Video Gaming Addiction: What is it, and how do I help my child?

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Published on

02.22.2022

The advent of gaming–online games, video games, mobile games–has caught a lot of parents off guard. When kids become deeply preoccupied with gaming, it can cast a dark cloud over their mood, sociability, and overall development. 

How can parents recognize if their kid has a gaming problem, or better yet, avoid one altogether? Continue reading for helpful information, resources, and reliable solutions.

Video Game Addiction Definition

Video game addiction refers to the compulsive or uncontrolled use of video games, in a way that causes problems in other areas of a person’s life. In the DSM-5, the official diagnostic manual for the American Psychiatric Association, this is known as Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD). While the term “addiction” is still being studied, it is commonly used in today’s vernacular to mean a compulsive behavior or use of a substance.

For the sake of this article we’ll use the word “addiction” informally.

In kids and teens, a gaming addiction manifests as the need to spend an ever-increasing amount of time playing games to feel okay. Some of these symptoms, according to the American Psychiatric Association are:

  • A preoccupation with video gaming
  • Withdrawal symptoms when games are taken away (sadness, anxiety, irritability) or refusal to give them up at all
  • A built tolerance, or in other words, the need to spend more time playing to feel satisfied
  • Inability to reduce amount of time playing, or unsuccessful attempts to quit
  • A loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Continuing to game despite the problems that arise from it
  • Deceiving others about time spent gaming
  • Using games to regulate emotions and relieve negative moods, like guilt or hopelessness
  • Risk taking, jeopardizing jobs, schooling, or relationships due to playing

If your child suffers from any of these traits, it’s time to step in and help. 

The Effect of Video Games on Your Child’s Mind

So what happens to a child’s body when they’re playing video games?

Video games incite dopamine in the brain, a ‘feel good’ chemical. 

“If a person experiences hyperarousal while playing video games, the brain associates the activity with dopamine. The person develops a strong drive to seek out that same pleasure again and again.”

Mayo Clinic Health System, 2021

To rephrase, video games elicit an enjoyable physical reaction, and are likely to motivate the player to want to experience the same feeling again.

Just like social media and the internet, video games and online games are available through almost any mobile device. That means a child can access this dopamine response immediately. 

Luckily Gabb has a solution. Homes with Gabb Phones and Gabb Watches can have peace of mind in their mobile tech that comes free of addictive games, the internet, or social media. 

With Gabb, your child can feel the freedom of not having games strapped to them at all times, and you can feel the peace of mind that your child won’t have to deal with compulsive behavior that impedes their life.

What Makes Video Games Addictive?

In addition to eliciting an addictive dopamine response in the brain, video games are designed to attract and retain users for long periods of time.

They’re programmed from the start to have addictive aspects to them. Read that again.

“Game designers are always looking for ways to make their games more interesting in order to increase the amount of time people spend playing them.”

Video Game Addiction, 2022

Online games, video games, and mobile games are programmed with “hooks” to keep the user in front of the screen. Below are some of these addictive factors of video games: 

boy in red hat looking at cell phone

The High Score

The “high score” or “completion percentage” is one of the most recognizable hooks in online games. Gamers can stay engrossed for hours trying to beat the high score. If they are playing to beat their own best score, they could literally play forever trying to do so. 

Beating the Opponent

The majority of online games include users competing with or against friends and other players. Whether a person is rising up the leaderboard or gaining bragging rights with friends, the group-competitive aspect of online gaming can be very addictive. 

Role-Playing

Role-playing games (RPG) allow users to create characters, also known as avatars, to represent them. Some games allow users to create entire worlds for those characters. They can take on quests, build environments, explore, and fight opponents to level up their character. 

Gamers can sometimes form an emotional attachment to their creations, making it much harder to stop playing. Role-playing also allows them to take on a new identity, which can be very enticing if they feel unsatisfied with real life. For this reason, less developed emotional regulation skills in kids and teens can lead them to develop a dependency on role-playing to cope with–or even escape–everyday life. 

