Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Social Consequences of Teen Gaming Addiction: Part II

Read Part I here.

Another part of the addiction dynamic with video games is most children and teens do not feel they have control over their day-to-day lives. They are generally told what to wear and eat, when to go to sleep and wake up, how to spend their day, and who their friends should be. In a video game, teens are in control, whether they are driving a race car, mastering a Jimi Hendrix guitar lick, or leading a revolution.

Additionally, there is the excitement of gaming. A "good game" will get a player's pulse racing and adrenaline pumping, even if he is sitting on the couch holding a controller. Games with a time component amplify this excitement, such as Jewel Quest in which the player may be down to one second before everything "blows up."

"Kicking the habit" is challenging. Video game and computer addicts cannot avoid computers. They need to use technology for homework and communication. The dynamic for a compulsive gamer is similar to an alcoholic who has to live and work next to a bar. Thus, parents need to set clear limits and monitor usage. This means the computer, smart phone, and gaming system need to be used in a public place (e.g., living room, den, kitchen) and need to be turned off at a time that allows the teen to wind down for sleep.

Parents should help their children find alternatives to video games. Rather than restrict and limit use, parents should also try to get gamers to participate in sports, join the school band, afterschool clubs, or just play outside with the neighbors. Parents need to learn not to be afraid of the words, "I'm bored." The truth is, if a gamer gets bored enough, he may try to find something to do offline.

Who is most vulnerable to internet and video game addiction? Research shows that cyber and video game abuse, dependence, and addiction are most likely to occur in students diagnosed with depression, ADHD, and Asperger's Syndrome.

Since addicts usually have brain-based hard-wiring that predisposes them to multiple addictions, teens addicted to the cyber/video world are also at high risk for substance abuse and behavioral addictions. Substance abuse and cyber addiction often go hand-in-hand.

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