Video Game Overuse/Addiction

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension

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I sometimes find myself saying or thinking the phrase “kids these days….” far more often than I care to admit.  I’m really not that old chronologically, but more and more often I am realizing that the youth are today are simply different than they were “when I was their age.” The topic for my article this month is the trend of video game overuse/addiction in young people today.

I would be remiss to generalize and say that every child has a video game system, and I also wouldn’t want to suggest that every child who does play video games is addicted.  However, the prevalence of kids using these devices is increasing each year, and the potential is certainly there for many of them to develop an overuse problem.  The modern day psychological disorder of compulsive video gaming is something that has the potential to affect the children in our lives in extreme ways during these developmental years of their life.  Addiction to video games is still a growing field of study, but many experts conclude that these behaviors amount to a clinical impulse control disorder, just like drug or alcohol abuse. 

While more people associate addiction with substances, doctors who are experts in addiction recognize that behavioral addictions are also valid.  Unlike with substance abuse, the negative physical affects of this type of addiction are not as immediate, but can still be dangerous for youth.  Youth who spend their afterschool and evening hours in front of the television watching or playing video games are far less likely to be getting the recommended amount of physical activity each day.  By extension, they also are more likely to make bad food choices because they want to eat quickly and get back to their game, or snack constantly while they are sitting in front of the TV.  Children who spend hours each day playing games also have no time for socializing with peers or doing their homework, both of which have negative implications for their lives outside of the home. 

With all this being said, it should be noted that spending a lot of time playing games doesn’t necessarily make an addiction.  The Center for On-Line Addiction points out the following warning signs for video game addiction:

  • Playing for increasing amounts of time
  • Thinking about gaming during other activities
  • Gaming to escape from real-life problems, anxiety, or depression
  • Lying to friends and family to conceal gaming
  • Feeling irritable when trying to cut down on gaming

Parents should not feel the need to immediately take away their children’s video games, but being aware of the potential for problems is a step in the right direction for preventing this problem from arising.  For more information about video game overuse/addiction or about Warren County 4-H programs, please contact Erin Bain at the Warren County Cooperative Extension Office at 257-3640 or erin_bain@ncsu.edu.

Posted on Jan 10, 2011
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