Home page Psychology blog Child and Adolescent Behavior Bad Habits Prevention «Just five more minutes, mom»: when your child is a gaming addict

“Just five more minutes, mom”: when your child is a gaming addict

04.03.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

Many parents get worried when their teenage child comes home from school and immediately goes to a computer, ignoring any requests to go and have a dinner, do a homework or help around the house. If a child spends 5-8 hours in front of a PC every day, and even night on weekends, became explosive, rude, started to eat and sleep poorly, you should definitely pay attention to that. Quite likely, your child’s fascination with games and internet became an addiction the child is unable to control.

Sometimes the children themselves notice the issue but cannot do anything about it. Here is a post from a community Ru_psiholog:

“My son spends a lot of time in front of a PC. On weekends he plays around 4-5 hours, while on weekdays he can stay late, up until 1 or 2 AM, even though he has school. He barely talks to his friends even on social network. My son admits that he often plays on a PC because he is bored and has nothing else to do, he even asked me to forcefully shut down his PC at 10 PM and make him go to sleep. I refused, because I knew that such actions will be followed by a tantrum. Other than that, he is just a normal boy: he has good grades, the wakes up and comes to school on time.”

According to WCIOM (Russian Public Opinion Research Center), Russians consider internet (75%) and gaming addiction (77%) more detrimental to young people than alcohol and drug addictions (65%). At the same time, the amount of gaming addicts in the world is not that high: According to psychiatrist Natalia Shemchuk, only 3-5% of population.

Teenagers are at risk of developing this addiction, especially the ones who display the signs of psychasthenia (low working efficiency, anxiety, getting tired easily). [2]

Despite such low amount of people with this problem, WHO has officially recognized gaming addiction as a disease. In 2018 it was included in ICD. [1] This means that now this problem can be diagnosed and treated by psychiatrists, developing individual approaches and treatment schedules for people with computer addiction.

Contents:

  1. Signs of computer addiction: when you should start to worry
  2. Developing proper attitude to help a child
  3. Solution to a problem

Signs of computer addiction: when you should start to worry

computer addiction in adolescents

When a child spends more than two hours a day at the computer, parents, obviously, start to worry that their child will develop bad eyesight, bad posture, bad sleeping habits and lose interest towards other things. What should they do then? Should they forbid their children to use a PC, switch the internet off, yell, or maybe go to a psychologist immediately?

There are several signs that can help you find out whether a teenager is simply carried away with an interesting game or online conversations, or they are addicted and cannot control themselves.

1.   A child spends more than 4 hours at the PC daily.

To be more exact, more than 257 minutes a day. Researchers from the University of Oxford discovered that this is precisely the amount of time in a single day that will not harm a teenager.

If a child spends more than the allowed time in front of a PC (5 to 8 hours instead of 4) and reacts violently when their parents come and tell them to stop playing, it is definitely not normal. [1]

2.   A child disregards their schedule and skips important duties

A child may start to sleep poorly, skip school (or pretend they go to deceive parents), forget about homework and eat only the food their parents might bring to them, like sandwiches. When the parents ask a child for help, or tell them to do their homework, go to sleep, a child can react aggressively, throw a tantrum or even declare a boycott. For example, a child can refuse any food until they are allowed to finish the game.

3.  A child reacts aggressively to a loss in the game

It’s fine if a teenager is simply displeased, blaming their mouse or keyboard. If a child starts to yell, break their chair, cuss, smash their head against a table or a wall, punches a keyboard or a monitor, it is definitely not fine. A simple loss in a game should not prompt such a strong reaction and affect the mood that much.

Same aggressive reaction can appear to any time limitations coming from parents and relatives..

Here is a story from a forum of a female magazine Women.ru:

“My son is 15, he is strong and stubborn. He spends several hours a day gaming, and during the weekend he may even do this for the whole day. I tried to forbid him, to punish him, but it didn’t work, he simply yells, tries to protect himself and then he simply does everything like before. I once pulled out all the cables, and he threw such a big tantrum, yelling and shaking like crazy. Now I can see his mental state slowly deteriorate: he has insomnia, I often hear him talk to himself, he has become very nervous.”

4.   A child limits their social interaction

A child is either friends with other gamers or has no friends at all, diving deep into the world of games. You can often see this picture: a teenager’s friend comes to visit, they switch on a gaming console and just sit their until evening, barely talking to each other, aside from random shouts. If you offer them to go play outside, they will ignore it. At best, they may go to a friend’s house and continue there.

5.   Apathy and lack of interest to the world outside PC.

When a child is not at the PC, they are sad, it is impossible to make them interested and entertained with anything. A child becomes feeble, apathetic, absentminded and can barely focus on their studies. However, once they start to play, they suddenly become energetic, agitated and thrilled.

