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!

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