Friday, November 30, 2012

Excerpt from my "Teen Video Game Addiction Workbook"

Introduction (pp.3-6)
1)   Can video gaming really become an addiction? (pp.6-10)
2)   Why are video games addictive? (pp.10-11)
3)   Are all games equally addictive?(pp.11-14)
4)   Am I really a video game addict? (pp.14-24)
5)   How much time do I really spend gaming? (PP.24-32)
6)   Am I alone? What type of teen is most likely to become addicted to gaming? (pp.32-33)
7)   Why am I addicted to gaming?(pp.34-43)
8)   Changing your mood to free yourself from gaming addiction(pp.43-61)
9)   Overcoming video game addiction by learning The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People (pp.61-89)
10)       You have the power to change your brain! (pp.90-93)
11)       Video gamers and dating. (pp.93-96)
12)       Watch out for cyber porn!(pp.96-106)
13)       Moderation versus “getting unplugged.” (pp.107-110)
14)       Conclusion: putting it all together! (pp.110-114)


Let me begin by saying that I am 53 years old and therefore did not grow up playing video games. And, truth be told, I have never developed an interest in gaming. However, I have two sons who both play video games – from Mario Kart to Lego Harry Potter to Grand Theft Auto to Call of Duty. Both of my sons have had various handheld systems -- such as the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP. We have a PlayStation and a WII in our home. We own three laptops, one desktop computer, two iPads that are loaded with game apps, and three iPhones -- also loaded with game apps.
So, I am certainly not a parent who disapproves of video gaming or the use of technology for entertainment. I am also aware there are millions of children, teens, and adults across the globe who love video gaming and who do not experience any problems related to gaming.

The vast majority of children and teens who play video games are able to complete their school work on time, read for pleasure, have hobbies and interests other than gaming, engage in physical exercise, go to parties, go to the movies, date, and most importantly, have clearly defined life goals (such as attending college or achieving a certain type of career).

Unfortunately, there is a rather sizable group of children and teens, perhaps as many as 10%, who struggle to control their gaming behavior. This workbook is written for teens that have lost control of their lives as a result of video gaming.
This workbook is written for teens who are experiencing serious negative consequences related to gaming: school /academic achievement problems, loss of interest in hobbies, neglecting peer and family relationships, neglecting personal hygiene, loo of sleep, constant craving for games, physical problems such as weight gain, conflict with parents when ANY limit is set on gaming, and the need to constantly increase the amount of time spent gaming.

I am a mental health professional and a professor at the University Of Southern California School Of Social Work and have spent the past 25 years of my life working with children and teens. Over the last five years, I have seen a dramatic change in the way that children and teens use gaming, and technology generally, to experience pleasure.

I have seen a disturbing trend, especially amongst teen boys, in which gaming has become not only the focus of their daily life, but also the purpose of their lives. I have seen firsthand how difficult it is for parents to set limits with teens who are gaming multiple hours per day. I have also seen how difficult it is for teens to change their gaming habits -- even when they are fully aware of the negative consequences of gaming.

Over the past four years multiple books have been written on the subject of gaming. In these books the term “addiction” has been applied to children, teens, and adults who have a relationship with video gaming that is similar, if not identical, to the relationship people have with drugs and alcohol. This workbook will help you understand video game addiction and give you the   tools needed to overcome gaming addiction.

How to use this workbook:
This workbook is intended to be used ONLY with the guidance of a licensed mental health professional with expertise in the area of video game addiction and technology addiction (surfing the Internet, social media sites, YouTube, eBay, e-mail, etc.). This workbook is intended to be used during individual, family, and group therapy. Working within a group format has been proven to be extremely effective for dealing with substance (cocaine, alcohol, marijuana) and behavioral addictions (gambling and shopping).

By using this workbook within a group format, you will be able to share your experience with video gaming with peers who understand your relationships to gaming. Also, by being in a group with peers who are having difficulty controlling their gaming, you will be able to receive constructive feedback about your efforts to change your behavior -- as well as emotional and social support that will make changing your behavior more successful.

You will meet one time per week in a teen group for 1.5 hours. Typically your group will cover one chapter of this workbook per meeting. The average time spent completing this workbook is 16 weeks. You will also meet twice per month on an individual basis with the therapist running your group and participate in family therapy sessions twice per month.

