Video games and other electronics can create issues for our kids since their brains are developing and have a desire for instant gratification. Kids can gravitate toward getting many of their needs met via video games and other screens. Addiction—whether gaming, drugs, alcohol or other behaviors—is often rooted in the need for some type of fulfillment. When kids are growing up, they develop their interests and social behaviors based on what they need. When our kids are exposed to stimuli that can instantly fulfill multiple needs, they can be vulnerable to generalize this behavior as the only means of fulfilling their needs. While playing video games sometimes is not necessarily unhealthy and can be fun for our kids, we need to understand the difference between a healthy hobby and an addiction. We can then guide our kids to seek healthy means to get what they want and need.
Addiction: What Is It?
Due to the prevalence of electronic devices and the widespread use of the internet, we might not understand when our kids cross the line and become addicted to gaming. We might not have grown up with the same amount of highly stimulating devices and don’t know what healthy usage looks like. Our kids might be given devices, like laptops and tablets, during school. Our kids will utilize phones, laptops, tablets, and other portable devices to some capacity for the rest of their lives. Developing a healthy relationship with these devices is essential for their success in the future. However, we need to identify when these devices are too much for our kids, and when their usage becomes an addiction.
Identifying an addiction can be somewhat subjective. For example, if someone is a graphic designer and uses a computer all day for their profession, we would likely not consider them “addicted.” However, if our kids are spending all of their free time playing a video game and never explore other interests or hobbies, there might be an issue. When gaming fills up all of your child’s free time, they might have a gaming addiction. Additionally, if they are spending all of their money on video games or other related items, this may indicate an issue.
Why Are Games so Addictive?
Video games, social media apps, and the internet can be highly addictive due to their ability to supply our kids with instant gratification. Our kids are just learning how to fulfill their needs, like having a sense of belonging, self-esteem, purpose, and control. When they play a video game, they are brought into a world that they can control and manipulate. They have the power to shape the world on the screen, they can connect and speak with others with ease through chatting apps, and they might be rewarded with reinforcement during gameplay by reaching high scores or other achievements.
The human mind is wired to find the “path to least resistance” to fulfill needs. When people were still living in caves and worried about attacks by saber-toothed tigers or other threats, instant gratification helped them survive. We are accustomed to indulging ourselves in things that fulfill our needs with little caloric expenditure. For example, we might struggle with healthy eating when presented with a dense meal of sugars and fats versus a low-calorie salad. Our primal brains tell us to get as much as we can right now; this part of our brain does not comprehend a future beyond the present moment. However, other parts of our brains remind us that we have to think about our health in the future and that we do not have to store additional calories when we know we will have the next meal in a few hours.
Video games can distract our kids from finding other means to fulfill their needs that can contribute to an increased quality of life. Gaming can hijack our kids’ brains with immediate rewards, preventing our kids from developing other interests, and building social support systems. During the podcast “Hitting Pause on Gaming Addiction,” gaming addiction pioneer Cam Adair suggests the following tips for parents:
- Research gaming addiction to gain a better understanding of the issue.
- Do not shame or stigmatize video game use. For your kid, video games might be essential to fulfilling needs; shaming them might send the wrong message.
- Find out why your kid likes playing games. This can be as simple as just asking!
- Look for patterns in the types of games they play. Your kid might be attracted to a specific genre that may indicate interests and hobbies that could be explored outside of the console or device.
- Discuss their video game usage outside of the home. When in the same environment as their devices, your child might not give their full attention to the discussion.
- Set the example you would like your child to follow. For example, if we expect our kids to keep phones out-of-sight during family activities, we need to do the same for the message to stick.
Video games, screens, phones, and other electronic devices can be highly addictive. Children can be captivated by the idea that they can control what occurs on screens when playing games. While some video gaming might not be problematic, some kids can become addicted to games or other types of technology. Our kids will likely need to use much of this technology in the future. Fire Mountain Programs can help them develop a healthy relationship with technology. If our kids cannot make friends in-person or are neglecting other hobbies or interests to play games, they might have an issue. We can set an example for our kids by monitoring our use of technology in the home. If you have a child struggling with an addiction to video games, they might be escaping other underlying issues or fulfilling their needs in unhealthy ways. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center can help you and your child. Call us today at (303) 443-3343.