Is Your Teen Addicted to Video Games?

Teen addicted to video games
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Although the word addiction may seem like an exaggeration, there’s evidence that kids can actually develop a serious addiction to video games. A video game addiction is similar to other behavioral addictions, like gambling.

The Lure of Gaming

Most people who become addicted to video games are getting addicted to role playing games. These games allow players to enter into a virtual world where they can become whomever they want.

A teen who is unpopular at school, for example, may be able to create an online persona that helps him feel popular online.

During role playing games, players interact with one another. They may play with friends or strangers. There is some social interaction and often they form teams.

One of the reasons people become addicted to role playing games is that there often isn’t a clear end. Role playing games continue indefinitely and there are always new scenarios that can be created. As a result, players never get the satisfaction of winning, but they’re often hooked on working their way through the ranks.

Who’s Most At-Risk of Addiction?

While most people can play video games without ever developing an addiction, some play just a few times before becoming hooked. And there’s new evidence that shows why some young people are getting hooked on video games.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health reveals that teens who become addicted to video games react to everyday activities differently.

For example, when teens were asked to solve a Rubik’s Cube in a short time-frame, most teens showed a physiological response. 

But the teens who were addicted to video games, showed no reaction. Researchers believe that teens who aren’t stimulated by normal daily activities may be more likely to turn to video games for that stimulation.

If video games become their main source of fulfillment, they may spend increased time gaming.

Additionally, researchers found that teens who showed an addiction to gaming had difficulty handling stress. They showed an increased physiological response when talking about something they often fight about with their parents, such as homework, money, or media use. These teens may be more likely to withdraw into a virtual world as a means of escaping real-world problems.

Warning Signs that Your Child is Addicted to Video Games

Gaming crosses the line into addiction when it begins to cause problems in a child’s life. For example, if your teen misses school because he was up all night playing games, it’s a problem. Or, if he’s no longer spending time with friends and family because he’s always in his room playing games, he may have an addiction. Here are some other warning signs of a video game addiction:

  • Thinking about or talking about video games much of the time.
  • Playing games for increasing amounts of time.
  • Playing games to escape the realities of life.
  • Lying to friends and family to conceal gaming.
  • Feeling irritable when not allowed to play games.
  • Giving up other interests and activities in order to play games.

Seek Professional Help

If you’re concerned about the amount of time your child spends playing video games, take steps to help curb his gaming. If your attempts to set healthy limits on electronics aren't effective, seek professional help. Talk to your teen’s pediatrician or meet with a mental health professional. Your child may benefit from treatment for underlying mental health issues, like depression or anxiety, or he may need help finding healthier activities to replace gaming.

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