Your parents will be provided with a similar workbook and they will meet on a weekly basis for 1.5 hours with a group of parents. It is expected that your parents will complete one chapter per group session and will participate in family therapy sessions.
The journey you are about to start with your family will be challenging – and there will be times when you will want to quit and get back to gaming full time. There will be times when you will say that you have never had a problem gaming – and that the only problem you have is your parents telling you to change.

This workbook was not written to convince you that you have a problem – but rather to help you understand that your relationship to gaming may be interfering with your own goals. The choice to change will ultimately be yours: this workbook will provide you with the knowledge and skills to make changes should you decide that you want something more from your life than gaming can offer.

As would follow, this workbook was written with the intention of helping you understand your relationship to video gaming -- without offering judgment, criticism, or blame. This workbook was written to help avoid arguments about video gaming.  I have found that arguing about the good and the bad of gaming will not move you or your family in a positive direction.

Finally, this workbook was written with the belief that every teen has the ability to make changes in their relationship to video gaming. The process of making change may be difficult, but you have the power to change, expand, and improve your life!

Teen Video Game Addiction Manual Ready To Go!

I completed a "Teen Video Game Addiction Workbook" -- I am waiting for a paperback product I created using (self publishing). I will have 20 copies next week. If your are interested you can purchase a copy for $12.00 and I will ship it to you. Alternatively, I have PDF copies ready to go now for $5.00. You can read the PDF on your computer or print a copy (114 pages). You can view excepts on this blog to get a clear idea about the content of the workbook.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Excerpt from The Teenager's Guide to the Safe Use of Cyber Porn

By Christopher Mulligan LCSW

How much porn is there?
According to Wendy and Larry Maltz, co-authors of The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide To Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography, there are more than 400 million pages of pornography on the Internet. According to Dr. Patrick Carnes, one of the world's leading experts in the area of online sexual behavior, commercial pornography websites, magazines, books, DVDs, and cable television generate almost $320 billion annually worldwide. To put this in some perspective, in the United States alone, pornography revenues are larger than all the combined revenues from professional football, baseball, and basketball.

Dr. Carnes also reports that an estimated 72 million individuals visit pornography websites each year. Approximately twenty five percent of all search engine requests are pornography related. Ten percent of adult Internet users believe they are “cybersex” (online) addicts. Twenty percent of adults in the USA report having intentionally visited pornographic websites. Did you know that thirty percent of visitors to adult pornography sites are women?

The average age of first exposure to online pornography is 11 years old and seventy percent of teenagers report they have seen pornographic images online.
Does cyber porn come with instructions?

With dozens of search engines you can surf for an endless variety of sexual activities and sexual images. One word can bring up 250,000 different “hits” that contain pornographic photographs, videos, chat rooms, live WebCams, and advertisements for sexual products. Some of these websites display images of nude or nearly nude adults engaging in sexual activity. Some of these websites display sexual activity that includes animals, children, violence, and other sexual behavior that is frightening and confusing. One of the dangers of cyber porn is you really cannot control what type of image or video will “pop up.”

So, despite the amazing growth in Internet pornography, and the growth in technologies that make Internet pornography very accessible to all (such as laptops and mobile devices), Internet porn does not come with a set of instructions, a list of ingredients, or any type of warning about it’s possible danger.

So, why doesn’t cyber porn come with guidelines?  Well, the porn industry doesn’t want guidelines or regulations, because they want to sell porn to anyone who can pay for their product – including teens. The porn industry wants as many customers as is possible, and there is really no better target audience than teens – as they can develop a life-long attachment to porn use.

Why doesn’t “sex ed” programs talk about cyber porn and cyber sex?
The fact is adults have not focused on the potential dangers of cyber porn in “sex ed” programs because of the attention given to cyber bullying and cyber predators. Certainly, the most common and high profile fears related to Internet use include online “harassment” or cyber bullying and exposure to adult “cyber predators” (child molesters). Despite the high profile nature of sexual predators, including television shows focusing on predatory adults, research studies from Harvard do not show an increase in overall predatory behavior as a result of the increase in internet use by young people.  

The popular picture of a predator as an older male who preys on children is not supported by scientific findings. Most sexual solicitation of children and teens is by other minors and young adults. According to the Harvard researchers most Internet sex crimes against minors actually involve young adults and minors who mistakenly believe they are able to consent to sex with an adult.

