Video gaming can be very enticing to teenagers. It can suck them in, and then it can be hours before they even realize what amount of time they have spent playing.

Some apps and video games are specifically designed to keep your teen daughters and sons checking them around the clock. With others, it is the constant stream of content that keeps your child coming back and clicking day and night, much like social media. 

At some point, we, as their family members, loved ones and parents, need to stop and ask: “How do we know if our teen has a gaming disorder or video game addiction?”

What Is a Video Game Addiction?

The diagnosis of gaming addiction is relatively new. There have been very few studies completed thus far to determine if the overuse of video games actually qualifies as an addiction, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

One recently published study found evidence of not only a video gaming addiction in teens but also how excessive gaming negatively impacted academic performance, mental health, self-esteem and social skills amongst those young people studied.

Rather than wait for additional studies to be published, it is safe to say that gaming addiction in teenagers is real, and it is harmful, particularly to those teens who are already suffering from mental disorders or mental health issues.

This type of internet gaming addiction can occur when teens continue to act compulsively, even when there are harmful consequences or negative effects. There are genetic factors involved, meaning they may inherit a risk of addiction passed down from parents or grandparents. Environmental factors can also increase addictive behaviors, so if there is abuse, bullying, loss, trauma, etc., then those things put teenage boy and girl gamers at a higher risk as well. 

In the end, it is what happens in their brains that matter most. When increasingly engaging in addictive gaming behaviors, the brain actually changes, produces dopamine, and creates the demand for more of, in this case, video games.

This addiction can also co-occur with other disorders, like substance abuse.

Online Gaming Use vs. Abuse

Teenagers can access the world through online games, whether it is multiplayer games, role-playing games or gameplay in online virtual worlds. With online gaming, they could spend the day playing in their online role, but miss something as soon as they log off. Going back to the real-world can be difficult for teens, as the game continues to change each and every second.

But that’s not healthy. Healthy use of video games includes developing a balance between real-life activities and screen time.

Teenagers especially need to prioritize exercise, healthy eating, and sleep, and put school and/or work first over their gaming time. With the time that is left in each day, our daughters and sons can balance their screen time and video gameplay with time spent face to face with family, friends and other, healthier activities.

What to Do to Avoid Video Gaming Addiction

There are things to consider, like professional help or a treatment program, if we are worried about our teenager becoming addicted to video gameplay.

First, determine how much your teen daughter or son is thinking about gaming when they are not on it.

  • How many times a day do they log in to check it or play?
  • Is their social life in real life lacking because they are constantly gaming?
  • What about school or work and family relationships? Are they suffering because your teen is constantly online gaming?

The big question is: could they stop playing video games cold turkey? Would their brains still be compelling them to find a device and sign in? If they were challenged to go without online games for a week or even a day, could they?

At the end of the day, you know how reliant your child is on video games. However, you may not realize if he or she has developed a gaming addiction or recognize the warning signs. Or even if you know they have a problem, how can you find help? 

Embark Behavioral Health can help you find addiction treatment for your teen daughter or son, and give your family the tools needed to live healthily. Contact us today to help you find balance in your child's life through behavioral therapy. We can improve your teenager's mental health by helping them mitigate and resolve symptoms and recognize the negative consequences that come with a gaming addiction.

Your healing journey starts here.

Make the choice to treat your child's gaming addiction or mental health condition, by contacting Embark. Our behavioral and mental health programs can help your child become healthier, both in real life and online while video gaming.

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