health risk for children. Teens who sit and play video games for more than an hour a day, especially if coupled with unhealthy snacking and low physical activity, puts teens at risk of becoming obese.
Keep track of how long a child is playing video games each day, and make a chart comparing the length of time spend on games versus homework, socializing and other healthy activities. This can be a good tool for showing a teen that he is spending too much time playing games.
How to Handle Video Game Addiction
Children with a video game addiction need their parents’ help in reducing the amount of time spent playing games. This can range from taking games away entirely to a more moderate approach in limiting video game time. Discuss various options with an individual child to determine the best course of action.
Slowly limiting video game time is a good way to gradually get a child away from video games and involved in other activities. Signing a child up for a sport or extracurricular activity will provide an alternate outlet for activity, which can help reduce the desire to play games.
Set a one-hour time limit for games each day, and make sure the child can hear the timer when it goes off. If he wants to continue playing, simply subtract that time from the following day’s allotment. This is a simple way to create and reinforce limits on video game playing. A video game timer can help children develop a better concept of time when playing games.
Video Game Addiction – Provide Alternatives to Video Games
Offer alternatives to playing video games, such as hanging out with friends, playing sports and getting involved in school activities. Getting a child active in a number of things aside from video games is a good way to redirect energy to something positive. Children who are well-rounded and active in a number of areas are more likely to do better in school and feel more confident about themselves.
Overweight teens should be enrolled in a sport or weight training class in order to get down to a healthy weight. Childhood obesity can cause many health problems later on in life, and maintaining a healthy diet in the adolescent years is important.
Recognizing the signs of video game addiction is important, and can help parents get kids involved in healthy, fun activities that boost their confidence, give them a well-rounded education and ensure that video games are a fun pastime, and not an addiction. Monitoring video game time is an important part of ensuring a healthy childhood.