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Dear ADDitude: Should I Worry About Video Game Addiction?

Answers to a parent’s question over how much time her child’s spends playing video games.

“My 14-year-old is addicted to playing video games. He takes Concerta when he is attending school, but is off of it for the summer and seems to be self-medicating with video games. His behavior is good and he performs all of his chores. Am I concerned over nothing?”

ADDitude Answers

We field questions like this one from frustrated, concerned parents of “video game addicts” every week. Their kids disregard family and school responsibilities, powered by the seemingly singular focus of logging more daily game time. No amount of nagging or timer-setting works to pry them away from the screen, and it becomes a daily battle. Why? And how can you move forward? In order to understand the allure of video games, it’s important for you to first understand the ADHD concept of hyperfocus.

A 2009 study at Iowa State University identified a link between “video game addiction” and attention deficit disorder. The study was published in Psychological Science and reports that 8 percent of American children between the ages of 8 and 18 who play video games fall into the category of “pathological” gamers. Pathological gamers spend an average of 24 hours a week playing video games – more than twice as much as non-pathological gamers – and received poorer grades in school.

To better understand the connection between ADHD and video game addiction, we recommend Video Games and the ADHD Brain.

For specific strategies for limiting and ending screen time, I recommend this article: One More Block! Managing Your Child’s Minecraft Obsession

I hope that helps!

[Free Download: Brain-Building Video and Computer Games]

A Reader Answers

I am concerned about my son, too! He is 15 and he quit playing World of Warcraft (Wow) for almost a year, but just recently started again this summer and I was a little relieved because he doesn’t have many friends… he stayed the night at one boy’s house earlier this summer, but that’s been it. I got him involved in volunteering at his old daycare center that is connected to the school district, but now that that job is over he wakes up, gets on the computer and will stay there until I MAKE him go to bed.

My poor husband has recently started a new job and is exhausted. He is working a lot of hours and is not much help lately. So on my days off, it’s my two boys and me and I’ve let him play way too much! I feel like a horrible parent, but it’s so hot out, I don’t know what else to have him do. He was chased out of water polo last season (long story), so the sports thing just never worked for him!

I am open to suggestions!

Posted by toosensitive

A Reader Answers

Hi, I am a single mom and my my 13-year-old son is on Adderall XR, but not during the summer. I work 40 hours a week, plus I drive 30 minutes each way to work. We both have ADHD, and he is so addicted to video games. I had our cable TV turned off due to violence and cost, thinking he would read more, make friends, volunteer, etc. No use. He even cops an attitude with me when I ask him to do chores. He lies and tells me he’s done them, then goes back to video games. Then I find out he hasn’t followed through, his room is a mess, and I am stressed! I could go on, but I am sure you know what I mean. Hellp!

Posted by positivenprayer

[Beyond Minecraft: How to Get Your Child to Log Off]

A Reader Answers

My 18-year-son has had an addiction to WOW since he was 12 years old. His addiction keeps him up all night – he’s unable to go to school, he steals my credit card to buy virtual gold, etc. We have installed parental controls on the computer, de-installed WOW on multiple occasions, put him in therapeutic boarding school for two years with no computer access, etc.

Unfortunately, he is back at home now and has figured out all the cheats to get back on the computer and around the parental controls. It has been an endless game between him and us trying to limit his use. I’m very, very tired of implementing consequences that have no effect on his behavior and thinking.

When he is angry (much of the time), he says it helps him manage his anger by fighting the creatures in WOW. Right now we are trying to re-direct him to more positive activities and have him suffer the negative consequences of WOW with little financial support except for limited food money and bus fare. He is seriously looking for work, but with his ADHD issues, and the economy, it has not been easy.

Sorry for the rant – it has been a bad day.

Posted by tallchris

A Reader Answers

My 9-year-old son has ADHD and is addicted to video games and TV. He has no friends. Kids try to be friends with him, but he doesn’t know what to say or how to fit in. I think he thinks so many things at once he doesn’t know what to say.

I suspect nearly all boys are addicted to video games at some point. If it is interfering with their lives, then that means too much video games. If not, it’s probably fine. You can always limit use of game. Other things to do inside include: read, board games, guessing games, card games, chores (gasp! lol), drawing, writing a story, baking pizza/cupcakes/brownies, music.

Posted by AnglezAura

A Reader Answers

My 7-year-old son is also hooked on the screen. He can’t seem to pull himself away – I see the computer monitor light reflecting upon his face most of the day. I worry about the progression of this behavior. Will he play more violent games down the road?

Like some of you, I am a single parent who does not have much time to play board games and shoot hoops. My son used to read a lot (mostly graphic novels) but since his older sister got exposed to media (movies and club penguin), he can’t seem to tolerate the pages of a book for very long. I still do not have a television but it doesn’t seem to matter – my son still finds a way to spend 8-10 hours staring at a screen. (Note: My daughter can pull herself away when it’s time to eat, when neighbors want to play, etc.)

I have tried Collaborative Problem Solving re: this issue. So far, the solutions we come up with are too difficult for him to maintain. Round and round we go.

A psychiatrist told me that kids with ADHD like playing video games because it meets their need for stimuli and novelty. He also said it’s not an addiction but rather a preference because “It’s something they can do well.” I have my doubts. To me, it seems as if the screen has become a way to self-regulate-to calm down, focus, minimize “noise” and so on. It seems very addictive.
Anyway, I would greatly appreciate hearing what others have done re: this issue in their homes.

A Reader Answers

Computer/video addiction is a very real problem and very damaging to our children’s emotional, intellectual, and social growth. As I stated before, I have struggled with my son for years over this. At a minimum you have use the parental controls on the computer to limit their time on the computer to one or two hours a day. The controls helped eliminate the arguing as the computer shut itself down. I also purchased a BOB device to limit time on the TV. Password protected and only allows TV access during the hours you select and for limited time.

I have known parents who took the computer or TV entirely out of the home for addicted kids. Sign them up for day or overnight camps, volunteer activities, etc. You shouldn’t have to entertain them 24/7. The two years my son was in wilderness therapy gave him great reading and outdoor skills as there was NO technology available. I shudder to think of his brain without those years in treatment. You wouldn’t have your child eating candy for ten hours a day. So don’t cater to their desire for video candy. It does rot their brain when done to excess.

It was easier when my son was younger to manage his behavior. Now he knows all the “cheats” to get around blocks on the computer and is too big to force to go anywhere. Medication is key in addition so that they can focus and respond to other activities.

Posted by tallchris

[How Can We Wean Our Child Off Video Games?]