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Teenage gaming addiction

Question:

My teenage son is always playing video games. He is addicted to it. Please help me in this regard.


Answer:

Online gaming addiction is one of the rising issues in the clinical practice. More and more cases of gaming addiction, as well as, other forms of internet addiction are reported every day. It usually includes young adults ranging from 13 year olds to adults in their early twenties.

There are many reasons that could have led to this addiction. One of the major reason is being ignored by the parents/primary caregiver in formative years, early signs of addiction left unchecked or the various incentives that games provide.

You need to understand the nature and mechanism of gaming addiction in order to deal with it.

First, achievement includes advancing in the game, namely progressing via leveling up, acquiring status and power in the game, the game’s mechanics, including the possibilities for optimizing game play, and competition, including challenging and dominating others.

Reputation and admiration from the gaming community for gaming achievements are further key factors motivating players to keep playing.

The game mechanics or structural characteristics have been claimed to reinforce the potentially addictive qualities of games because they contribute to initiation, development, and maintenance of gaming.

Second, the social factor is composed of socializing, including chatting and making new friends in the game, forming new relationships, and working in a team.

Research suggests that the social element in gaming is particularly important for gamers because it is an integral component of the enjoyment of playing. Moreover, it denotes a complex interaction between real and virtual social networks, further blurring the boundaries between these networks, making online gaming inherently social places.

Third, immersion in the game is denoted by discovery, i.e. exploring the game and “hidden” game content, role-playing via one’s avatar, customization of one’s online character (such as sex, race, profession, appearance), and escapism, i.e. playing in order to avoid real life.

Escapism is an aspect of mood modification whereby individuals suffering from addictions induce a subjective shift in their mood by way of engaging in an addictive behavior, making the latter a coping strategy to deal with everyday problems. Just like an alcoholic takes alcohol to deal with his depression.

The concerns appear to be grounded as growing number of studies indicate that Internet gaming addiction is associated with various negative consequences.

The psychological consequences include the following: sacrificing real-life relationships, other pastime activities, sleep, work, education, socializing, and relationships, obsession with gaming and a lack of real-life relationships, lack of attention, aggression and hostility, stress, dysfunctional coping, worse academic achievement, problems with verbal memory, and low well-being and high loneliness.

Moreover, psychosomatic consequences have been found in a number of studies. These included problems with sleeping disorders, seizures, and psychosomatic challenges.

This long list indicates that internet gaming problems must be taken seriously as they can affect the individual negatively in a variety of ways.

Internet gaming addiction is a behavioral problem that has been classified and explained in numerous ways. According to Griffiths, biopsychosocial processes lead to the development of addictions, such as internet gaming addiction, which includes the following components.

First, the behavior is salient (the individual is preoccupied with gaming). Second, the individual uses the behavior in order to modify their mood (i.e. gaming is used to escape reality or create the feeling of euphoria). Third, tolerance develops (the individual needs increasingly more time to feel the same effect). Fourth, withdrawal symptoms occur upon discontinuation of the behavior (the individual feels anxious, depressed, and irritable if they are prevented from playing). Fifth, interpersonal and intra-personal conflict develops as a consequence of the behavior (the individual has problems with their relationship, job, and hobbies, and lack of success in abstinence). Finally, upon discontinuation of the behavior, the individual experiences relapse (they reinitiate gaming).

Although the core criteria appear to be established, the etiology of internet gaming addiction has yet to be studied in detail. Research15 indicates that a number of risk factors are associated with internet gaming addiction. These risk factors include certain personality traits, gaming motivations, and structural game characteristics. The personality traits most commonly associated with internet addiction include neuroticism, aggression and hostility, and sensation-seeking. Factors that appear to protect frequent online gamers from developing problems with their gaming were found to be conscientiousness and extraversion, suggesting that for different individuals the same behavior can have different psychological repercussions.

In addition to this, the following gaming motivations were found to be most commonly associated with gaming addiction: coping with daily stressors and escapism, online relationships, mastery, control, recognition, completion, excitement, and challenge.

This indicates that the reasons for game play may be an important indicator of potential risk for internet gaming addiction.

One must recognize that this is an ADDICTION and the addicted person may turn violent when not allowed to indulge in it. While, one can try and deal with it at a domestic level, clinical help might be needed. The change is brought about by the affected person, himself/herself.

As a parent you can exert a measure of control. “If the gaming starts affecting family life, if your child starts losing touch with friends, if you notice a behavioral change (some children can become aggressive or withdrawn) then address the issue immediately,” advises Brian Dudley.

Dr. Richard Graham, an expert in child and teen disorders and head of the newly-opened Capio Nightingale’s Young Person Technology Addiction Service agrees: “I’ve been contacted by parents who see their children going into a rage when they’re told to turn off the computer. Some end up having to call the police. What we need are official guidelines now on what counts as healthy or unhealthy use of technology.”

Have you seen an alcoholic trying to quit drinking? Have you seen the withdrawal symptoms? The anger, the frustration and at times, violence. This is something that might happen if you take away the addicted person’s gaming device. Here’s what you can do instead;

  • Educate, Not Impose: Teenage and young adulthood are such phases of life where imposing rules often backfire. Patiently explain the nature of the addiction and its consequences. It doesn’t mean that you don’t stay firm with them and not make rules. But explain the need of rules in the first place.
  • Screen Time Guidelines: How much is too much?
  • Action plan: A step-by-step action plan to detox from games – you have to wean them off gaming, a complete abstinence doesn’t work
  • The key activities to help them avoid boredom: Art, sports, friends, family activities
  • How to manage withdrawal symptoms and tantrums: With patience, love, understanding and care. But remember to keep a firm hand.
  •  Boundaries: Set healthy boundaries
  •  Navigate social changes: Change your schedule to be with the child. At the same time, change his/her friend circle if they instigate them to play more online
  • Family Screen Time Agreement: Limit everyone’s screen time in the house. A young adult won’t just agree to limited screen time while you use your phone. Make it a family commitment.
  • Family Tech-Detox day: Appoint a day in week/fortnight/month where no one in the family uses phone/internet, and spend their time with each other.

Written by: Arshi Dokadia
Edited By: The Editorial Team
© The Islamic Reflections Blog

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