Video games have become the number one choice for on-screen entertainment, surpassing TV / DVD viewing and movie viewing. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 99% of boys between the ages of 12 and 17 and 94% of girls of the same age range play video games. Eighty percent play five or more different genres, with racing, puzzles, sports, and action being the most common. (1)
What they play, of course, determines whether the game is harmful or helpful to their developing minds and spirits. When children play action-packed, fast-paced, or violent video games in particular, they need more and more powerful images to respond emotionally to the game. This is called a stimulus addiction. The term “stimulus addiction” describes the habit that is formed when children seek increasingly stimulating games to keep their interest. Instead of playing in their natural world, children are spending more and more time playing in the artificially constructed world of video games.
Children often start out with simple, non-violent video games and move on to increasingly violent games because violent games are the most challenging. They require the part of our brain that reacts, rather than reason. Violent video games focus on the constant need to destroy to stay in the game. Violent images increase arousal levels of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that excite and entice children to continue playing. Today’s video games feature more gruesome violence, with sharp visuals and realistic graphics. Words, ideas, and images of brutality never imagined as “entertainment” ten years ago now occupy much of our children’s free time, accustoming themselves to exaggerated stimulation in the process.
Although the fast-paced and emotionally vivid visuals of fabricated horror are definitely habit-forming, even non-violent games can become addictive.
Gambling addiction is a true tragedy of our time. Recently, two parents expressed great concern about excessive time spent playing video games:
The father of a fourth grader overheard his nine-year-old son in conversation with a friend:
“I’ll end up with her ripping out his heart.”
“No, cut off his head instead.”
“But I want to rip out his heart.”
“I want to see his head fly.”
“Oh okay, let’s see his head spin. There! Look at all that blood. Great.”
They were enthusiastically playing a video game they had just downloaded. This father felt lucky to listen to his son, disturbing as it was. He was able to guide the children to non-violent games, more appropriate for their age and more aligned with the family’s values.
A fifteen-year-old mother was desperate to know what to do if her daughter stayed up until two in the morning playing video games and wasn’t ready for school the next day. By training this mother to take the right steps, her daughter got back on track, with better grades and a much better attitude. It was a process that required a lot of willpower on the part of this mother. She stayed with her, despite the difficulties, learning through the PCI ?? Coaching to reinforce positive behaviors and open up more appropriate possibilities for your daughter.
Online games, in the lives of too many high school and college students, take precedence over academics, sports, hobbies, art, dance, and other forms of self-expression. Researchers have found that a survey of 1,500 teens indicated that 25% were compulsive video gamers. Fifty percent of those surveyed used the word “addiction” to describe a friend’s gambling behaviors. Because the excitement becomes the reward for playing, and because the games are set to intermittently reinforce behavior, they are extremely addictive and even potentially addictive.
It’s easy to get lost in the fantasy worlds of screen technologies. Now, with handheld video games, children as young as four play video games, despite experts warning that this could be a very harmful habit that could lead to dangerous problems for life.
Parents, the good news is that there are focused strategies you can take to prevent addiction to stimuli in our increasingly invasive digital culture: think carefully and act consciously. I will personally guarantee that these five seemingly simple strategies are simply powerful. They can help your child or adolescent in profound ways.
Five essential elements to prevent addiction to the Internet and video games:
1. Keep kids curious about non-screen reality.
Games and web browsing are often due to boredom. Children who don’t know what to do end up in front of a video game console or computer. However, if there were other things to do, you could easily choose an alternative. Keep a list of age-appropriate activities handy, including lots of books from your local library. By prompting children to turn to other activities when they are bored, they are likely not to get into the habit of video games. They will know how to entertain themselves without the need for exaggerated stimulation. Make your home an enriched environment for all kinds of creative and artistic activities. Do what turns you on, too: You light a spark in your kids every time you enhance and use your own creativity.
2. Give children more control through proper decision making.
Responsible autonomy means that children make decisions and have a sense of control over regular daily decisions. Video games take advantage of children’s need for control. If they just feel like they are in control when playing these games, then naturally they will want to play the games more often. Give children decisions that you can live with with either option. An example for a young child might be: “Do you want to wear your blue or yellow shirt today?” They both have long sleeves and will keep the child warm. An example for an older child or teenager might be: “When is a good day for you to help me with dinner this week?” You acknowledge that the child’s schedule is under your control, making this decision when you can be flexible about the outcome. The more your child or adolescent does, values, and sees the effects of his or her decisions, the less likely he or she will want an external stimulus for pleasure. Mindful activities will become more enjoyable as your child develops a strong sense of self through internal control.
3. Expand children’s sources of emotion.
In video games, emotion is the reward. The “thrill” of reaching another level, killing enemies, or quickly pressing the right button at the right time generates an avalanche that feeds itself. Direct reinforcement multiplies excitement and pleasure. If video games are the only source of enthusiasm for a child or adolescent, then other activities will be forgotten. Gamer addiction occurs because there are few opportunities in which the young person feels that level of excitement caused by a video game. When kids and T-shirts are excited about an activity like sports or art, music or school, community service or church, then they have other avenues in which to be excited about the outcome. One of the main jobs of parenting in the media age is for moms and dads to expand opportunities for children to use their skills and talents. The excitement of living and creating must become the reward.
4. Teach children to enter themselves.
When children know how to roam their inner landscapes, they are more self-directed. They can be more easily entertained. Give children and teens time to sit and think, even if only for five to ten minutes at a time. With just a little practice, the bud begins to bloom. Children will come to need this kind of “inner time.” Before asking a question, you can say, “Before you answer honey, I want you to take a minute to think about your answer.” Consciously giving “time to think” provides a powerful model in which it is important to take the time to carefully consider an idea. Most video games are fast. They do not grow that part of the brain that is used in reflective reflection. This takes time. It is not a quick decision. By encouraging children and teens to slowly reflect on themselves, parents counteract video game addiction.
5. Help children stay connected to the 3D world through lots of physical activity.
When Play Station orders: “Play in our world”, you better think they know what they are doing. This is a well thought out phrase to make children and teenagers believe that the world of video games is the best world to play. As illogical as it may seem to most adults, young people do not have the capacity to think to understand the long-term ramifications. of this ad about the formation of attitudes and the making of a necessity. To be “cool” a better person “plays in his world”. Playing video games with our children can be of great help in modeling the proper use of this great tool for a fun break in the real world. But like everything else, it is a question of balance. If children don’t get enough exercise outdoors, for example, their lives are thrown out of balance in favor of the screen-machine. If children do not find their competence in various activities in the 3-D world, they may also be tied to the 2-D world. Parents who take a break to kick or throw a ball, ride a bike or walk, are a model for children of the value of life beyond a small screen. By fostering our children’s innate propensity to explore the natural world, parents take children out of the world of video games and give them the knowledge and spirit to create a better world – a world in which we will all enjoy playing!
Copyright, Gloria DeGaetano, 2010. All rights reserved.
1. “The saturation of video game players reaches a new level”, Seattle Times, September 18, 2008, p. A6.
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