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Does my Teen Have a Video Game Addiction?

Video Game Addiction | Paradigm Malibu

The vast majority of teenagers, or 97 percent, play at least some video games. In many homes, video games have replaced other types of games that you might have enjoyed in your youth, such as board games or card games. Some families all get into the video game action, while other times, just the teens play while the adults and younger children focus on other activities. Whether you like it or not, video games seem to be here to stay as a popular leisure activity for teens. Is your teenager’s video game habit just a fun hobby, however, or is it turning into a video game addiction? You might not be sure; addiction doesn’t come with any hard-and-fast rules for how long a game is played over the course of a day, week, or month. Read on for some clues as to whether your teen’s interest in video games is getting to the point where you have to be concerned.


Signs of a Video Game Addiction


If your teen plays a lot of video games, you might wonder whether the habit is becoming a problem. If he or she plays for a couple of hours each day but easily turns off the computer or game console in favor of something else to do afterward, it’s likely not a problem. Also, if your teen is getting all of their schoolwork done, socializing with friends, pitching in with family chores, and participating in activities other than video games, then, again, it’s likely just a harmless hobby.


Signs of a video game addiction can include the following:

  • falling grades due to not doing homework in favor of playing games
  • poor hygiene
  • skipping once-enjoyed outings with friends and family
  • an inability to stop playing
  • a need to hide the activity

Your teen might talk incessantly about the games or take great pride in achievements in the game. Instead of looking at the video gaming as a problem in itself, try to gauge whether it’s disrupting other aspects of your teenager’s life. If it is, it’s very possible that if your teen is not actually addicted, he or she is heading into dangerous territory.


Dangers of a Video Game Addiction


You might think that a video game addiction is not terribly serious, particularly when compared to other types of addictions, like substance abuse or gambling. While this might be the case, there are some dangers that go along with a video game addiction.


First, your child might neglect his or her schoolwork to the point that they get failing grades in some or all subjects. This can greatly impact your teen’s future, particularly if higher education at a university was in the plans. If relationships with friends are severed over the addiction, it can be difficult for your teen to make new friends. This can exacerbate the problem; he or she won’t have anyone to hang out with, so they might spend even more time on gaming.


There can even be physical health effects. Sitting still for hours at a time, particularly if the person is not getting enough to eat and drink, can lead to deep vein thrombosis, or a blood clot in the leg. This can lead to a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal. Another issue is obesity; staying sedentary can cause weight gain, which, in turn, can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other health problems.


Other Potential Dangers


It can be easy for a teen with depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions to use video games as a crutch. You might think that your teen is dealing with a video game addiction, and this might be true, but it can also be masking other, potentially more serious, issues.


Your teen could spend money that they or your family do not have in order to fund the video game obsession. Not only are video games expensive in some cases, but they can also include opportunities to use real money to level up, get more tools or weapons, or fund various extra parts of the game. Your teen can rack up fees simply by playing the games and feeling like they need the release that buying more special items provides.


Since many teens who enjoy video gaming do so with people that they have not met outside of the online world, a gamer might be more susceptible to being abused or manipulated by a stranger online. Whether or not you are concerned that your teen has a video game addiction, it’s a good idea to talk to him or her about Internet safety. Be sure that they’re not giving out personally identifying information, for example, and warn your teen about the dangers of attempting to meet in person someone they met online in a gaming room.


What Parents Can Do


If you suspect that your teenager has a gaming addiction, here are a few steps that you can take to help.

  1. Start a conversation – The first thing you should do is open up a conversation about it. It’s very possible that your teen already knows that the behavior is becoming a problem. At this stage, simply enforcing limits and having screen-free days can help.
  2. Get your teen involved in other activities – Filling the void which is left after the video game addiction begins to ware with other activities that provide the same level of excitement can help immensely. If your teen is more seriously addicted, however, this might not be enough.
  3. Ask your primary care doctor for help – Your doctor can help you learn about ways that you can address this problem. Counseling, behavior modification, and even a 12-step program might be warranted.

If a teen is truly addicted to video games, the goal will be no gaming, just as the goal of recovery from alcoholism is no alcohol.


Video gaming can be a fun activity that helps your teen relax, or it can turn into something that he or she becomes addicted to. It’s impossible to determine which teens will become addicted and which will be able to simply walk away when it’s time to do something else. Be alert for the signs that your teen’s gaming is becoming addictive so you can step in and intervene before it negatively impacts his or her life.


Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.

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