9 Ways to Know Your Child’s Addicted to Video Games

Introduction

Twenty years ago, parents had fears that their child might find themselves in the realm of addiction – but not to video games. This is a different world now, though. Now, parents not only have to worry about addiction to drugs or alcohol but video games too. How can you know if your child is suffering from a video game addiction?

When your child starts acting out, the last thought on your mind is a video game addiction. But in this day and age, this is an all too common problem. Unfortunately, video gaming addiction is becoming increasingly common amongst school-aged kids. Knowing the signs and symptoms of video game addiction is the first step toward recovery.

Teenager boy wearing a shirt that writes play controlled by a gaming controller that is controlling himself
Teenager controlled by gaming

Anger Issues

One of the most evident signs of a child addicted to video games is a sudden rise in anger issues. These anger issues can occur at any time throughout the day. However, it is most commonly seen when video gaming limits are set or taken away.

For example, if you try to tell your child they can only have an hour of video games that night, they may lash out. The amount of anger your child displays can vary. Sometimes, they may only be visibly upset. However, some children have been known to have severe meltdowns. They may throw things, hit their parents, or otherwise act uncontrollably. (Addictions)

kids throwing tantrum
kids throwing tantrum

Talk/Thinking About Gaming Incessantly

It’s normal to talk about the things you love to do. But loving something can become excessive. If the gaming chatter is interfering with their day-to-day life and seems to be the only thing on their mind, they may have an issue with video games.

For example, a child might struggle to hold a conversation with you without interjecting their gaming into it. Most of the time, the chatter has nothing to do with the discussion at hand. They may also be excessively talking about when they can play again, how they can find more time to play, and how they can get better.

The key here is that they won’t want to – or can’t – talk about anything else. This is a major red flag. Your child should be able to hold a conversation about something aside from video gaming. Pay attention to what your child talks about. Mentioning the game here and there is normal. If that’s all they seem to chat about, it may be an indicator of addiction. (Parent)

Not Sleeping Enough

Gaming addiction is much like any other addiction in which the individual does not want to stop. The child struggling with video game addiction may end up staying up far later than he should. This is simply because he can’t put the game down and get some shut-eye. Not only that, but consistent video gaming may have an impact on his ability to fall asleep.

Not getting enough sleep (especially quality sleep) is detrimental to developing young minds. Proper sleep is necessary for development. It is also essential for activities, such as school and sport, that may take place the following day.

A lack of sleep will also impact your child’s health. Headaches of varying severity are common. Children will also feel exhausted throughout the day. This in itself is enough to impact their lives, from social situations to schoolwork and beyond. (Raise Smart Kid)

Tired boy carrying school bag walking to school. Tired boy at his desk sleeping in class.
Tired boy walking to school. Tired boy sleeping in class.

Lack of Interest in Other Things

Before your child’s addiction to video games, they likely enjoyed other things in life. Perhaps they played basketball in school or were part of the drama club. Maybe they had a variety of fun things they enjoyed doing. Regardless, a child with a video gaming addiction will no longer find these things enjoyable.

To put it simply, the child does not want to do anything but play video games. Their once favorite things are now boring or useless. Even being asked about these things they once enjoyed may cause anger. (Cleveland 19)

Losing Family and Friends

When you think of an addiction that causes a loss of family and friends, video games likely don’t come to mind. But it is all too real and genuine. Often, a child addicted to video games will struggle with relationships and being social in general. This struggle will result in a loss of friends.

To put it clearly, a child obsessed with gaming might have a hard time making new friends and keeping his current friends. Sometimes, it is because the child can’t or won’t talk about anything other than gaming. To other children, this might seem odd or bothersome. They may also become socially awkward in general, making it a struggle.

Another issue is that they won’t make time for their friends. The child who would go to the skatepark after school with his buddies might not go anymore, diminishing the friendship. The child may also begin to be picked on or bullied for his heavy interest in gaming.

