There can be a fine line between a video game hobby and an addiction. Does our kid just have a high interest in games, or are video games masking underlying pain? Are video games fun, or are they your child’s means of escape from other issues? Compounding video game addiction is the widespread use and acceptance of screentime in our society today. Kids can be addicted to different screens, such as phones, tablets, the internet, or social media.
Unlike addictions to substances or alcohol, abstinence from screens is not an option. Computers, social media, and the internet are an inescapable part of our children’s lives as they enter adulthood. Learning ways to use this technology responsibly and cope with emotional stress appropriately can help your kid enjoy their hobby without becoming addicted.
COVID-19 and Gaming as Social Contact
Video games can be a social outlet, especially for boys, if they are “gaming” online to stay in touch with friends. The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a lot of changes for our children. They were no longer able to meet their friends face to face. If, before the pandemic, your child was usually socially active, involved in activities outside of the house, or spending time with friends face-to-face, gaming might be a temporary adaptation to stay in touch with friends.
However, as parents, we may wonder if this adaptation to social restrictions could lead to issues down the road. When things go back to normal, will our kids continue to prefer gaming over in-person interactions and connections? This might come down to the overall purpose of gaming for your kid: is it a means of connecting to others, or is it a coping strategy for stress and anxiety?
Talk to your kids about gaming and express your concerns if you worry that they are gaming too much. Ask them if they stay in touch with friends through any other means and how they feel about the current social restrictions due to the pandemic. You can share how you cope with the pandemic and talk about how you have stayed in touch with friends and family.
What Are the Signs of Video Game Addiction?
During a conversation on “Beyond Risk and Back,” Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey discusses screen addiction with expert guests Tracy Markle and Dr. Brett Kennedy of the Digital Media Treatment and Education Center of Boulder, Colorado. If you are unsure whether your child is addicted to video games, you might want to try setting limits and seeing how they react. Your child’s reaction can be very telling if they are addicted or just interested in video games. If your child has a meltdown when a reasonable limitation is set for video games, they might have an addiction.
Identifying Video Game Addiction With What Isn’t Happening
One way to identify addiction in a general sense is to look for what is not happening. With a video game addiction, you can also look for signs of trouble by what your child is not doing. Consider some of the following questions:
- Are they spending most of their free time gaming alone or using video games to connect with friends? If they are mostly isolated and alone while playing for hours on end, they might be using games as a means of escaping other issues.
- Are they taking care of themselves or neglecting personal hygiene to play video games?
- Have they been engaging in other hobbies and interests, or do they always opt for gaming when presented with alternatives for “unwinding?”
- Are they staying on top of their schoolwork or letting their grades slip?
- Are they not getting enough rest and sleep? If your kid seems more on-edge or irritable than usual, they might be struggling with anxiety or other underlying issues that could lead to using games as an escape.
The critical take-away is to look for a balance. When kids are gaming yet still maintaining friendships, participating in family time, maintaining other hobbies or interests, doing schoolwork, helping with chores, and other things, they are more likely using gaming as a hobby rather than an addiction.
Showing an Interest in Your Kid’s Hobbies
We might not understand video games as an interest for our kids and get confused about whether games are an issue. One of the best ways to know why your kid is gaming is to show interest without judgment. Ask if you could play a game with them or discuss their favorite types of games. By showing an interest in the games, you can clarify why gaming is an integral part of your kid’s life. You can also more easily recognize the signs of video game addiction by learning why your kid enjoys gaming.
Identifying a video game addiction versus gaming as a hobby can be difficult. Our kids might be using video games as a means of connecting with their friends or engaging in the hobby within healthy limits. During the pandemic, kids, especially boys, might be gravitating to using games to communicate with friends they cannot see in person. Look for signs of addiction by what your child is not doing or significant changes to their moods. They might be using games as a means of escaping or coping with anxiety. Our kids will need to develop a healthy relationship with technology today. Screens dominate much of our social life, and unlike other addictions, our kids will need to find a balance with healthy amounts of screen time. If your child struggles with video game addiction or you are unsure about healthy game usage, our staff can help you understand the signs. Call Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center today at (303) 443-3343.