Until a few years ago, I looked at the reluctance of gamers to stop playing video games upon request, as a nuisance and inconvenience. I certainly did not view it as a possible addiction issue. However, like most things, what we “don’t” know can hurt us. Once we are aware of the potential danger, we have an opportunity to be more aware and alert to the warning signs of a possible cyber addiction.
While attending an ADD conference in our neighbor state of Michigan, I met Kevin Roberts, recovering gaming addict, author, coach and public speaker. Kevin has become an expert on the topic and offers a great deal of information in his informative book on the topic. Cyber Junkie: Escape the Gaming and Internet Trap.
Since then, I have encountered a number of people in the Indianapolis area who are struggling with an unhealthy relationship with their computer. Abnormalities in the brain may make some people more likely to become addicts, according to scientists at the University of Cambridge.The study, published in the journal Science, suggested addiction is in part a “disorder of the brain”. Most experts will tell you that addiction of any kind is primarily a desire to change the brain in a way that provides a flood of chemicals.
Be it gaming, alcohol, food, drugs or exercise, the process occurring in the brain is virtually the same. The core components of Internet addiction are similar to those of any other addiction or compulsion.
As you are purchasing the latest and greatest gaming gifts, it is not necessary to put the brakes on entirely, but putting some general guidelines in place for yourself as a parent can make a big difference.
1. Set hard and fast rules for how much time can be invested in gaming.
2. Determine what ratings you will allow in terms of age.
3. Investigate parental control options. Some games offer options for programming the amount of time allowed to play with an automatic shut off feature.
4. Make sure your child is achieving balance in his or her play life. Physical activity has many important benefits for all children.
If you are concerned that your or a loved one may already have a problem, look for these signs:
- Tolerance — Needing to play more and more in order to experience the same “rush”
- Obsession — Spending most offline time thinking about past online experiences and planning for future online sessions
- Frustration, anxiety, and/or irritability when unable to get online
- Abandoning friends and other hobbies and activities in order to focus on online activities
- Continuing to spend time online even after negative repercussions (such as school problems, missing work deadlines, deteriorating relationships, and even health problems)
Most internet addicts will display most or all of these signs:
- Most non-school hours are spent on the computer or playing video games
- Falling asleep in school
- Falling behind with assignments
- Worsening grades
- Lying about computer or video game use
- Choosing to use the computer or play video games, rather than see friends
- Dropping out of other social groups (clubs or sports)
- Being irritable when not playing a video game or being on the computer
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (associated with repetitive motions such as excessive keyboard use)
- Poor nutrition (failing or refusing to eat in order to remain online)
- Poor personal hygiene (again, neglecting this important issue in order to focus on online activities)
- Headaches, back pain, and neck pain
- Dry eyes and vision problems
Like all things, when ADD is present, moderation usually isn’t. We have to implement our own parameters. It does not come naturally.