As far as family is concerned, the biggest issue is lying and stealing. Children may end up lying about their video game usage. They may also steal from their loved ones, especially if they can get ahead in the game they’re playing. This is becoming more prominent as so many games require real money to get extras. (Francis Can Health)

Poor Personal Hygiene

When a child’s entire life revolves around video gaming, one area that might suffer is their hygiene. This is combined with the somewhat usual aversion to personal hygiene that some kids and teenagers already struggle with. Having a video gaming addiction simply makes it that much worse.

A child with an addiction to video games will believe they have no time for personal hygiene, whether it’s a shower, brushing their teeth, or going for a haircut. Not only will they not fit it into their schedule, but they won’t care to. After all, brushing their teeth is not going to help them level up in their gaming. So why do it?

Poor personal hygiene is obviously detrimental for several reasons. For one, they may end up being teased in school for smelling bad. Secondly, they are at an age where they are structuring for their adulthood.

A child that is preoccupied with gaming and does not see a need for personal hygiene may struggle with this important task in their adult life, thus creating further problems.

Possible Pain

Although the bulk of video game addiction problems will result in emotional behaviors and personality changes, there is also the possibility of a child being riddled with pain. Some of the distress that a child may experience include:

Overall fatigue

Fatigue has a direct impact on quality of life. An overtired child will not be able to function correctly. This can result in several issues, from behavior changes (cranky and angry) to lifestyle changes (grades suffering).

Migraines

Whether it’s a television, computer, or another gaming device, sitting in front of a screen can cause migraines. Migraines occur due to eye strain, directly correlated to staring at a screen with intense concentration for hours on end. Eventually, this could lead to more eye issues, too.

Carpal tunnel

Over time, carpal tunnel can begin to arise in a child dealing with video game addiction. Carpal tunnel comes from using controllers and computer mouses incessantly. Since the hands are placed in an awkward position for several hours, pain is likely to occur, which may eventually lead to this severe problem.

Neck Pain

The same is valid for neck pain. Since the child is sitting in an awkward position staring at a screen for several hours, some strain may be placed on the neck. Discomfort in the neck can increase and may require chiropractors to release the pressure.

Skin blisters and calluses

Holding controllers and computer mouses for excessive periods can also result in undesirable skin blisters and calluses.

Peripheral neuropathy

In severe and long-term cases, some children may end up with peripheral neuropathy. This disorder causes weakness and numbness in the hands specifically. The weakness and numbness are a direct result of holding the hands in an unnatural position.

Blood clots

Blood clots are another possible side effect of long-term video game addiction, but it is the most concerning of them all. It can come from sitting for long periods playing video games. Also typically don’t occur until a long time has passed, which is why help in the early stages is recommended.

(Psych Guides, UnityPoint)

Refusing to Quit After Negative Consequences

Needless to say, a child that is struggling with a video game addiction will have negative consequences in their life. From losing friends to bad grades, lack of sleep, to disrupted personal hygiene, video gaming has severe implications on a young person. However, in the throes of addiction, your child simply won’t care.

This is another significant sign of a video game addiction. Most of the time, a child can see what video games are doing to their life. However, the habit is so intense that they will continue to play video games despite their world crashing down around them. This is an unfortunate reality of addiction and is where parents need to step in and help. (WebMD)

Depression and Anxiety

Video game addiction has been studied extensively. Some studies show that excessive gaming can have an increased risk for depression and anxiety. These mental issues are especially prominent in children who tend toward depression and/or anxiety. Here’s why.

  • Video game addiction also leads to dopamine addiction. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter for pleasure. While playing a video game, dopamine is released, which is why gaming is so fun. However, someone who plays too often will become accustomed to the amount released and strive for an unattainable amount.
  • Excessive gaming can halt the triumph circuit. The triumph circuit is when an individual feels happy about conquering a certain goal. This is another reason why gaming is a positive thing (most of the time). However, when a child only feels triumphant while gaming, it can cause them to feel stuck in everyday life.
  • Inability to cope. Video games are notorious for suppressing negativity. If a child uses video games to manage, they will not handle real-life situations. This can lead to anxiety and depression over time.
  • Anxiety about gaming (and not gaming). Feeling anxious while playing video games is the norm for some people. Others will feel anxious or depressed when they are not gaming.
  • Lack of a social circle leads to depression. Video game addicts will enjoy being isolated – or so they think. Over time, this isolation and inability to socialize appropriately will leave children feeling lonely. Loneliness can quickly spiral into depression.

