By Leah Nieman
Video game addiction has been making headlines recently, especially with the surge in popularity of games like Fortnite and Roblox. Though this problem has not been officially recognized as a diagnosis, the issues caused by compulsive gaming still exist.
I realize the term “addiction” is highly charged and still debatable when it comes to assigning it to a non-substance. We can call it addiction, disorder, compulsion…the spiraling effects it has on a person’s life are the same.
Recently, the APA developed nine criteria for characterizing the proposed Internet gaming disorder. In March 2017, a study which sought to examine the validity and reliability of the criteria for Internet gaming disorder, compare it to research on gambling addiction and problem gaming, and estimate its impact on physical, social, and mental health was published in American Journal of Psychiatry. The result of that study led Patrick M. Markey, Ph.D., and Christopher J. Ferguson, Ph.D., to conclude “video game addiction might be a real thing, but it is not the epidemic that some have made it out to be.”
In fact, researchers found that 0.3 to 1.0 percent of the general population might qualify for a potential diagnosis of Internet gaming disorder.
The research and the debate are ongoing. Some argue that gaming could be a symptom of an underlying problem, such as depression or anxiety. They don’t believe Internet gaming is a disorder or addiction in and of itself. But, then you read stories like those of Bryce and others helped by reSTART. I feel it’s definitely time to call a spade a spade.
Parents, if you’re really struggling with your child over their constant video gaming, this is for you:
Just because your child loves playing Fortnite with all their friends doesn’t mean they are addicted to video games. It most likely means they want to hang out with their friends. With video game addiction, children have a hard time detaching from their gaming life to take on their real-world life. Just as in an addiction to drugs or alcohol, the thrill that comes with playing a game becomes something they cannot live without.
SIGNS OF VIDEO GAME ADDICTION
While kids, especially teenagers, are prone to mood swings, those that go hand-in-hand with video game addiction are a bit different. They may become very hostile when they are not able to play their games and they will show an unusual amount of relief and relaxation when they are playing.
Children often talk extensively about things they enjoy, but when it’s impossible to have any conversation that isn’t about video games, it may indicate a problem. When engaged in other activities, they may be preoccupied about when that activity or task will be finished so that they can get back to beating the next level or meeting their friends on their favorite game.
PERSONAL HYGIENE AND NEEDS
Preteen and teen hygiene can be a bit of an issue in even the best circumstances, but when video game addiction comes into play, the problem is compounded. Kids who are addicted to video games simply can’t tear themselves away to shower, brush their teeth, or take care of other important hygiene needs. They may skip meals or develop poor sleeping habits, just to keep up their gaming fix.
LACK OF INTEREST IN FRIENDS AND ACTIVITIES
Children who are addicted to video games typically spend less and less time on outside activities. They may give up sports or clubs in favor of spending time on their gaming platforms. They may stop spending time with their friends, outside of those who play the same games as they do.
When taking away video games from an addicted child, there will be aggressive behavior. They may make threats of harm to themselves or lash out at parents or siblings. This behavior will go far beyond the typical sulking that goes hand-in-hand with punishing a typical tween.
Many kids play video games without addiction, and while they might be upset or annoyed to lose the privilege, there isn’t a drastic withdrawal.
If your child is showing signs of addiction to video games, don’t be afraid to seek help. Talk to your child’s pediatrician or family physician to see if a referral to a mental health professional or counselor who specializes in these disorders is an option. Or, contact reSTART. While this is a problem that is still being researched, there are ways of helping children who have a video game addiction cope with their problem.
Leah Nieman has been speaking to parents and teens about technology, social media, and parenting for the past 10 years. She’s a popular speaker who offers sessions, advice, and resources so parents can raise kids with a healthy perspective of technology and social media. You can find her eBooks Connected: Apps All Parents Should Know, Quick Guide to Parental Controls for Kindle, and Connected: A Parent’s Guide to Snapchat, as well as tips on technology and social media at leahnieman.com.