We live in an ever-changing world where technological advances and the internet have become a necessary part of everyday life. Perhaps it is not surprising that a growing number of children and adults alike are spending a significant amount of time engaging with social media and video gaming.
How then, do we know if our loved ones have become ‘addicted’ to technology?
When do iPads or video games become a problem that requires intervention?
How to identify problematic levels of video gaming in our youth –
- Interference in daily life due to prioritising or engaging with gaming activities. Such as:
- Failing to complete assignments on time
- Not studying for exams
- Arriving late to work
- Missing out on parties
- Significant distress when unable to play these games
- Using the internet or video gaming as the sole means of comfort or to cope when feeling distressed, anxious, or low.
- Coinciding with video gaming our youth may also be experiencing low mood and suicidal thinking, social withdrawal, or cannabis use, with approximately 15-20% of those with excessive internet use having Social Anxiety.
If you suspect that your adolescent or loved one has developed problematic levels of video gaming, try these tips:
- Create time to speak about their video gaming in an open and accepting manner. The primary objectives are to:
- Understand what they like about the game
- Ask how do they feel when playing
- What role does this game play in their lives?
- Is it a way for them to relax after school/work?
- Is it a way to avoid feeling low or anxious
- Is it just a hobby, or a way to play with their friends?
Show interest in the positive aspects of playing rather than focusing on the negatives.
- Facilitate in your young person a range of interests and skills. Some teenagers that undertake video gaming excessively report doing so because they have few or no friends or nothing else to do with their time. Provide them with:
- Opportunities to spend time with you
- Introduce a new hobby, or encourage them to spend time with their friends. You may need to go out of your way to facilitate these activities (e.g. driving them to a friend’s house, spending money on an activity together), but hopefully it will provide them with other alternatives to video gaming.
- Set respectful and realistic boundaries around video gaming at home. This allows children and adults to schedule in video game time around their responsibilities and day-to-day activities. Encourage your loved one to work collaboratively with you so an agreement can be made about when and for how long they can play video games each day. There should be an agreed upon consequence if your loved one does not stick to the plan. E.g. no internet access for a week.
If you require help to manage their level of video game use, a Clinical Psychologist can provide the necessary support.
Written by Bianca Heng – Clinical Psychologist – www.creatingchange.net.au