By Greg Skibinski, MA, LCPC, CADC, CSAT, CMAT, Executive Director, Agape Counseling, LTD
If you have wondered about your son or daughter’s amount of time playing games on a computer, video game console, hand-held device, or basically anything with a screen, you are not alone. Most kids are able to juggle all of the demands of their daily life, but when they can’t put them down or stop playing, it does become a problem.
Video game and Internet addictions are not as heard of as other chemical or behavioral addictions but they can be as dangerous. They are not considered to be an official psychological disorder but the possibility of including computer game addiction in future addictions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders is being debated. Currently, it is a way to describe someone’s life that appears to be negatively impacted by excessive behavior on an object with a screen.
Teenager’s brains are being hard wired for immediate gratification whether it is through the Internet or technology. Their brains have learned that faster is better and are linked to immediate gratification in the brain’s reward zone. In the world of virtual reality, or your child or teen’s video game, they are in control and work toward rewards. Their brains receive info and images that stimulate their brains neuropathways and when this happens on a consistent basis, their brains begin to trust that it will happen each time they play or turn the screen on. By some estimates, as many as 10 percent of gamers exhibit addictive behaviors.
Here are some symptoms of game addiction. The more symptoms that you can identify, the greater need for help:
- A high number of non-school hours are spent on the computer or playing video games
- Falling asleep at school and falling behind in homework and assignments
- Worsening of grades
- Lying about computer or game use
- Aggression toward video games
- Playing video games rather than with friends
- Preferring to play computer or video games rather than being active with friends
- Dropping out of extra-curricular activities to spend more time with computer or video game
- Being irritable when not playing a video game or being on the computer
- Loss of time, feeling like in a trance while playing game and being uncertain how much time they may have actually been playing
- Preoccupation and anxiety about a new game or the ability to play a game
- Seeking the computer, video game, or social media to hide from negative or uncomfortable feelings or situations
- Misuses of money and spending habits that should have gone for other necessities to purchase computer or game-related items (i.e., hardware, upgrades, characters in the game)
- Your child only feels happy when on the computer or gaming
Compared to other psychological difficulties (such as depression or anxiety), teenage computer game addiction is obviously a relatively new problem faced by families. As such, parents may lack accurate and/or helpful information on these signs.
As more therapists work with teenagers addicted to computer games and more researchers study the problem, more will be known on the exact long-term impact that it has on the brain. In addition, there is still much confusion about exactly what computer game addiction is and how parents can help their child who seems far more interested in playing in a virtual world than living in the real world.
If your child or teen is experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, or if, as a parent, you have questions that you would like answered, there is hope.
Does this article hit home with you or someone you know? We can help. The Peoria office number is 309-692-4433. Agape Counseling, LTDF, is a group of Christian counselors, social workers, psychologists and support staff committed to a therapeutic process that ministers to the whole person. Their Peoria office is located at 2001 W. Willow Knolls, Suite 110. The Morton location is 75 E. Queenwood Road. Visit online: www.agapecounselors.net.
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