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If a teenager plays a lot and for long periods of time, it can affect both their mental (neurosis, brain fag) and physical state. They can develop bad eyesight, bad posture, lose weight, get tired easier and more prone to diseases.

A comment from Natalia Shemchuk, a psychiatrist and MD–PhD.

“The consequences of computer addiction are catastrophic. Flickering screen and sharp sounds affect the brain’s bioelectric potential. If a child has experienced hypoxia (regardless of the cause) or sleep-walking, playing for 5-7 hours a day can lead to epileptic seizures.

Gaming addiction can also be the cause of psychosis, psychoemotional agitation, when a child fights their parents and smashes things, which is dangerous both for the child and everyone around. Also, loss of social connections and degradation go without saying, it is common knowledge.”

Developing proper attitude to help a child

Our first reaction is often to prohibit, pull out all the cables, hide or even break a laptop, punish the child and send them to their grandparents deep in a countryside with no internet connection. Do not make such a decision in an agitated state: you can make many mistakes and turn the situation worse. Just remind yourself how you scroll your social media feed or watch a series non-stop and imagine how hard it can be for a teenager to stop doing the same thing. You shouldn’t prohibit anything, but rather help your child change their mode of behavior and switch their attention to other activities.

Try playing yourself

If your child is simply fascinated with games, they still maintain interest towards the outer world and talk to the parents, you don’t have to resort to lectures, yelling and other harsh methods. You can simply have a conversation. Ask your child about their favorite game, their playable character, its abilities and level. You can even sit down and play together a bit. It will help you build their trust, and later you can offer them another similar activity. [4]

A comment from Aleksandr Lobok, PhD in philosophy and pedagogics:

“Sometimes parents come to me and say that their child is interested only in computer games. I ask them: “What games does your child play? What is so interesting about those games? What is he doing in them?” I often find out that the parents have no idea about these things. They don’t have a slightest idea that their child reproduces their stress and fears in-game. A child always imagines things while playing. Through a game, many children try to solve their own psychological issues.”

Negotiate rather than forbid

Schoolchildren like to have some freedom, when they can make their own decisions, just like adults. If the parents strictly prohibit a child to use a PC, a child will rebel and try to fight for their right. Instead of forbidding, try negotiating: [4]

·         write a contract together with your child featuring the important rules, and sign it;

·         introduce a system of rewards and punishments in form of a game;

·         set a timer or an alarm clock that will signal the time to finish playing;

·         help your child organize their schedule, including the time for games, studies and outside activities;

·         hang a poster reminding your child to stretch, do some exercise for their eyes, etc.

Search for another hobby together

If a child developed a passion towards computer games, then they failed to find any other interesting activity. Search for a suitable club or some courses. It is important to make your child understand why they need it. [5] For example, if you prompt your child to take a course of foreign language, tell them they will need it to enter a university or go to a language camp abroad. If your child learns to dance, their goal can be making new friends, becoming like a famous dancer or perform in other cities.

A comment from Natalia Shemchuk, a psychiatrist and MD–PhD.

“When children attend courses, clubs like a chain of studies and entertainment without a concrete goal, they begin to ask themselves: “Why am I doing all this?” They must have at least two hours of free time in their schedule for some activities they want to do, even playing on PC.

Solution to a problem

advice to parents in the problem of Internet addiction in a child

It can be hard to get rid of computer addiction without qualified support. You may need to consult a child psychologist or therapist about addiction and obsession with gaming. A specialist can administer psychotropic agents and medication to improve blood flow and brain performance. Medication can reduce anxiety in a patient, making it easier for psychologist to administer further treatment. [5]

We will help you to banish your gambling addiction

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One of the safest and most advanced methods to eliminate computer addiction is 7Spsy technique for changing behavior patterns, based on behavior psychology. This method can help you correct your child’s behavior and mindset quickly and without side effects. After completing this course, a teenager will sort out their priorities with hobbies, studies and communication with peers.

The course of behavior modification lasts from 2 to 6 weeks. A psychologist sets the length of the course after diagnostic testing. You will not have to take time off work to take your child to a psychologist. A teenager can pass the course independently at home whenever they want, following clear instructions and consulting a psychologist in an online chat when needed.

References:

1.  https://www.rbc.ru/society/18/06/2018/5b27d5049a794717f9f6f372

2.  https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Психастения

3.  www.pravmir.ru/igrovaya-zavisimost-tak-deti-ishhut-vyihod-ili-vyirazhayut-protest/

4.  mel.fm/konspekt/6217509-computer_addiction

5.  www.pravmir.ru/semeynyiy-psiholog-kompyuternaya-igra-genialno-izmeryaet-usilie-i-vezenie/