The Video Game Addiction Test
How to know if your child is developing an unhealthy dependency.
Video game dependency is a serious issue. Not only does it lead to mental and physical health problems, but it can slowly replace all other important interests and activities in a child’s real life like sports, school, friendships and most important, his relationship with his parents. The question is: how do you know if your child has a video game problem?
Below is a short quiz to see if your child may have an unhealthy dependency or be at risk for developing one. This test is based on Dr. Douglas A. Gentile’s questionnaire which will help you identify gaming issues with your children. We have adapted it to include examples of what these behaviors might look like in your own home and your parenting, so you can better gauge the appropriate response.
For a quick version of the test, simply ask yourself if his video game is his number one priority. If the answer is yes, it is time to adjust and get his life back in balance.
Note: This piece was written with boys in mind, however, girls have struggles with video games too.
Internet Gaming Disorder in Children and Adolescents
The DSM-5 suggests that IGD (Internet Gaming Disorder) may be identified by five or more of nine criteria within a 12-month period. These criteria include:
- Preoccupation with games: Gaming becomes the dominant activity in daily life; the individual thinks about previous gaming activity or anticipates playing the next game.
- cannot list more than three activities he loves more than video games.
- says he is bored when not on a device.
- begs for the device.
- spends significant time researching and watching YouTube videos about his video game.
- is obsessed during the weekday with anticipation for the allotted screen time permitted on the weekends.
- does school projects about video games.
- games when non-gaming friends come to play and he wants them to watch him play.
- asks mostly for video games, and gaming or computer equipment as gifts.
Parental Behaviors: You are allowing chores and other activities to slide so that your son can game more. You are allowing him to overuse your credit card to make in-game purchases. You buy him all the newest equipment, monitors and games. On occasion, you have even carried his dinner to him. Deep down you like having him home and close by.
- Withdrawal symptoms when game is taken away: These symptoms are typically described as irritability, anxiety, or sadness.
- gets restless, mean, or irritable toward you and siblings and other family members if he can’t be on his device.
- gets depressed when screens are not allowed.
- Throws the controller in a fit of anger when he gets frustrated in the game
- exhibits gamer rage, angry outbursts, and violence when asked to stop playing games or when he loses in the game.
- protests game limits by sitting out of family activities and doing nothing, demonstrating that he would rather do nothing else if he can’t be on his device.
Parental Behaviors: You begin to structure family time around his game time in order to prevent outbursts. You make creative excuses for him to keep gaming so you can keep peace in your home.
- Tolerance: The need to spend increasing amounts of time engaged in games.
- plays his video games every day.
- games on family vacations and doesn’t want to venture out.
- sacrifices in-person social activities with friends and family to be in the virtual world.
- has a growing need to play more advanced/mature-rated games, his old games are not as exciting anymore.
Parental Behaviors: He craves more screen-time. You find yourself adjusting screen time limits because previous game limits are hard to manage and not working. You justify this extra time by convincing yourself that he really is balanced with chores and school and he needs a break, afterall, everyone deserves downtime. Once you relax the game time limits and give in to make him happy, he becomes even more irritable.
- Unsuccessful attempts to control or reduce participation in games.
- attempts to cut back game time, but fails.
- uses game time as a negotiating tool.
- wants game-time to be his reward for any positive contribution he makes to your home.
- is always pushing boundaries and asks for “just one more minute” before he does his chores or homework.
Parental Behaviors: You are exhausted over arguing about his chores, and you have lowered the bar for his help around the house, cleaning his room, taking out the trash, etc. You have to use game time rewards now to get your child to do anything productive, i.e. chores and homework. It is easier for you to do it in order to keep the peace. Conflict is increasing around gaming, and you are arguing more with your spouse about solutions.
- Loss of interest in real-life relationships, previous hobbies, and other entertainment as a result of, and with the exception of, games.
- quits sports or other hobbies, replacing the time with more screen time.
- communicates most to friends through a device and stays up late into the night to talk with them.
- gets less exercise and outside play, replacing the time with screen time.
- has diminishing passion for age appropriate childhood activities, replacing those times with gaming.
Parental Behaviors: You allow your child to quit his extracurricular activities, clubs and sports. You don’t want to overschedule him and stress him because you feel he needs to be allowed to just be a kid. Deep down you are relieved of the logistics of getting him to his activities and it is easier for you too.
- Continued excessive use of games despite knowledge of psychosocial problems.
- grossly underestimates the time spent on his game.
- denies there is a problem with his game time.
- is isolating and withdrawing from friends.
- is not participating in school related functions and activities, i.e. dances, parties, etc.
- is shifting his interest from real life to the virtual world.
Parental Behaviors: You know deep down your son has a problem, but you can’t force him to participate in real life. You may believe that his screen problem is something that he is genetically predisposed to. You’re exhausted and are giving up.
- Has deceived family members, therapists, or others regarding the amount of gaming.
- is secretive and lies about gaming sessions.
- pretends to be ill to stay home from school and play video games.
- lies about doing homework when he is gaming instead.
- closes or changes the screen when you walk into the room.
- steals money from your credit card to purchase game-related products/in-app purchases.
Parental Behaviors: You don’t believe your child is capable of deceiving you so you make excuses for his behavior. Once you face the fact that he is lying about gaming time and or other game related issues like overusing your credit card, you are angry. You can’t wait for him to move out and go to college where you mistakenly think that he will outgrow his problem.
- Use of games to escape or relieve a negative mood, i.e. feelings of helplessness, guilt, or anxiety.
- pleads for video game time as a way to escape from daily stress.
- states video gaming is the “only thing he loves.”
- retreats to his game when he is bullied at school or has experienced a school-related disappointment, i.e. not making a sports team.
- has a hard time dealing with the ebb and flow of life’s disappointments because there’s no reset button.
Parental Reaction: When your child is hurt, you want to let him have more time on his device so he will feel better. You use game time as an apology when you hurt his feelings or disappoint him.
- Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational (or career) opportunity.
- is “very smart,” but is under-achieving in academics, getting B’s or C’s when he is an A student.
- makes excuses about why his homework is not done and talks negatively about teachers and other authority figures in his life.
- rushes through homework in order to have more game time.
- rarely spends extra time reading for pleasure or studying about school subjects.
- is not prepared for school on Monday.
Parental Behaviors: Your son is not reaching his potential, so you try to fill in the gaps by hiring tutors or doing homework for him. You are falling into the overparenting trap. You make excuses when he fails a class, is late for a job, or gets fired.
If your child shows signs of being at-risk or screen dependent, it’s time to take action, be proactive, and make a change. A good place to start is to take The ScreenStrong Challenge—a week-long break from video games, social media, and smartphones. Excessive screen use is a bad habit that needs to be reset and The ScreenStrong Challenge is designed to give kids an opportunity to experience the things they have missed out on since Fortnite stole their free time. If you would like a chance to step back, recharge, and reconnect your family, join the challenge today.
Disclaimer: This assessment is not a replacement for the therapy or treatment center necessary to help an at-risk or addicted child. If you feel like your child will potentially do bodily harm to you, himself or herself, you need to seek professional help.