Kids are at war in the game and parents are at war with the game–but the game is winning.

Which Gamer Lives at Your House?

The Casual Gamer

Your child likes to play video games but he likes other activities as much or more. He is balanced and you are not worried!

The At-Risk Gamer

The shift away from casual play is starting. His gaming is on the list of the top three things he likes to do with his time. You have a gut feeling that something isn’t quite right, and he may be headed toward addiction.

The Addicted Gamer

Your child has arrived at the point of being dependent on gaming to function in his life. You are losing your son. You know that he has a problem, but you don’t know what to do; you fear it may be too late.

So how did you get here?

It is estimated that over 90% of American youth are playing video games. For some, gaming is a balanced pastime, but for others, it becomes an obsession that slowly starts to replace other activities and tear their life and their families apart.

As parents, we convince ourselves that all kids play video games. It is part of our culture so it must be okay. How does the obsession start?

Ages 0-6

  • iPad in the Crib
  • Mom’s phone at the Grocery Store
  • Playing “Early Learning” games

Ages 6-11

  • Minecraft replaces real Lego play
  • 1st Time Porn Viewing
  • Aggression and Anger Outbursts over gaming

Ages 11-18

  • Advanced “Mature” multi-player games
  • Games become an escape
  • Conflict at home over gaming increases
  • Gaming replaces other hobbies and sports
  • Smartphone becomes Game Console
  • Spending less time in real life

What have you told yourself?

  • He’s having fun, and it’s a cheap/easy babysitter.
  • The game is making him tech savvy–he will need that skill in his future job.
  • He is going to be a game designer
  • His teacher said he has a “gift” for learning code
  • He is safe when he is on his game, for at least I know where he is.
  • Dad plays with him,  and it’s their only bonding time.
  • He is shy, and it is his only outlet
  • He struggles socially, and I don’t want him to be left out of his friend group.
  • He is obsessed now, but I’m sure he will outgrow it.
  • If I don’t let him play now, he will binge in college
  • It’s just a harmless game.

The Physical Effects of Gaming on the Body

Gaming is not a neutral activity. After just 20 minutes of play, the body changes. Learn how.

(Click the image to enlarge)

Watch this powerful interview with Jane Pauly on the physical effects of gaming on blood pressure and heart rate.

“We took all videos games away during the school week for my 10-year-old.  After about 2 weeks of some detox, his teacher asked him if he was on medicine and said that he was doing much better in class.” -Mom of two boys

Warning Signs of Overuse & Addiction

Toddler

  • Begs to play
  • Only thing that motivates him
  • Takes iPad to bed
  • Prefers game over other activities
  • Rather stay inside than play outside
  • Sneaks screen time
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Doesn’t want to play with friends
  • May wet pants when playing

Kids

  • Talks about game achievement all the time
  • Wants to game right after school
  • Rushed through homework to get to game
  • Prefers game over other social activities
  • Spends time on YouTube researching game cheats
  • Writes papers and projects about video game
  • Chooses gaming inside rather than outdoor play
  • Underachieving in school, no interest in school
  • Says he is learning computer “code”
  • May throw the controller if he gets mad at game
  • Games when he is bored, tired, lonely, hungry
  • May cry if he can’t play

Teens 

  • More stress and conflict at home
  • You are having arguments with spouse
  • Private. You don’t know what he is playing
  • Most of their friends are gamers
  • He has lied about how much he is playing
  • He has charged your credit card without asking
  • Socially delayed, not dating, not driving, no job
  • Misses family events and meals to game
  • Anger outburst, rages, hurting property or others
  • Can’t list three things he likes more than his game
  • Underdeveloped empathy, lack of compassion
  • Depression
  • Parents are worried that gamer will hurt them if they take game away

Is your Child Addicted to Gaming?

TAKE THE QUIZ!

TAKE THE QUIZ HERE

Ask Adam.

Use the form below to ask Adam directly any questions you may have about what games your child is playing, what the ratings are and how do you know if they are okay, what your child is seeing on specific games, how they might be getting around parental controls, or why its so addictive and fun.

“You will never be able to achieve anything truly great if you spend all of your time playing video games.”  – Adam Brooker former game player

 

Hi, I’m Adam. At the time of writing this, I am 24 years old and I am a Sergeant in the US Army. My MOS is 11B (Infantry) which is probably what you think of if you ever hear someone say they are in the military. I’m the guy who thought it would be a good idea to go on patrols and try to find people to shoot at me so that I can shoot back at them. I am currently in the 82nd Airborne Division so my job, being an Infantryman, is literally to jump out of an airplane behind enemy lines and kill everyone that isn’t wearing the same uniform as me. So kind of like Call of Duty in real life… Read more

Why Kids Play Video Games

How I got Started in Gaming

Aren’t Games Educational?

Games and Pornography

Video Game Solutions…So Now What?

At this point, you have two options in front of you.

