Parents and teachers across the globe have expressed a fear of what is often referred to as a video game addiction. How are video games impacting our kids' ability to focus and to socialize face-to-face? Where do we turn if our kids need video game addiction help?
The World Health Organization recently addressed this growing fear, classifying the addiction as a "gaming disorder." Studies conducted in 2017 found that while billions of people engage in video gameplay, very few of them have a full-blown addiction to it. In fact, of the population who participated in this study, less than 3% fit the category of "video game addict."
So what, exactly, is a video game addiction? What are the real effects of playing video games? Should we still be concerned about kids who get a lot of screentime, even if they don't have a gaming disorder?Read on to find out more and how you can help your kids and students who are constantly glued to their gaming consoles.
What is Video Game Addiction?
When we think of addiction, our mind tends to wander towards drugs and alcohol. It's important to remember, however, that addiction isn't purely physical. In fact, it tends to have a lot more to do with the way our brains have been programmed than the way our bodies react to different substances.
When you reframe your idea of addiction, it's not so hard to understand how someone could become addicted to something like playing video games. But having a video game addiction involves a lot more than how many hours a day someone spends playing or how much they love their games.
Let's talk about the video game addiction test. In order to receive the "gaming disorder" diagnosis, a person would have to fit at least five of the following symptoms all within the last year.
Symptoms of Video Game Addiction
- Their mind is on video games for most or all of the day, even when they aren't playing them
- They feel down or upset when they can't play, no matter the reason. In other words, they're upset if they can't play video games even when this isn't the result of punishment
- Needing to devote more and more time to their gameplay in order to feel content or happy
- Not being able to turn the game off or cut back the amount of time they're playing
- Giving up or not wanting to participate in activities that they once enjoyed in favor of playing video games
- Having issues with work, school, or interpersonal relationships because of their gaming
- Knowing that these issues exist and continuing to play, regardless
- Lying to family, friends, and other people who are close to them about how much time they spend playing video games
- Using gaming as a crutch to lift a bad mood or negative feelings
Are There Positive Effects of Playing Video Games?
It's important to address the positive effects of playing video games because there tends to be a lot of skewed opinions floating around. Some people argue that all video gameplay is negative while others shout an ongoing list of benefits from the hilltops. If we want to get to the bottom of this question, we need to turn to science, which is exactly what Daphne Bavelier and her team did.
In Bavelier's TED Talk, she addresses some of the myths surrounding video gameplay. She also discusses what was actually discovered during a scientific study.
The first thing she mentions involves eyesight. Many parents and teachers fear that the constant glare of the screen must be detrimental to a person's ability to see. Bavelier's team found that video gamers have, on average, better eyesight than people who don't play video games.
More specifically, they found that playing video games can train the brain to pick up more visual details. This can be very beneficial, for example, for drivers on a busy road.
Bavelier also discusses the idea that people who play video games have a hard time focusing on non-gaming activities. Ultimately, she found that video games do not create attention problems. In fact, they can actually enhance a person's ability to multitask.
People who engage in multi-media-tasking, on the other hand, do tend to have attention problems. She defines this act as engaging in multiple forms of media at once. This could include listening to music while scrolling through Instagram and texting all at once.
What Is At Risk For Kids Who Spend Tons of Time on Gameplay?
There are scientifically verified benefits to playing video games. But even Bavelier notes that there is still such a thing as "too much" video gameplay. Addiction or not, there are some valid concerns parents and teachers might have regarding excessive video gaming.
For example, the ability to socialize easily may be at risk. Plenty of games involve interacting with real people, but most of the time that happens remotely. In fact, there's a good chance that they're communicating with people online that they've never met in real life.
There's nothing inherently wrong with the kind of socialization that comes with video gaming, as long as the language being used is age-appropriate and there's a positive sense of comradery. However, there are still some things that are missing from this equation that could stunt a person's ability to make meaningful, long-lasting friendships in real life.
Remote, online communication doesn't require eye contact, which is a crucial part of building relationships. Eye contact communicates respect, attention, and communal experience. When eye contact is missing from a conversation, people are bound to feel as though they are not being listened to or aren't appreciated by the other person.
The act of listening is also important. When people are verbally communicating while playing video games, a lot of that communication comes in the form of quick commands or bursts of information that is useful to the gameplay. There may be very little emotional connection and very few instances where players check in with one another's feelings or enquire about their deeper personalities. In other words, gaming camaraderie is fun and does lessen the levels of isolation many gamers seem to be experiencing. However, face-to-face interactions and deeper relationship-building are still necessary parts of life.
Video Game Addiction Prevention
There's a very low chance that your child is a true video game addict, but that doesn't mean their behavior isn't concerning. Even if they don't meet five or more of the gaming disorder criteria, meeting one or two is still an issue.
Curb the problem before it gets out of hand. Set limits on how much time your child can play video games and conditions they must meet in order to play at all. For example, a good rule of thumb is saying, "Homework first, video games second," and making sure that your child is actually completing their homework assignments.
Make face-to-face communication a central part of your daily routine. Eating dinner together every night is a great way to check in with your child's ability to socialize and remind them of the importance of in-person conversation.
Make sure your child is engaged in physical activity. They may not want to go out for a sports team at school, but that doesn't mean they can't go on a bike ride or take a long walk with you or a friend several times a week. Not only will exercise get them away from the screen for a bit but it will also reduce the risks that come with a sedentary lifestyle.
Where Can We Seek Video Game Addiction Help?
Perhaps it's time for a larger intervention. At this point, parents and teachers can't be expected to tackle the issue on their own.
For starters, cognitive behavioural therapy is a must. Kids with a video game addiction need professional psychological help. Therapy will help them learn how to replace their current associations with video gaming with healthier perceptions, breaking the mental need for constant game time.
It can also help greatly to bring in an outside perspective. Sometimes, when kids hear advice from the adults that they know, they have a hard time taking it seriously. They may feel like you have ulterior motives--maybe you just don't like video games--and you aren't being earnest or truthful.
Schools can make a big difference here by bringing in a public speaker who has professional experience talking and relating to kids and teens. They may feel more comfortable hearing positive ideas or expressing their own feelings or concerns with someone who isn't close with them, like a parent or teacher. Plus, opening the floor to a school-wide discussion can bring kids together and teach them how to support one another through difficult times.
Watching your kids or students go through addiction is scary and upsetting, but video game addiction help isn't out of reach.
Speakers in Australian Schools
If you feel as though a presentation delivered by a skilled public speaker is just what the doctor ordered, Contact myself or another speaker my PA can recommend. There are many speakers who can highlight via their own stories and solutions in a real way.
Videos & Other Great Research Links:
Wired: How Video Games Impact you
Bite Zide Psych: Why Violent Video games actually decrease Violence
Gamify: What Video Games do to your Brain (great Pro's & Con's update of the above videos)
Generation Next: What to do about Gaming Disorders: (very particle tips)
Game Quitters Quiz: Top Left Take our Quiz
If you or anyone you know needs Help:
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
- MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
- Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
- Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
- Headspace on 1800 650 890
- ReachOut at au.reachout.com
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