A poll from C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital found 86% of parents feel kids spend too much time gaming.
They report the following:
Among parents who say their teen plays video games every day, 54% reported extended gaming of 3 or more hours each day, compared to only 13% of teens that do not play every day; 13% of these parents believe their teen spends more time gaming than other teens, while 78% believe their teen’s gaming is less than or about the same as other teens. One in five parents (21%) say their teen does not play video games at all.
Most parents agree or strongly agree (86%) that teens spend too much time playing video games. Parents try a variety of strategies to limit the amount of time their teen spends gaming including sometimes or frequently encouraging other activities (75%), setting time limits (54%), providing incentives to limit gaming (23%) and hiding gaming equipment (14%).
Overall, parents say gaming sometimes or frequently gets in the way of other aspects of their teen’s life such as family activities/interactions (46%), sleep (44%), homework (34%), friendship with non-gaming peers (33%) and extracurricular activities (31%). Parents whose teen plays every day are more likely to report that gaming has a negative effect on their teen’s mood compared to those who play less frequently (42% vs. 23%).
Although many parents (71%) believe video games can be good for teens, some (44%) try to restrict the type/content of the games they play. Parents of teens 13-15 years, compared to teens 16-18 years, are more likely to use rating systems to make sure games are appropriate (43% vs. 18%), encourage their teen to play with friends in person and not online (25% vs. 18%) and not allow gaming in their teen’s bedroom (28% vs. 14%).
The Helicopter Theory
Many parents may have inadvertently fueled their child’s gaming habits as if their child is in their home playing a video game, they are not away and getting into mischief….a “helicoptering” if you will…..
Parents fear drug use, unsafe sex practices, DUIs, abductions with their teens and so gaming at home while socializing online seems safer and may not be discouraged in a household.
But it’s not “safe” as predators lurk online and hours of gaming can lead to obesity, blood clots, sleep disorders, and depression.
Those who find themselves playing video games for hours on end may end up with a mental health diagnosis. The World Health Organization suggested adding “gaming disorder” to its list of disease classifications.
But do those World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Fortnite, and Candy Crush fans need to seek professional help immediately? Well to qualify as having a “gaming disorder”, the WHO suggests the following guidelines:
- The compulsive pattern of behavior has to exist for at least 12 months.
- The behavior affects one’s personal life, occupation or health negatively.
- Once the behavior negatively affects one’s life, the behavior continues or escalates.
They write: impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
They continue: The inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 follows the development of treatment programs for people with health conditions identical to those characteristic of gaming disorder in many parts of the world, and will result in the increased attention of health professionals to the risks of development of this disorder and, accordingly, to relevant prevention and treatment measures.
Why are we getting addicted?
Video games act on the pleasure centers of the brain, just as alcohol, opiates and chocolate do. We get “rewarded” by certain behaviors, giving us confidence and ego boots that we don’t get in the real world. We begin to prefer to be alone with our controller than outside being written up by a supervisor, or turned down by a potential date. Colors, sounds, awards, level advancement is psychologically addicting.
How to treat a gaming disorder
Many times gaming disorders are accompanied by other internet addictions such as porn and online shopping. The following are treatment options used to curb one’s compulsive gaming behavior:
- Limit screen time to one hour a day
- Screen time holidays, or only use screen time for academic, work purposes
- Play old school games with the kids such as Chess, Monopoly, or Dungeons and Dragons
- Encourage family and friend outings such as camping, hiking, and cool projects
- Visits to the library to use encyclopedias rather than going to Google (avoiding online ads that could tempt one to continue playing/shopping)
- Cognitive/behavioral therapy
- Medications, such as Zoloft, that treat OCD.
- Treatment of the underlying disorder…depression, anxiety, loneliness, etc.
Some play but some blay….
Blaying is when one continues to play a level of a game despite being bored and disliking it.
Researchers estimate over 420 million people are addicted to the internet. Smartphone addiction is rising exponentially as well. These addictions many times involve gaming. Hours are spent playing online games and levels within these games many times require multiple attempts. If the level is not mastered, one is “stuck” on the level, but continues to play it in hopes the next level will be “better”. This is all too time consuming.
Those of you who play Candy Crush know exactly what “blaying is”. For example, you get stuck on level 2124 and can’t advance until you master that level. But you hate it. You keep losing and are really bored with the level. But everyday you return to blayin the hopes that your luck will change and you can advance to a new level. Eventually that level gets tiresome and you must blay your way through that one.
Another example: Advancing to a new World of Warcraft level can be so tempting that one blays for weeks until they finally complete all the quests necessary to advance.
Remember “Around the World” in basketball. One shoots from different markers on the court and can’t advance until they make a basket. But some of us get stuck forever on level 3, and cringe everytime we miss. But we continue to blay until someone wins or has the chutzpah to say “This is boring!”.
But the psychology behind it is fascinating in that rather than having a quitting mentality, the gamer drudges on. But why go through such boredom and anguish? If we can get to the psychological root of blaying, maybe we could be a step closer to fighting internet addiction.
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, KDWN, iHeart Radio and is a Board Certified Family Physician