(NCBI, Healthy Place)

What is Considered Excessive Gaming?

There is no exact number when it comes to what is considered excessive gaming. Some research will tell you that 5 hours a day is too much for a teen, while others say to limit it to 2 or 3 hours per day. This number gets even more confusing when you consider the fact that children may play a new game for a long time in the beginning but get bored a week later.

So what is considered excessive gaming, then? Well, it’s pretty simple. If your child is not displaying any type of addiction to video games, then he or she is probably fine. The key here is to be consistent and set limits.

Consistent limits will ensure that your child does not have the chance to become addicted to video games. Taking a break is beneficial for many reasons aside from fending off a possible addiction. (Acer)

  • Taking a break encourages other activities. During your child’s break, they can enjoy other things they enjoy, such as puzzles, sports, baking, art, etc.
  • Reduces the chance of aches and pains. Eye, neck, and hand strains can occur after a short time of gaming. Requiring a break will ensure they are pain-free.
  • Allows time for schoolwork and hygiene. During break time, your child will be able to do things they need to do, such as finish their homework and take care of themselves.
  • Teaches responsibility. Finally, a child with set limits will learn responsibility. They will understand that overindulging is not beneficial to their lives. With limitations, they will be able to cope better and make time for essential things.
Take a Break

Tips for Dealing With a Child With a Video Game Addiction

If you believe your child has a video game addiction after reading these signs and symptoms, don’t panic. Also, don’t think you’re a horrible parent. These things do happen, and it’s becoming far more common than you might believe. However, it is vital to act fast to diminish the number of negative consequences.

Keep in mind that you can’t go cold turkey. Taking their video games away entirely can cause kids a lot of stress. They may also act out in other ways, and sometimes, it can be destructive to themselves or the things around them.

It is better to take a subtler approach that will help them get through the addiction. Here are a few handy tips:

  • Be loving and supportive. Your child is going to have a difficult time breaking their addiction. The first thing you should do is to show your child that you love and support them. Make it clear that you want the best for them, and you will be there for them every step of the way.
  • Try to understand why. Some children turn to video games as a coping mechanism. Others are just bored with life. Either way, there is a better option than succumbing to a video game addiction. Understand the why behind the addiction.
  • Help them to cope. Whether they’re bored and need other things in life to keep them occupied or need a coping mechanism for depression, your next job is to teach them how to cope. This is not only essential for getting rid of the problem but helping them in the future, too.
  • Set limits. Limits are an absolute must. Ideally, you should set boundaries from the get-go. Limits are excellent for ensuring your child does not develop an addiction. It will also set them up to be more successful in their adulthood.
  • Encourage other activities. Try to get them involved in things they used to enjoy. Or, take the time to find new and exciting activities to do together. The key here is to find activities that your child is interested in, something that will encourage them off the screen.
  • Therapy. If all else fails, consider taking your son or daughter to therapy. There is no shame in getting professional help, especially for a severe addiction out of your control.

(Healthy Gamer)

Final Thoughts

It’s okay that your child enjoys video games, but it’s not okay if it turns into an addiction. Your child may have an addiction if they seem obsessed about gaming and act out defiantly and destructively when asked to put the game down. Other symptoms include poor personal hygiene, relationship problems, depression, and more. If you are still uncertain if your child or people around you are addicted to video game, have a try here

If you think your child struggles with a video game addiction, it is crucial to help them right away before more negative consequences occur. The best thing to do is to show them love and support while setting limits, encouraging other activities, and teaching coping mechanisms.

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