Understanding Teenage Video Game Addiction

While a liking for video games isn't an immediate red flag, many of the troubled teenage boys who attend Liahona Treatment Center were avid video game players. And some teens take their passion for video games to a darker, more addictive place.

Now, even calling video games addictive can be controversial. Some people and organizations have resorted to calling everything addictive, or so it seems. However, under certain circumstances, video games can be addictive, which is different than saying playing any video games is addictive.

Video Games Are Designed To Make Players Feel Accomplished

One of the main appeals of video games is the sense of accomplishment that they can provide to players. Many modern games are designed with achievement checkpoints, from how many of a certain item you collect to quests that are completed. Also, these achievements are reached far faster than any real-life accomplishments.

Think about it. Say your teen feels like high school lasts forever, and even after they graduate high school, they may be looking at more years of schooling, whether they want to learn a trade or attend college. Instead of working on the real-life slog of homework, they can jump into a video game where skills are acquired in a matter of minutes, or at most, hours. That kind of pay off can light up the reward centers of your teenager's brain in a way that school and other real-life skill learning rarely can.

Signs Your Teen Is A Video Game Addict

There are some common signs that can indicate that your teen is a video game addict, such as:

  • Skipping activities they used to enjoy to play video games
  • Experiencing physical issues, such as eye strain, carpal tunnel, etc.
  • Becoming isolated from family and friends
  • Exhausted from skipping sleep to game more
  • Change in eating habits to facilitate more gaming time
  • Visible weight changes—either gaining or losing—due to playing video games
  • Neglecting chores and homework in favor of video games
  • Lies about how much and how often they are playing video games

What To Do For Teens With Video Game Addiction

When things reach the more extreme side of video game addiction, it is important for parents to intervene before their teen forms more bad habits surrounding video games. Below are steps you can take to address your teen's video game addiction.

Limit Video Game Access

Naturally, the first step will be to limit the time your teen spends playing video games. This move may not be as easy as you might hope, as most video game addicts highly resent being blocked from playing, and some can react violently. Also, depending on what your teen plays on—smartphone games, console video games, PC, handheld, etc.—it can be tough to ensure they aren't playing.

Some parents create a time-earning system that allows their teen to play more responsibly. For instance, an hour of homework is good for a half-hour of game time, and extra chores can earn your teen more time to play. That way, your teen can learn to balance their video game playing with their other responsibilities.

Set Expectations

In many cases, there were no expectations around how often or for how long teens can play video games, which resulted in hours upon hours of gaming. When it comes time to address your teen's overplaying of video games, be sure to lay down your expectations. These expectations can cover how long your teenager can play, what they are expected to accomplish before gaming, and whatever else you find applicable.

Involve Therapist

Addictions can be tough to tackle without help, so bringing in a therapist to assist your teen can make a huge difference, both in how your teen responds and in long term success.

Often, excessive video game playing can mask other issues, such as social anxiety and depression. By working with a therapist, your teen can work through their struggles and find healthier coping methods to employ.

Encourage Other Activities

Sometimes, teens will naturally gravitate to video game playing "because there's nothing else to do." While it may be tempting to give your bored teen a list of chores you'd like to see done, that's not the most effective route to go. Instead, encourage other activities, such as:

  • Art (drawing, painting, woodworking, fiber arts, etc.)
  • Exercise
  • Creative writing
  • After-school clubs

Consider Behavior Modification Program

For teens who do not respond to the above measures and take their video game addiction to serious levels where it impacts their lives and relationships, a behavior modification program may be needed.

At a behavior modification program like the one offered through Liahona, teenage boys are immersed in an entirely different environment. Instead of their life revolving around video games, attending teens work on personal development with licensed therapists, in both individual therapy and in group therapy with supportive peers.

To help fill in the gaps that the lack of video games can leave, teens will learn new life skills that they may have missed while gaming, such as culinary skills and outdoor skills. Programs like Liahona also have an accredited educational program, so your son can catch up academically with his peers.

If you need help with your teenage son, and he has not responded to your best efforts to help him become better, then Liahona may be the place for him to heal and grow. You can contact us today to learn more and see if our program is a good fit for your son.

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