Is Your Child Addicted to Video Games?

If your child plays a “harmless” 3-4 hours of video games on each school day, and then another 7-8 hours on each weekend day, your child’s video game time could easily total 29-36 hours per week, many of them alone in their bedroom or basement! Back when you and I were little tykes, that time was used to speak with friends and family, play baseball, basketball and other sports, study, complete chores or tasks in the household, reading, or even just plain relaxing. Now, with over 30 hours per week devoted to video games, your child may simply be too tired and stressed to engage in any other activities, ….. other than eating, of course!

According to the National Institute on Media and the Family, “When time spent playing video games reaches a point that it harms a child's or adult's family and social relationships, or disrupts school or work life, that person may be caught in a cycle of addiction. Like other addictions, the video game has replaced friends and family as the source of a person's emotional life. Increasingly, to feel good, the addicted person spends more time playing video games. Time away from the game causes moodiness or withdrawal. When a child spends up more than five hours a day playing games, major social, school or work disruptions will result. Time away from the game causes moodiness or withdrawal”.

This is a good moment to ask yourself, including all of the hours of the week, even when you’re not home, is your child logging more than five hours a day of video gaming? Of course, while it is not actual playing time, this includes the hours of game research, questioning of friends to learn new tricks to unlocking secrets to their favorite games (so, that they can kill more people!), and thinking of new tactics, as well. Unfortunately, I can speak from my experience with middle school kids (more on this later), that what begins as a seemingly harmless event eventually turns into a level of addiction. The only question is to what degree will your child become addicted.

Continuing with the research, they have defined the symptoms of video game addiction as follows:

For children:

• Most of non-school hours are spent on the computer or playing video games.

• Falling asleep in school.

• Not keeping up with assignments.

• Worsening grades.

• Lying about computer or video game use.

• Choosing to use the computer or play video games, rather than see friends.

• Dropping out of other social groups (clubs or sports).

• Irritable when not playing a video game or on the computer.

There are even physical symptoms that may point to addiction:

• Carpal tunnel syndrome.

• Sleep disturbances

• Back, neck aches

• Headaches

• Dry eyes

• Failure to eat regularly or neglect personal hygiene

Without question, in my over 25 years of working with school children, I have seen all of these symptoms, most of them to mind-numbing proportions! By now, you’ve probably already packaged up that game system in a nice, clean trash bag and you’ve placed it in your car, so that you can drive it to the dump tomorrow! But, in case you’re still holding out for more proof that video games can be addictive and dangerous to your child’s mental health, come back soon for Part 3!!

In the meantime, the Thanksgiving break can provide children with a lot of unstructured time in which to engage in video game activities. Be sure to monitor the content of the video games, as well as the number of minutes/hours that are spent with the games. After all, this should be the perfect family weekend! Have a great holiday!

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Mark Cruz
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Posted on Mar 11, 2012