A Note to Parents on the Dangers of Gaming Addiction

None of the information on this Web site is meant to alarm or scare you. It is, however, intended to help you understand the seriousness of gaming addiction. The dangers and consequences are real. If you or a young person you know shows signs of gaming addiction, it's important to get help as soon as possible.

If your teenager spends a lot of time playing video or computer games, try to find other things for him to do when he's at home. If he's creative or artistic, help him develop that talent or ask for his help with a project. Let him redecorate his room. But try not to resort to increasing his chores or responsibilities around the house; that's likely to make him feel like he's being punished.

In the alternative, consider helping your teen find things to do that will get him out of the house. Again, if he's creative or artistic, enroll him in a class or two that will help develop his particular talent. If he likes to play sports, sign him up for a league. You don't want to over-schedule him, but you do want to encourage him to develop relationships offline.

Because addiction, by definition, means that a person is unable to control her behavior, your child will need you to set some clear boundaries around her gaming. Sit down and talk to her. Be honest about your concerns and why you're setting rules. Ideally, you and your child can agree on some rules. Getting there may be challenging, but your child will be more likely to adhere to the rules if she feels she helped set them.

Of course, setting rules won't change addictive behaviors unless the rules are specific and enforceable. If you're limiting your teenager's access to gaming, you have to limit his access to gaming equipment like computers, too. This may take some creativity and could be inconvenient for the rest of the family; be sure all family members will back you in your decision.

If your teen's gaming has already progressed to the point of addiction, the road back won't be easy. The entire family will need to be as supportive as possible. You and your teen are likely to take some steps backward along the way, and that's to be expected. Just don't give up. Continue to encourage your teen and acknowledge even the smallest victories.

You may also want to consider getting professional help for your teenager. Someone who has experience dealing with addiction could help your teen process the thoughts and feelings that initially led to the addiction, as well as the emotions he has felt since admitting he needs help.

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