The following signs are indicators that a child may be addicted to video games. Behavioral addictions begin with enjoyable activities. Games are fun. They offer entertainment and escape, often meaningful social interactions. But when behaviors become compulsions, when games become something a child must do rather than something that they simply enjoy doing, parents need to take action. Here are signs to look for:
PREOCCUPATION WITH GAMING
Young gamers invest a significant amount of attention on gaming, even when they are not playing. They think about playing when they are not. Feel intense anticipation for their next opportunity to play. Gamers miss school assignments or social engagements due to time spent gaming.
LYING OR HIDING GAMING USE
Gaming addicts can spend as much as ten to fifteen hours a day immersed in the gaming world. Most parents would rightly forbid this type of time investment. Addicted gamers may lie to parents or friends about what they are doing online. They may say they are working on assignments for school, for example, when they are actually playing World of Warcraft or Guildwars.
Personality changes due to game play. Outgoing, sports-oriented types may become reclusive, introverted. Gamers may become withdrawn, have feelings of alienation in “normal” social environments: school, family, church.
DEFENSIVENESS & ANGER
Gamers may become defensive about their need to play the game. They may react to game-play limits and rules as if they were threats to their very lives. May become angry, irrational, even violent.
Gamers experience a very real sense of loss when they are unable to play their games. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, for them to shake this sense of loss. Gamers may become anxious, irritable, or depressed if they lose access to a game.
CONTINUED GAMING DESPITE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES
This is a classic symptom of both behavioral and substance addictions. Gamers who experience negative consequences directly related to their gaming, for example, missing an important test because they were playing video games all night, but are unable to change their behaviors to avoid these negative consequences may be addicted to gaming.
Parents who are concerned that their children may be addicted to video games may want to consult with an addiction expert.