According to the Harvard researchers, reported cases of Internet initiated sex crimes involving adult strangers are much less common than crimes initiated by family or other familiar adults. What is surprising, but supported by research, is only a small percentage of youth are deceived by adult offenders lying about their age. In fact, cyber stalking by adult offenders appears to be quite rare. This does NOT mean you should talk to strangers online or EVER arrange a meeting with a stranger from cyberspace.

As for “sex ed” programs, it appears that the availability and quantity of cyber porn has gotten way out in front of educators, schools, and parents in terms of developing an open, honest and informed discussion about the possible benefits and dangers of cyber porn. Adults simply haven’t figured out how to approach the topic of cyber porn – so teens are figuring it out on their own!
Given this the absence of clear and reliable information for teens about cyber porn, I have put together this manual.
Is any amount of cyber porn healthy?
Let’s start with the most basic question: what amount and what type of pornography is appropriate or safe? Is all pornography unhealthy? Are there websites that are educational and provide good information while using sexually graphic images?
Certainly not all online sexual activity has a negative impact on teens or adults. A recent study estimated nearly eighty percent of those who engage in online sexual activity should be considered "recreational users" and do not report any problems related to their online behavior. Both youth and adults report using the Internet to research sexual information on issues such as preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, purchasing and reviewing options for contraception, and exploring sexuality. Cyberspace allows teens and adults to explore sexual fantasies, explore sexual preferences, and learn about different forms of sexual expression in a safe and secure home environment.

However, for the approximate 20% of individuals who struggle with online sexual behavior, the consequences can be devastating and long-lasting. As I will discuss in greater detail, some people become compulsive in collecting and viewing pornography, others cross legal boundaries, while others find themselves spending 10+ hours each day online in search of sex or romance.

So, to my way of thinking, although cyber porn may be fun and exciting for some teens (and adults) and pose no emotional or physical health risks, the down side far outweighs the up side. After having worked with teens and adults with cyber porn problems, I think the risk is too great and therefore the best approach to cyber porn is to take a pass. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard teens and adults say: “I just wish someone had told me how easy it is to get out of control with cyber porn.”
My position is not about whether cyber porn is good or bad or right or wrong from a moral perspective or a religious perspective. Simply put, I think porn has the great potential damage your emotional, sexual, physical and social well-being. I am certain no one will ever regret NOT using porn – they will only regret being exposed to and using porn and losing control of their lives.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chapter 6 from my Teen Video Game Addiction Workbook

Chapter 6: Am I Alone? (What type of teen is most likely to become addicted to gaming?)

The majority of gamers -- particularly those who favor MMORPGs -- are very smart and enjoy problem-solving. The majority of gamers are motivated to do the right thing in life -- such as complete school work, follow house rules, show respect for family and friends, and achieve a meaningful career. Likewise, the majority of parents of gamers are intelligent, kind, concerned, and want their children to have a good quality of life.

So, if most gamers are smart and well-motivated and come from kind and supportive families, why do they end up becoming addicted to video games?

1)    Most teens that run into problems with video gaming start gaming at a very early age, usually six years or younger. Starting gaming at an early age sets in motion a potential lifetime of recreational/leisure time spent in isolation with technology. The brain becomes wired for stimulation through technology -- and then rejects other forms of stimulation (e.g., “I’m not interested in going to the beach. I want to stay home and play Mario”).
2)    Most addicted gamers have significant amounts of unstructured and unsupervised time, particularly after school hours and on weekends (usually due to parents who work and have other children that need attention).
3)    Most addicted gamers have computers and video game consoles in their bedrooms (this is a BIG mistake).
4)    Most addicted gamers come from families who have the financial resources to purchase gaming systems, upgrade gaming systems, have multiple laptops, and have multiple handheld devices. It makes sense that families that can afford to give their children the latest in technology would be more likely to develop problems using technology.
5)    Most addicted gamers have very few off-line or “real world” friends and usually have a history of struggling socially with their peers. For example, children and teens diagnosed with a form of high functioning autism, called Asperger’s syndrome, have significant problems developing relationships with their peers and seem to feel most comfortable socially within gaming communities.
6)    Many addicted gamers have problems focusing or concentrating on repetitive tasks or tasks they find boring -- such as chores and homework. Many children and teens that have been diagnosed with ADHD struggle with repetitive tasks, organization, and concentration, but excel in the world of video gaming.
7)    The vast majority of addicted gamers are male. Although girls enjoy video gaming, they are much more likely to be drawn to social media and are very rarely interested in role-playing games or real-time strategy games.
8)    There seems to be a relationship between gaming addiction and mental health problems, particularly depression. It makes sense that someone who feels sad and/or lonely would be drawn to the excitement of role-playing games and real-time strategy games.
9)    Most addicted gamers have anxiety about taking risks in social situations. Video gaming allows anxious teens to avoid the challenge of negotiating and overcoming risks by offering a virtual world where success, power, strength, and popularity can be achieved without having to undergo the ups and downs that are part of everyday life.
10)                   And, finally, most addicted gamers did not establish hobbies that gave them pleasure in the outdoors. Addicted gamers typically spent all of their time indoors before gaming took control of their life. Living indoors deprives the mind and body of positive experiences that increase self-esteem.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Chapter 5 from my Teen Video Game Addiction Treatment Manual!

