Video Game Addiction

I believe my 14-year-old son is addicted to video games. The cons far out weigh the pros. He throws tantrums, is verbally abusive, at times destroys property, is socially isolated, has weight gain, and is quitting other activities. Is it possible that he for whatever reason cannot handle any playing time? I am ready to take it out of our home. Setting limits seems to just lead to constant negotiation and argument. Am I wrong it getting rid of it altogether? I believe this is the only way to get it off his mind.

Deb, St. Paul, MN

Deb,

After hearing from many parents and spouses of compulsive gamers I have become convinced that video game addiction is real. While there is no formal diagnosis here in the United States, recent research indicates that about one out of every eleven video gamers starts to show the type of symptoms you’ve described.

Coincidentally I recently spent two weeks in Singapore training counselors about “Cyber-Addiction.” The problem seems to be even more widespread there than in the US and professional have no qualms about calling it an addiction. In the words of one psychologist, "if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and talks like a duck - it must be a duck!"

Don't get me wrong, most kids play video games and live a balanced and healthy life. But you are not alone! Some kids, like your son, have a difficult time keeping game play in balance. I support your decision to intervene before your son’s gaming gets even more out of control. I have developed some tools to help parents determine whether their kids’ game play is over the line. The first is a video game addiction symptom checklist and the second is what I call the “I’d rather Inventory.” Here are my tips.

  • Fill out the “Symptom Checklist” and have your son complete the “I’d Rather Inventory.” If these tools confirm your fears, it’s time to intervene.
  • Decide in advance what the gaming limits and rules are and what the consequences will be if he doesn’t comply. Include rules about arguing and yelling.
  • Explain the limits and consequences to your son. Let him know that he will choose the consequences with his behavior.
  • Consistently enforce the limits and consequences.
  • You may need to confiscate his games. Let him know in advance that you will remove the games if he flaunts both the rules and consequences.
  • If the situation escalates, don't hesitate to involve a trusted mental health professional.