Many of us fondly remember going to an arcade to play games or begging our parents for the latest Nintendo or Sega console. We would learn some cheat codes and challenge our friends to get the best high score. Most game systems weren’t portable, and you could only play with other people if they were in the room with you. The graphics were horrible, but we had fun anyway.
Video games have come a long way from what they used to be. Today’s games are far more intricate and alluring. You can play with other people if they’re in the room, but you can also play with strangers on the other side of the world. Even if the game you love is on a console at home, there’s still a fun game on your cell phone that you can play while you’re out.
Today’s teens use video games as a tool for distraction, fun, and connection. They can create new characters and design the character to look and act the way they want. They can play with a headset and talk to other online players in real-time. If their character doesn’t have all the features that they want, they can spend money and buy those features. Then when they go to school, they can talk with their friends about everything that happened in the game.
When you look at how encompassing the world of video games can be, it’s easy to see how teenage video game addiction forms. Video game addiction is just as strong as other behavioral addictions. Teens come to rely on the games for a sense of fulfillment.
Just as with other addictions, video game addiction should be taken seriously and addressed early. Some teens respond well to intervention at home, and others do better at a residential therapeutic treatment center.
How can parents address teenage video game addiction?
Your teen might have a video game addiction if video games are negatively impacting their life. Some negative impacts are experienced on a personal level, and others are more relational.
Personal impact: Your son is sleepy at school because he stays up late playing video games.
Relationship impact: Your son loses his temper when you tell him to turn off the games, and it hurts your relationship with each other.
Some common signs of teenage video game addiction include:
Acting like video games are the most important thing in life
Trying to escape real-life social situations to play video games
Sneaking video games even when they’re off-limits
Being sad or withdrawn when not playing video games
Lacking self-control when playing video games
Getting angry when told to turn off the game at the set time
Lacking time management when playing video games
Lying about which games you’re playing or how long you’re playing them
Ignoring negative impacts the game time has on real life
If your teen son is showing the signs of video game addiction, you need to step in and intervene.
Video game addiction in teens is typically a sign that some underlying coping mechanisms are out of whack. Your teen might not fit in at school, or he might feel awkward when interacting with people in real life.
While he’s playing the game, he can be himself without the social anxiety of face-to-face social situations. He needs to learn how to accept himself in real life so that he doesn’t have to immerse himself in the game.
Set technology boundaries for the family
If you tell your teen that he’s spending too much time on his games, but you never put down your phone, he won’t accept the situation well. Role model the behavior that you want and get the whole family on board.
You could try things like having family dinners together without technology or going to a sporting event together. Try to help your son learn how to have fun in real life without completely cutting off his game time.
Have conversations about the situation
Make sure your son understands your concern and knows that you’re not just making fun of video games. Even though you might not understand the games or why he likes them so much, they’re very important to him.
Have genuine conversations about how the games impact his life and the roles that the games play in his life. Help him identify why he needs to spend so much time playing video games and how he could meet that need in real life.
Get outside help
If your son won’t accept the boundaries of technology and keeps sneaking video games, he may need professional intervention. Teens who intertwine their lives and personalities with online gaming have difficulty connecting to others as they grow up.
At Sundance Canyon Academy, our staff uses a variety of therapeutic approaches to help teen boys overcome video game addiction. Personal therapy combined with life skills training and extracurricular activities helps struggling teens address their issues head-on rather than escaping into video games.
Contact us at 866-224-2733 for more information about residential programs for teen boys.