Chapter 5: How much time do I really spend gaming?

If you are uncertain about whether you are addicted to video gaming, there is a very helpful way to put your gaming behavior into perspective -- and that is by keeping a “time log.”

What is a time log? A time log is a record of the total amount of time you spend gaming each day.

Example of video game log:

Day: Monday

Time of day: 3PM

Game: Call of Duty

Number of hours: 4.0

Location of gaming: bedroom

Day: Tuesday

Time of day: 7 PM

Game: World of Warcraft

Number of hours: 1.5

Location of gaming: bedroom

Day: Wednesday

Time of day: 930PM

Game: Call of Duty

Number of hours: 2.5

Location of gaming: bedroom

Day: Thursday

Time of day: 430 PM

Game: Call of Duty

Number of hours: 1.0

Location of gaming: bedroom

Day: Friday

Time of day: 430 PM

Game: Grand Theft Auto

Number of hours: 4.0

Location of gaming: bedroom

Day: Saturday

Time of day: 3 PM

Game: World of Warcraft

Number of hours: 4.0

Location of gaming: friend’s house

Day: Sunday

Time of day: 2 PM
Game: Grand Theft Auto

Number of hours: 3.0

Location of gaming: bedroom

What was the total amount of time you spent gaming this week? 18

What time of day do you usually play? Afternoon

Why do you play during this time? To take a break after school and to hang out with friends on the weekend.

What is your favorite gaming location? My bedroom - because it is private.

Putting your gaming time in perspective:

The gaming log above recorded 18 hours per week (or about 2.5 hours per day). If you have a similar gaming pattern, you are spending:

72 hours per month (4x18 equals 72)

864 hours per year (12x72 equals 864)

4320 hours per five years (5x864 equals 4320)

To put this in perspective in terms of days spent gaming, divide the above hours by 16 hours (or the typical amount of time a person is awake), and this will give you the total number of days you are spending playing video games:

4.5 days each month (72 hours divided by 16)

54 days per year (860 hours divided by 16)

270 days per five years (4340 hours divided by 16)

What is your reaction to the total number of days you are spending in the course of the year video gaming? Were you surprised 2.5 hours per day of gaming, which is a very common amount of time, means you are spending 54 days gaming per year?

Can you see any downside or problem with spending 54 (or more) days a year gaming? Yes/No/Unsure

If yes, briefly describe how you see the negative consequences of gaming:

What are you missing due to the time you spend gaming? Circle any of the activities that apply to you:

Going to the movies
Going to a concert
Going to a restaurant with friends
Going to an arcade
Going to the beach
Taking a bike ride
Taking a hike,
Going fishing
Cooking a meal
Participating in a political group or club
Learning to drive
Taking a road trip
Writing a blog
Creating a website
Preparing for college entrance exams
Participating in school-based clubs
Taking a martial arts class
Playing chess
Learning to play an instrument
Learning photography or film making
Working out

As any honest gamer will admit, the vast majority of online gamers are male. As such, the more time you spend within the gaming community, the less time you have to spend with girls. The less time you spend with girls, the less time you have to practice how to start up a conversation, flirt, or learn the best way to ask a girl out on a date.

One thing is absolutely certain about spending time video gaming, no girl is going to knock on your computer or television monitor and ask you out on a date. One of the great risks of being a big-time gamer (50 plus days per year) is the loss of opportunities to develop socially, especially learning what girls need and want from friends that are boys and from boyfriends.

So, given the potential downside to gaming, why not keep a gaming log for a period of seven days and see what is really going on in terms of how you are spending your time and energy.