Aspire Therapy and Counseling Centre 
Joyce Van Andel, MSW/RSW

Helping clients reach optimal mental health and quality in their relationships

 

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How to Help Children and Youth with Video Game Addiction

Posted on 13 July, 2019 at 14:20

“Mom, I’m so stressed! I can’t stop. I can’t take it anymore. I hate my life!” were the words uttered by a 13-year-old male after his parents confronted him about the amount of time he spent playing his favorite video game. His parents attempted to set limits on his gaming after they noticed he was becoming more irritable, was spending less time with family and friends, and had lost interest in activities he previously enjoyed.

It’s no surprise that the increase in video game use among youth can lead to decreased emotional and social functioning for some. In fact, many studies have identified a link between video game addiction and depression, anxiety, suicidality, and social phobia. Video game addiction or “gaming disorder” has become so prevalent that it is now classified as a disease by the World Health Organization.

Many parents struggle with how to approach video game addiction. Part of the issue is that kids who are struggling with gaming disorder often lose their connection with “real” and online friends when they stop playing video games. Parents may also be distracted by their own activities, which are often technology-based as well. And, frankly, it’s exhausting and overwhelming to impose consequences to help a youth rebuild their lives in a video-game-free world.

In order to support your child so they can get a handle on video games, whether that’s by playing in moderation or total abstinence, start with the following tips:

CREATE A REALISTIC PLAN AND ENFORCE IT.

Track the amount of time your child currently plays video games, come up with an acceptable amount of time that reflects video game playing as a minimal part of your child’s life, and enforce the plan. Be in charge of the emotional atmosphere by staying calm so that your child has a better chance of accessing their own rational brain.

Kids need clear structure and limits in order to feel safe and settled. Just because your child may initially be upset when you tell them they MUST stop playing doesn’t mean it’s not good for them. If they don’t stop playing at the agreed upon time, then they automatically lose the opportunity to play in the future. Creating contracts for these kinds of agreements, which are signed by both the parent and child can be very successful. The plan and consequences are clearly stated and can be referred back to as needed.

BUILD IN OTHER ACTIVITIES FIRST.

The goal of moderation is based on the premise that children will benefit from decreasing the importance of video games as a way to meet their emotional and social needs. Focusing on other activities such as social interaction, physical activity, chores, and homework is vital to decreasing video game reliance as a coping strategy. We don’t just take away addictions without replacing them with something else that serves the same function. Explore what function video games primarily serve for your children, then help them replace the function of success, connection, emotional regulation, etc., with other activities.

Perhaps you child feels a degree of competence in playing this game that he/she doesn’t often experience in other areas of his life. To help gain feelings of competence outside of Fortnite, arrange to have him/her stay after school to get extra help with math and take up a new sport such as Parkour, which is all the range. The goal is to have video game use become a secondary activity following engagement in the “real” activities of life.

BECOME MORE KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT MODERN TECHNOLOGY.

I myself am not up on video games or a lot of modern technology to be honest. Fortunately, there are many online resources that can help us understand everything from the various types of video games (including how potentially addictive they are), to how age appropriate they are. There is also software (iKydz, Kidslox) that gives parents control over the amount of screen time their kids can have. We have the choice to either avoid these areas of concern, or to address them head on by taking more control over our kids’ wellness and their future.

We have access to so many new aspects of technology that it is virtually impossible to fully understand the long-term implications of using these tools. We owe it to our children to prevent video game addiction by making every attempt possible to help technology add richness, opportunity, and joy to their lives, as an addition to “real” life successes and connections.

If you or your child/youth are struggling with a gaming addiction – we can help in setting up a plan to get this under your and your child/youth’s control.

Adapted from article byTricia Klassen, MSW/RSW

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2 Comments

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