Beating the Game

“Beating the game” isn’t a concept used in online RPG games as much, but it is found in most games in some form. The game gives the player the incentive to beat the game by “leveling up” or by finding a hidden clue to advance. 

Discovery

As mentioned, most often used in role-playing games, the user spends a good portion of the game exploring imaginary worlds. This thrill of discovery can feel addictive.

Relationships

Role-playing games also allow the player to build relationships with other players. For some kids and teens, these online friends and communities become the place where they feel most accepted. These relationships, real or not, keep the player coming back to the game for the sense of belonging.

Video Gaming Addiction Statistics

Without the need to spend hours improving their score on a game, kids with Gabb devices are spending 80 percent less time in front of their screens. With this reclaimed time in their day, Gabb users are staying active, devoting time to their talents, and enjoying their childhoods. 

There is, however, much progress to be made. Regarding the seriousness of gaming addiction in the U.S., the numbers speak for themselves: 

According to The Recovery Village:

  • 64 percent of the U.S. population are gamers.
  • 94 percent of males and six percent of females represent the gender breakdown for gaming addiction.

Game Quitters find:

  • 90-99 percent of all American children are playing video games.
  • Between 48 and 56 percent of young adults play video games regularly.
  • 8.5 percent of children and teenagers under 18 around the world may be addicted to gaming.
  • The prevalence of gaming addiction among teenagers has increased by 4 percent since 2007.
teen boy on phone and laptop

Video Gaming Addiction Symptoms

Gabb is on a mission to encourage kids and families to set proper boundaries around their tech use, ensuring the health and well-being of every family member. Without established parameters around tech use, particularly gaming, children face the possibility of serious ramifications.

Gaming has been linked to a variety of social and psychological problems. As previously mentioned, according to the American Psychological Association, Internet Gaming Disorder is defined as experiencing at least five of the following nine criteria over a 12-month period:

  • Gaming preoccupation
  • Withdrawal
  • Tolerance
  • Loss of interest in other activities
  • Downplaying use
  • Loss of relationships, educational, or career opportunities
  • Gaming to escape or relieve anxiety, guilt, or other negative mood states
  • Failure to control
  • Continued gaming despite psychosocial problems (Harvard Health Publishing).

Gaming addiction is also correlated with more long-term and severe consequences. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Gaming has also been associated with sleep deprivation, insomnia and circadian rhythm disorders, depression, aggression, and anxiety.” 

With excessive time spent gaming, kids and teens put themselves at considerable risk of long-term detriments to their health and well-being. 

Video Gaming Addiction Help: Tips for Quitting

Do you recognize any of these addictive signs or symptoms in your child? Are you looking for help and resources to pull your kid out of their addiction? Here are some ways to help alleviate your child’s addiction to gaming:

Set a Game Time Window

First, consider restructuring your child’s tech habits and access to games in the home. For a more gradual approach, allow for a set window of game time each day, progressively shortening the window until they no longer need to play on a daily basis.

Do a Gaming Fast

If you’re seeing signs of gaming addiction in your child, don’t hesitate to pull the plug and do a fast from video games. One to two days, even an entire week: make a decision on how long would benefit your family the most. 

Keep the Connection

Be sure to begin with an open dialogue between you and your child. Open up to them about the changes in their behavior and your concerns for their well-being. Help them to see this process as a helpful exercise rather than some type of punishment. Find fun and productive activities to enjoy as a family. Help your child realize the fun things they could be doing outside of their game screen.

Get a Gabb Device

With the use of simple, focused tech, kids can stay connected to friends and family and enjoy life without the burden of addiction. If you’re concerned about your child’s tech/gaming habits, get them a Gabb device. 

Treatments

If you feel your child would benefit from more in-depth, professional help, learn more from the treatment centers and resources available online. 

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Gabb Wireless is dedicated to helping families build and maintain healthy tech habits and rearing tech-responsible kids into adulthood. Find Gabb products, read about the Gabb mission, and access additional Gabb resources here.

Gabb Staff Writer

More than a cellular company—Gabb Wireless is a movement to connect kids to what matters most with safe technology solutions.

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