  • Option 1: Become a Casual Gaming Family

    • Keep game time limited to a few times a month
    • Model less screen time in front of the kids
    • Structure other hobbies and activities in your child’s life
    • Be aware of gaming time spent at friends’ houses.
    • Be aware of dad’s game time.  Make sure that if he games with your son that there are other activities they do together.
  • Option 2: Become a Game-Free Home

    • Take a break from video games.
    • Restructure your home to be more family oriented rather than game oriented.
    • If you need help with a game-detox follow Dr. Dunckley’s plan in her book, Reset your Child’s Brain, and follow her 4-week gaming detox plan.
    • Click for more tips for living in a game-free home.

The first thing we recommend is to reset your home and habits. This means making changes that will reduce your screen interactions and replace them with healthier family attachment activities. Try some of the following ideas to get started.

  1. Planning is key; schedule friends to come over ahead of time.
  2. Get a basketball hoop for the driveway and on every bedroom door.
  3. Keep a big box of ping pong balls in the den with paddles (helps with nervous energy).
  4. Teach them how to do the laundry when they are young and don’t stress about it not being perfect.
  5. Keep music on at all times in your home.
  6. Put a family photo on their bedside table.
  7. Involve them in meal prep–have them make the list, shop with you, and cook.
  8. Keep age appropriate books in each kids bedrooms and rotate them when they outgrow them.
  9. Be sure each child has a nickname–and a secret handshake.
  10. Don’t worry if your house is spotless or even clean.

After you’ve reset your habits, you’ll be looking for things to do, and so will your kids. Try some of the following ideas for alternative activities for your family.

  1. Keep a family puzzle out in den at all times.
  2. Don’t drive straight home after school–go to a park, library, or grocery store instead.
  3. Go watch a local high school basketball or football game
  4. Get bikes for the whole family.
  5. Have a family reading night in the den with blankets/popcorn.
  6. Camp in the backyard.
  7. Set up a workbench in the garage.
  8. Close your laptop when your kids come home from school.
  9. Let them have time completely alone once a day.
  10. Set up a garage gym with rings, a climbing rope or toddler swing.
  11. Be purposeful about family traditions.
  12. Get a fire pit, the best teen-talking-tool out there!

For more alternative activities, click here.

Common Myths

He is having fun and it’s a cheap/easy babysitter. Yes, gaming is fun and because it is designed to be such an addictive activity using it for a babysitter can cause many problems. Once your child is hooked it can be very hard to keep it balanced. PLAY now and more than likely you will PAY later when he wants to quit other

The game is making him so tech savvy, he will need that skill in his future job. The skills he will need more in a future job are real life skills that are rare, valuable, and not found on a video game. He is not learning code, self control,  or how to hold down a job.

He is going to be a game designer. If he is going to be a game designer, he will need much more experience with art, music, teamwork, project planning, communication skills, physics, math, and physical science. His excess hours on a game will not help with those skills.

His teacher said he has a “gift” for learning code. Great. Put him in some code classes but keep an eye on what he is doing–most gamers say they have a gift for code. If he truly does, sign him up for a foreign language too, that is a huge asset in the workplace.

He is safe when he is on his game at least I know where he is. He is not safe on his game. He is meeting people you don’t know and involved in a world you may know nothing about. He would be better off developmentally to get off hs game and get some life experience even if it includes “dangerous activities” like asking a girl out or learning a new sport of driving a car.

Dad plays with him and it’s their only bonding time. If this is their only bonding time, then that is a problem. While you are happy that they have something that they like to do together, it is a very addictive form of entertainment, just like gambling, and it is more dangerous for a young brain. Set up a plan to go outside and ride bikes, hike, hunt, play sports, an hour for every game hour. That will keep it a bit more in balance. If  your son shows signs of addiction then dad needs to lead and help him develop other hobbies.

He is shy, and it is his only outlet. Is he shy or is he just rude and lazy? Gaming is isolating and removes your son from the practice of real-life encounters; if he doesn’t practice real life, he will not be good at it.

He struggles socially, and I don’t want him to be left out of his friend group. Find another friend group if his only group of friends are gamer friends. This is an addiction warning sign.

He is obsessed now, but I’m sure he will outgrow it. He will not outgrow it. What he loves now is what he is “paving” for the future. He will not all of a sudden get interested in other activities if he isn’t now. Remember that gaming is very “chemically” addictive and because of the neuronal involvement and early rewiring, addictions started in childhood are almost impossible to break later.

If I don’t let him play now, he will binge in college. In college, he will continue to enjoy and build on the activities that he built a foundation for as a child. If he is only good at gaming, he will game in college. If he is good at other things he will do those.

It’s just a harmless game. Gaming is not harmless. While it is a fun exciting entertainment activity for boys, there is a fine line between keeping it that way and entering the addictive side of gaming. Watch for signs of addiction and be prepared to pull him back if he can’t keep it balanced. Every “activity” has a potential risk and downside–know what they are for gaming.

Additional Resources