Are Video Games Addicting?

written by: James Thibeault
I’m not ashamed to admit that I play video games often. I probably average an hour or two each night—playing as adventurous heroes like Batman, who deliver righteous roundhouses to thugs and thieves. I would like to think that despite the countless hours that I have put into my video games, I am still a productive member of society who has other hobbies as well. On the other hand, I have seen close friends of mine play video games nonstop—as if it was a full-time job. They shut themselves out from the world and immerse themselves into another one for days on end. There are also horror stories of teenagers who play games to death, literally. In 2012, “an 18-year-old collapsed and died at an internet cafe after playing an online computer game for 40 hours straight” (Reynolds).  There are other cases of full-blown addiction, but should you be worried that your child is addicted to video games? Not likely. Recently, the American Journal of Psychiatry performed a large-scale study that showed “at most 1 percent of video game players might exhibit characteristics of an addiction” (Ferguson). Keep in mind that playing many hours of video games does not necessarily mean addiction. Addiction forms when refusing to play is not an option when a person feels “that they didn’t just ‘want’ to play, but ‘needed’ to play” (Gray). More than likely, your child does not have this uncontrollable addiction and his or her gaming in moderation is quite healthy.

Still, that does not exclude some children who are playing video games for incredible amounts of time.  Is this the video game’s fault or are there other factors that might contribute to prolonged play? There is an endless list of reasons why a child might play extensively. Some may play for the social interaction—as they wish to bond with people who have similar likes and interests. Others might use it for escapism, since their current environment may not provide them with positive interactions. According to an article from Psychology Today, “If you’re dealing with real-life failure, escaping from that stress by playing games that give you a sense of victory or control over your life can be a helpful way of coping” (Vitelli). It is important as parents to understand your child’s decision to play. Is your child using it as a form of expression and creativity, like the game Minecraft? Are they playing because they are immersed in the game’s story and universe? There may be healthy reasons why your child might be playing video games, and removing the child’s connection might be detrimental. What if your child is using video games as a safe method for venting out their daily frustrations? By eliminating video games altogether, it may cause the child to seek other methods of ventilation—some of which may not be healthy. Encourage moderation, but be wary to cancel that Xbox Live membership until you fully understand your child’s decision to game.

When it comes to actual video game addiction, there are certain factors that may contribute to it; such as “lack of successful experiences in real life, low parental support, high video game use by parents, divorce or separation of parents, behavioural problems or problems at school, truancy from classes, school phobia [and/or] poor grades” (Vitelli).  If your child is fully addicted, certain signs may include: “Preoccupation with the game, use of the game in increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction, gaming longer than originally intended, [and/or] jeopardized or risked loss of significant relationships … because of game use.” On the chance that your child is addicted, it is crucial to talk to your child and discuss “what might be missing or wrong in other aspects of his or her life and whether or not you can help to solve that problem” (Gray). As a parent, there may be certain anxieties or fears that your child is suffering from and their coping mechanism may be video games. By eliminating these possible trepidations, your child might game less. 

Video games are not leaving anytime soon and each future generation will be surrounded by this interactive technology. While most children will never become addicted, there could be a small chance of complete absorption. If that is the case, talk to your children and see if there is a source of discomfort or worry. Worst case scenario, there are places which can help treat your child for video game addiction issues, such as the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery at (800) 522-3784 or the Psych Garden in Belmont, MA at (857) 598-9688.
 
Works Cited:
"What Is Video-game Addiction?" Video Games. Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery, n.d. Web. 12 June 2017. <http://www.addictionrecov.org/Addictions/?AID=45>.

Ferguson, Christopher J., and Patrick Markey. "Video Games Aren't Addictive." New York Times, 2 Apr. 2017, p. 6(L).
 
Gray, Peter. "Online Game Playing Is Not Addictive." Addiction, edited by Christine Watkins, Greenhaven Press, 2014. 

Reynolds, Emma. "Teenager Collapses and Dies after Playing Online Computer Game for 40 HOURS Straight." Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 18 July 2012. Web. 26 May 2017. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2175410/Teenager-dies-playing-game-40-HOURS-straight-eating.html>.

Vitelli, Romeo. "Are Video Games Addictive?" Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 19 Aug. 2013. Web. 12 June 2017. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201308/are-video-games-addictive>.
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