This article is meant to provide some guidance for parents of a teen who might be obsessed with computer and/or video games.
Let’s face it: games can be addictive. The game designers use every trick in the book not only to make a game interesting, but to hold attention while completing tasks, leveling up, or scoring more points.
Yes, games can be addictive, but obsession is something else. I am concerned about any teen that tends to avoid normal activities in order to withdraw into continual game play.
How do you know the attraction to games has gone too far? Think about normal human development. If a teen is neglecting other interests in life in favor of gaming activities, to the point where they withdraw from society, it could be a sign of obsession.
It’s not always easy to detect the signs of teen game obsession, especially in its early stages. As it starts with an interest, and grows into an addiction, we may want to confront the teen about their behavior. This is where we must be careful not to let a discussion escalate into a battle.
Many kids are quick to learn debating skills, and if we start off the discussion in an accusing tone, there will be more difficulty. Instead of questioning their motives for repetitive game play, focus on praise for any good behavior, and stick to the facts. Teens will often rebut our concerns with logic and their arguments may seem convincing. They may point out our own flaws as parents and make comparisons to other kids who are allowed to play games for hours each day.
As parents we sometimes think that since we know more than our kids, we should be able to direct their ways and not admit to our own flaws. Strenuous rebuttals from our teens may convince us that maybe 5 hours spent in front of a video game isn’t that bad. After all, we spend that much time on the phone, at our computers, or using our Blackberries or other gadgets.
The important thing to do for your teen is to monitor their time on the video games. Don’t let your logical teen argue with you about gaming, they might win! Instead, show that you care about their life by restricting their time spent gaming, before it gets out of hand.
It’s much better, and easier to deal with, if you do the monitoring and take restrictive measures before gaming displaces everything that a teen used to care about. Set limits on game time when you notice your teen’s social life starting to drop off, when their grades are suffering, or when they are not getting enough sleep.
If you get severe reactions to the restrictions, it’s time to use some tough love. Your teen may have a tantrum, start cursing, or even try to get physical or run away from home. These strong reactions can be signs that the obsession has a hold on their common sense. You must hold fast to the rules you decide on, so that your teen has a chance to lead a normal life!
The key to being able to help your teen is to be aware of behavioral changes that may signal they are on a wrong path. An obsession with gaming can produce impatience with situations and with people. They may be quick to anger, and react to situations without thinking about the consequences. When you see an increase in gaming, and an increase in these danger signs, it’s surely time to restrict the game time.
There are a lot of debates about the effects of video games on children, and adults. Some say that the kinds of bad behaviors described above are the natural consequence of games that require those behaviors to win or to advance to higher levels of game play. They say that a player is being trained to react in a manner that leads to these bad behaviors. Regardless of your stance on these debates, it’s important to look out for signs of behavioral change in your teen, and take appropriate action to control their game play.
Don’t just try to restrict game time without substituting other activities. If possible, try to encourage physical activities because these may be lacking in gaming fanatics. Consider various sports such as baseball, skating, swimming, or dance. Also, you may want to encourage your teen to make more time for activities that engage the mind in different ways, such as music, art, or theater.
Watch for those behavioral changes, and take action to help your teen get back on track. Don’t deny them some gaming time, but channel their time into a diversity of activities that will lead to a fulfilling lifestyle in the long run.