Perhaps you have noticed that your child has spent a lot of time playing games recently. Maybe he has found some new, cool games online and he just can't seem to stop. At what point do you wonder if your child has an online game addiction?
Video games have become a major part in the lives of our youth. Since our children have more free time to spend playing games, they often find the virtual worlds easier to live in than the real thing. Some children are more than happy to isolate themselves from friends and family to get to the next level or meet some new challenge in a game.
At some point their gaming achievements may become more important to them than the things that are going on in the real world. With the arrival of massive multiplayer online role-playing games, the problem is becoming more acute. According to the Council on Science and Public Health in 2005, gamers that spend more than two hours per day are defined as gaming too much. This is citing the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines that no child should have more than two hours of screen time per day.
According to Dr. Maressa Hecht Orzack, around 40% of the players of World of Warcraft are suffering from some sort of online games addiction. In a 2006 lecture, 12% of online gamers that were polled reported they had some form of addictive behaviors.
While online gaming addiction is not recognized as a diagnosable disorder by the American Medical Association, there seems to be an alarming number of teens that are suffering from symptoms. As the games become more complex and detailed they are able to compel the player into their virtual worlds. These cool games online also use improved graphics and strategic challenges to entice the players to get more involved.
Not all gamers are addicted, a lot of teens, pre-teens and adults can play with no uncontrollable compulsion. However this is not true of everyone.
Since video games are designed to be addictive and to entice people to play more, it increases the likelihood that a person can become addicted. In some cases the person might be trying to beat a high score or discover some new way to beat the game while the enticement is still there.
Does it Ever End?
For games that are massive multiplayer, this problem can be even worse because the game is designed to never end. Some kids have friends that spend hours per day playing games to make higher results than they do. They therefore feel compelled by online peer pressure to play more to keep up with their peers.
For children that have poor relationship skills and are easily bored, video game addiction can become a serious concern. Some researchers at the Hammersmith Hospital in London found in 2005 that dopamine levels of players doubled while they were in the middle of a game. Since dopamine is a mood regulating hormone, it can enhance the body's feelings of pleasure. This can lead to a chemically addictive behavior.
Gaming Addiction Symptoms
If you think your child may be addicted to video games or the Internet there are certain things you can look out for. One of the most obvious behaviors is excessive time being spent playing games or in front of a computer. It doesn't matter whether it's a gaming console or a laptop the results are still the same. Other indicators can be moodiness and depression when not online. They can become preoccupied and often fantasize while being online.
You might see changes in sleeping patterns or sudden weight loss or weight gain. Be aware that some children lie about how much time they spend gaming or on the Internet to continue their activities.
If your child is showing these symptoms, it is highly recommended that you limit the amount of time they spend in front of a screen. In some cases it may be beneficial to take the computer gaming system out of their room so that they are required to play in a common area of the home. This can help you watch your child and track how much time they spend gaming.
If you feel that your child is unable to stay away from the screen without addictive behavior, they may need professional treatment. There are addiction centers that are available to help with this and in some cases it may need a therapeutic boarding school or a residential treatment center. The most important thing is to get your child some help as soon as possible.