I had the opportunity to hear Cam Adair speak recently. He is the founder of Game Quitters and is a leading expert on video game addiction. Cam, featured in the must-watch video at the bottom of this post, is a video game addict who came to realize he simply can’t play video games and live a meaningful life. He also struggled with depression and was near suicide at one point in his life. Cam was gaming up to 16 hours each day. He went over how video gaming has changed over the years and some steps to try for addiction prevention and/or recovery.
Did you know Gaming Disorder has recently been added to the World Health Organization’s classification of diseases? With the World Health Organization now classifying playing excessive video games as a mental disorder, it is definitely time to at least consider the possible impact gaming is having on our children.
The video gaming industry is currently bigger than the music and movie industries combined. Before I dive too far in, I want to point out that Cam was quick to say that he isn’t against gaming, but that there are important factors people need to be aware of. He points out that only 3-4% of the people who play video games will develop an addiction. This seems like a small number. However, I myself quickly think of teaching and children in a classroom here. This translates to roughly 1 student per classroom on average assuming there are 25 students in a class.
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A few things about video games today that I now believe every parent needs to know:
Games provide purpose, escape, and social connection.
Gamers are a community of people who understand each other in a way that other people don’t. Society has shamed gamers as individuals, referring to them as lazy or as people who are wasting their potential. The truth is that everyone can fit in as a gamer regardless of race, religion, size, or whatever. Gaming provides a place where everyone can feel safe. The risk is that skills won’t be developed to fit in elsewhere and carve one’s space out outside of the video gaming world. This makes it difficult to learn many life skills and lessons outside of gaming.
Gaming and the digital world is a safe place to fail.
Video gaming provides structural certainty. It often doesn’t take long to reap a reward of some kind. Games can warp an individual’s perception of confidence and rewards since gaming does not require a long time frame to take place. The rewards are almost immediate.
In real life, it tends to take a lot more effort and time to reap the benefits. First, one has to find a job. Next, pay is far from immediate in most cases.
Many games can’t be paused and leaving them can affect progress.
Games today don’t have a pause button. Some don’t even have an end, meaning they can go on forever. If gamers leave mid-game, it affects their progress and often their peers’ progress as well. This results in a lot of pressure to stay in the game and to build upon or at least maintain one’s status.
Many games contain loot boxes. Often the prize isn’t revealed until after
Excessive gaming changes one’s brain structure.
Video games are fully immersive and provide dopamine overload. Overexposure to gaming causes structural changes to the brain.
Tips to Help Decrease Gaming
There are steps to take in order to help with recovery from video game addiction. Some to try are as follows:
Often video gaming is happening in basements, bedrooms, or any other place that is not at the heart and center of the home. It is important to remove isolation from the equation by centralizing devices. Simply centralizing devices may help gamers to be aware of time lapses or that there are other activities happening around them that they could be part of. Many may also become more careful with
Have game-free days.
Make plans to do activities together as a family, making these days known ahead of time, along with the knowledge that playing video games will not be an option for anyone in the family on these designated game-free days. Instead, strive to fill the video gaming void with activities that encourage socializing and that are mentally engaging.
Encourage gamers to keep a log book to track how many hours per day are spent gaming.
Simply becoming aware of the time spent may help drive an individual to decrease gaming time.
Commit to 2 hours or less per day.
Encouraging a gamer to set a timer for an agreed upon
Give fair warning before expecting a gamer to be at the dinner table for a meal or to help out with a task.
If you’ve ever fought with your child about not coming to the dinner table right after being called, this one will resonate with you. Discuss how long it roughly takes to play through a battle or whatever other type of game an individual is playing. Then, when asking the individual to do something such as join the family for a meal, give at least that much warning. The expectation then is that no new battle is started. This may help avoid frustration over asking a gamer to help out with tasks around the house as well.
Focus on the behavior, not on the gaming.
As I stated before, gaming tends to be a place where everyone can feel a sense of belonging. Gamers understand each other in a way that non-gamers won’t. Therefore, it is important to focus on the behavior and not on the gaming when outlining concerns we may have about an individual’s gaming. For example, saying, “I notice you aren’t coming up for supper” is likely to be a lot less threatening than shouting, “You are always on that stupid game! Get off of it now!” We also need to be aware of our own justifications and double standards when we are expecting a behavior change in our children.
Create a system of accountability.
Behavior change is hard. If it were easy, we all would achieve our New Year’s resolutions each and every year! When expecting our children to give something up, it is important for us as parents to also consider giving something up at the same time. Maybe having our children point something out for us to change will help them to know that we are a good accountability partner. We may not like it, but our kids won’t like giving up gaming either.
Have all devices handed in by a certain time each night.
Since video gaming can be happening on any device these days, having a place where all devices in the home get stored for the evening may help ensure that everyone is getting the rest they need each night. This can even include the devices belonging to the adults in the home.
Cam Adair is featured in this film below. I highly recommend that every parent watch it!
Most gamers do not develop an addiction that is out of control, but 3-4% of gamers will. Regardless, it is important for parents to be aware of how gaming has changed over the years. It is also important to implement strategies to ensure that video gaming doesn’t become out of control for our children.
One powerful sentence Cam said that really resonated with me was,
“Screen time might quiet disruptive behaviorsCam Adair
inthe moment, but it will exacerbate tantrums later.”
I think most parents can relate to our children becoming quiet once a screen is placed in front of them. I know I sure can!
Resources that May Help
How about you?
Do you know of anyone who currently struggles with or has struggled with video gaming? Do you use strategies in your house to regulate how much time your children spend playing video games? Are there any strategies that work for you and your family that I didn’t mention here?