It’s just a harmless game, right?

Which gamer lives at your house?

The Casual Gamer

Your child likes to play video games but he likes other activities as much or more. He is balanced and you are not worried!

The At-Risk Gamer

The shift away from casual play is starting. His gaming is on the list of the top three things he likes to do with his time. You have a gut feeling that something isn’t quite right, and he may be headed toward addiction.

The Addicted Gamer

Your child has arrived at the point of being dependent on gaming to function in his life. You are losing your son. You know that he has a problem, but you don’t know what to do; you fear it may be too late.

For a more detailed list, review The Spectrum of Video Gaming Activity: From Casual Use to Addiction compiled by Dr. Victoria Dunckley and Melanie Hempe.

As an additional resource, take a look at Dr. Doug Gentile’s Video Game Addiction Questionnaire.

So how did you get here?

It is estimated that over 90% of American youth are playing video games. For some, gaming is a balanced pastime, but for others, it becomes an obsession that slowly starts to replace other activities and tear their life and their families apart.

As parents, we convince ourselves that all kids play video games. It is part of our culture so it must be okay. How does the obsession start?

Ages 0-6

iPad in the crib

Mom’s phone at the grocery store

Playing “Early Learning” games

Ages 6-11

Minecraft replaces real Lego play

1st time porn viewing

Aggression and anger outbursts over gaming

Ages 11-18

Advanced “Mature” multi-player games

Games become an escape from reality 

Conflict at home over gaming increases

Gaming replaces other hobbies and sports

Spending less time in real life

The Physical Effects of Gaming on the Body

Watch this powerful interview with Jane Pauly on the physical effects of gaming on blood pressure and heart rate.

Kids are at war IN the game. Parents are at war WITH the game. But the game is WINNING.

A video compilation review of some of today’s games from Dr. Andrew Doan including scenes from Minecraft, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto. Then hear from Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman on the psychology behind violent video games and how its impacting our kids. 

Escaping Video Game Addiction

Cam Adair

TEDxBoulder

Warning Signs of Overuse & Addiction

Toddlers

Begs to play

Only thing that motivates him

Takes iPad to bed

Prefers game over other activities

Rather stay inside than play outside

Sneaks screen time

Aggressive behavior

Doesn’t want to play with friends

May wet pants when playing

Kids

Talks about game achievement all the time

Wants to game right after school

Rushed through homework to get to game

Prefers game over other social activities

Spends time on YouTube researching game cheats

Writes papers and projects about video game

Chooses gaming inside rather than outdoor play

Underachieving in school, no interest in school

Says he is learning computer “code”

May throw the controller if he gets mad at game

Games when he is bored, tired, lonely, hungry

May cry if he can’t play

Teens

More stress and conflict at home

You are having arguments with spouse

Private. You don’t know what he is playing

Most of their friends are gamers

He has lied about how much he is playing

He has charged your credit card without asking

Socially delayed, not dating, not driving, no job

Misses family events and meals to game

Anger outburst, rages, hurting property or others

Can’t list three things he likes more than his game

Underdeveloped empathy, lack of compassion

Depression

Parents are worried that gamer will hurt them if they take game away

Is your child addicted to gaming?

TAKE THE QUIZ!

Ask Adam

“You will never be able to achieve anything truly great if you spend all of your time playing video games.”

—Adam Brooker, former gamer

Hi, I’m Adam. At the time of writing this, I am 24 years old and I am a Sergeant in the US Army. My MOS is 11B (Infantry) which is probably what you think of if you ever hear someone say they are in the military. I’m the guy who thought it would be a good idea to go on patrols and try to find people to shoot at me so that I can shoot back at them. I am currently in the 82nd Airborne Division so my job, being an Infantryman, is literally to jump out of an airplane behind enemy lines and kill everyone that isn’t wearing the same uniform as me. So kind of like Call of Duty in real life… Read more

Why Kids Play Video Games

How I Got Started in Gaming

Aren’t Games Educational?

Games and Pornography

Video Game Solutions...So Now What?

  1. The first thing we recommend is to reset your home and habits. This means making changes that will reduce your screen interactions and replace them with healthier family attachment activities. We suggest reading The ScreenStrong Solution to get you started!
  2. After you’ve reset your habits, you’ll be looking for things to do, and so will your kids. Check out our tips for parents to find alternative activities for your family.
  3. Join the ScreenStrong community by following us on Facebook, Instagram, or by starting a ScreenStrong Group with your closest friends.

Common Myths

He is having fun and it’s a cheap/easy babysitter. Yes, gaming is fun and because it is designed to be such an addictive activity using it for a babysitter can cause many problems. Once your child is hooked it can be very hard to keep it balanced. PLAY now and more than likely you will PAY later when he wants to quit other

The game is making him so tech savvy, he will need that skill in his future job. The skills he will need more in a future job are real life skills that are rare, valuable, and not found on a video game. He is not learning code, self control,  or how to hold down a job.

He is going to be a game designer. If he is going to be a game designer, he will need much more experience with art, music, teamwork, project planning, communication skills, physics, math, and physical science. His excess hours on a game will not help with those skills.

His teacher said he has a “gift” for learning code. Great. Put him in some code classes but keep an eye on what he is doing–most gamers say they have a gift for code. If he truly does, sign him up for a foreign language too, that is a huge asset in the workplace.

He is safe when he is on his game at least I know where he is. He is not safe on his game. He is meeting people you don’t know and involved in a world you may know nothing about. He would be better off developmentally to get off hs game and get some life experience even if it includes “dangerous activities” like asking a girl out or learning a new sport of driving a car.

Dad plays with him and it’s their only bonding time. If this is their only bonding time, then that is a problem. While you are happy that they have something that they like to do together, it is a very addictive form of entertainment, just like gambling, and it is more dangerous for a young brain. Set up a plan to go outside and ride bikes, hike, hunt, play sports, an hour for every game hour. That will keep it a bit more in balance. If  your son shows signs of addiction then dad needs to lead and help him develop other hobbies.

He is shy, and it is his only outlet. Is he shy or is he just rude and lazy? Gaming is isolating and removes your son from the practice of real-life encounters; if he doesn’t practice real life, he will not be good at it.

He struggles socially, and I don’t want him to be left out of his friend group. Find another friend group if his only group of friends are gamer friends. This is an addiction warning sign.

He is obsessed now, but I’m sure he will outgrow it. He will not outgrow it. What he loves now is what he is “paving” for the future. He will not all of a sudden get interested in other activities if he isn’t now. Remember that gaming is very “chemically” addictive and because of the neuronal involvement and early rewiring, addictions started in childhood are almost impossible to break later.

If I don’t let him play now, he will binge in college. In college, he will continue to enjoy and build on the activities that he built a foundation for as a child. If he is only good at gaming, he will game in college. If he is good at other things he will do those.

It’s just a harmless game. Gaming is not harmless. While it is a fun exciting entertainment activity for boys, there is a fine line between keeping it that way and entering the addictive side of gaming. Watch for signs of addiction and be prepared to pull him back if he can’t keep it balanced. Every “activity” has a potential risk and downside–know what they are for gaming.

Additional Resources