So many teenagers today have access to games consoles, and many of them regularly play games for long hours; sometimes even suffering from gaming addiction. This seems normal for today’s society, but perhaps parents need to be more aware of the adverse effects that excessive gaming can have on their children.
Mother of five Lesley from East Yorkshire has shared her story of how her teenage son became addicted to gaming, with his behaviour towards the rest of the family changing as a result.
How Do Teens Become Addicted to Gaming?
Lesley and her husband bought an Xbox for the whole family to use a year ago, never thinking that it would lead to her fourteen-year-old son becoming addicted to playing games on it. For many children, games consoles help to fuel their imaginations, allowing them to immerse themselves in interactive games, which can, when used appropriately, help their mental development. Unfortunately, however, this was not the case for Lesley’s son.
He was playing games on the Xbox for increasing amounts of time and playing violent and aggressive games such as the 18-rated Call of Duty. His mother said, “The first thing he thinks about when he wakes up is his Xbox, and it’s the last thing he thinks about when he goes to bed.”
His parents tried to restrict the amount of time he was spending on the games console as well as the type of games he was playing, but this only seemed to fuel his addiction to gaming further. She said, “We tried to moderate how long he was on for, but the problem with that is that you put a boundary there and the addiction pushes against that boundary.”
They found that the more they decreased the amount of time he was allowed to use the console, the more he wanted to play it. They also felt that the games were full of incentives to keep players going for longer periods of time.
During the February half-term break, things reached crisis point. Lesley’s son was playing on the console for eleven hours a day, from twelve noon until eleven o’clock at night. Then she discovered that he had taken her debit card and used it to buy a collection of games rated eighteen-plus. At that point, she decided that things had gone too far and the console was removed from the house. Despite constant demands from her son to have the console back, Lesley has remained firm, and she is looking for a family therapist to help return her son’s behaviour back to how it was before the games console changed him.
How Gaming Addiction Changes Behaviour
Lesley told how her son’s behaviour had changed as a result of his addiction to Xbox gaming. She said that he had started to suffer from mood swings and that his behaviour towards his younger brothers and sisters had become more violent and aggressive. He would slam doors and had become angry and depressed, particularly when his access to the console was restricted.
Since becoming addicted to gaming, he has also started to swear at his siblings, and even at his parents – sometimes in front of the younger children. This led to Lesley becoming worried that his younger brothers might begin to copy his behaviour.
Since taking the Xbox away completely, Lesley says they have started to see glimpses of their son again, but these have only been occasional, and she now feels that the family needs professional help to get her son back to his normal self again.
How Can I Tell If My Child Is Addicted to Gaming?
The line between simply enjoying playing video games and being addicted to them is a very fine line indeed. However, there are signs to look out for that could indicate a child may have a gaming addiction.
Physical signs of gaming addiction include the following: tiredness or fatigue, particularly if they are playing games late into the night when they should be sleeping; frequent headaches, or even migraines due to eye strain or extended periods of intense concentration; neglecting their personal hygiene; and possibly even carpal tunnel syndrome from prolonged periods of using a games controller or computer mouse.
Emotional and psychological signs could include: restlessness or irritability when unable, or not allowed, to play games; constantly thinking/talking about previous game sessions or anticipating their next game session; lying about how much time they are spending gaming; becoming isolated from friends or family in order to devote more time to gaming; and, showing symptoms of depression or anxiety (which they did not have before).
I Think My Child Might Have a Gaming Addiction – What Can I Do?
If your child is showing any or most of the symptoms and behaviours described above, and you think they might have a gaming addiction, Addiction Helper can advise you on the next steps you can take to help your child overcome their addiction. We can help you to find appropriate support for both yourself and your child, so please contact us today.