Video Game Addiction in Kids

Archived Q&A and Reviews


My 9yo is addicted (yes, addicted) to video games

June 2013

I don't use the term lightly. We put limits on video game time and he has gotten into behavior that mimics serious addiction. When he's been told to put the touch away, he will sneak into his room and try to play it more. When I hide it, he will sneak into my room and go through my things to find it. When I catch him he lies to me. When I hide it better, he sneaks his dad's ipad into his room and plays that (he knows the passcode; I've since asked husband to change the code). This morning I was doing something in the basement and came up and he was trying to casually walk away from the computer. He has to get explicit permission to use it and he tried to lie to me, telling me that the game that was up was from another time. He promises he will change, next time will be better. He CAN change and he WILL. He will prove to me that he loves me more than his video games. See where I'm going with this? 

We've gone through the whole cycle - taking away the computer and other gaming technologies for longer and longer periods of time. getting angry. trying to reintroduce the gaming technology only to have to take it away again when privileges are abused. I finally realized that to continue to try to give him any kind of access in the face of a clear addiction is a parenting failure on my part. So, I've taken it all away for the final time and explained to him that this time it's not a punishment (although I'm sure that's a tough concept for him to understand). It's me trying to love him and meet him where he's at and that, right now, he's clearly unable to control himself no matter what it costs him. I told him I want to enjoy his company and being angry at his inability to control himself all the time is hurting our relationship. I've also told him I'm not going to talk about any sort of timeline for getting it all back.

He's 9, almost 10. He's a great kid in many many ways, but he's always struggled to self regulate. I feel like he needs the time and space to grow up a little. He needs to be able to use computers and be around technology without becoming so consumed that it affects the other parts of his life. It's not like alcohol, for example, where you can carve out a reality where you don't ever drink (even if you have to figure out how to live in a world where the people around you can and do imbibe). So, here's my question. How do I know he's ready to try to integrate computers and gaming back into his life (in a supervised and limited way)? How do I do it in a way that allows for some sort of self regulation? video games are ruining my relationship with my son

I'm so sorry your 9 year old is addicted to gaming. Of course not all kids get addicted. Our 11 year old son is on a 6 week ban at the moment and it's been very, very good for him. However, he does try to sneak some time, so it's a concern for a lot of parents. The addiction is becoming recognised by the psychological community as a pyschological disorder. It typically hits males under 30 and runs the usual course of addiction - absorbing increasing amounts of time (hours per day), withdrawal from hobbies and social activities, irritability and anger when not able to indulge etc

Given the pervasiveness of devices, the addiction is most likened to a food addiction, i.e. the addict needs to learn to live in a world of computers as the anorexic needs to learn to live in a world of food. The considered advice is to get specialist (i.e. addictions expert) professional help and unfortunately for your son, no gaming. An hour of gaming is apparently like that one beer to an alcoholic. Encourage lots more outdoor and social activities going forward and maybe think about reducing your/other family members time on devices when with your son. Whizparent

Well I can totally relate. I do not have the solution but I can share our approach. Gaming is all J wants to do and he will lie, steal and cheat to get at it. Instead of banning it, we let him have 2 hours on school days and 4 hours on weekends. After 2 hours, he must take a break. To me this amount of time is excessive and I feel a bit as if I have ''lost'' the battle but as kids get older it is more about negotiating and less about me making the final decisions. J must keep his grades above C. He has daily chores He also must be part of a sport or skill (music or handcraft) that he can develop some expertise in. And then I cross my fingers. I tell him that until he can develop some internal regulation, I must enforce external regulation. It is not easy. He is constantly testing these limits and will still lie, cheat and steal for more time. My older son decided around 10th grade that socializing was much more satisfying than gaming and he stopped the compulsive aspect then tho he still is on screens quite a bit. The other part that is hard is the stress on our marriage and the different approaches we bring to discipline. My thought is that discipline is to teach and any consequence that is out of anger to emotionally hurt the child is unacceptable. My husband feels that a dramatic message must be sent to the child to let the lesson be felt and sink in. It's not easy for any of us. M

You need to get his attention very quickly. He is lying to you and being manipulative.

I would take everything out of his room except his bed and clothing. Nothing to entertain him. You need a place you can send him when he misbehaves where the only thing he can do is contemplate what he did wrong. I would consider taking the door off his room so he knows he can be monitored whenever you walk by.

He is going to need a computer for school work. I would severely lock it down to make sure he can't install his own software. I would install website blocking software that only allows him to go to websites you approve of (like the one for getting school assignments). This computer has to be in ''public'' area of the house like the dining room or living room.

Any other computers, smart phones, iPads, etc. that have internet access need to be password protected. You need to make sure you log off or lock them each time you leave those devices.

I wouldn't tell him the WiFi password so he can't use an outside wireless device without you knowing it.

I would tell him that unless he proves to you that you can trust him, he'll have to wait until he is an adult (18) to play video games.

If he goes over to someone else's house, he is likely to have access to video games. I wouldn't allow that for a long time, but eventually, after some trust is built up, I would use that as a way to slowly reintroduce him to video games. Let him go over for a couple of hours and then pick up him. Talk to him about it.

We were helped by reading the John Rosemond books like this one: ''The Well-Behaved Child: Discipline That Really Works!'' -parent of twins

I would get rid of the video games entirely, much the same way you might get rid of all alcohol with someone who is addicted to a substance. You mention he may need to find a way to self soothe/regulate...has he tried other means to accomplish that? It could even involve a screen (watching a movie, for example) but much less addictive than video games. As a psychologist and the mother of two boys who like video games, I understand your concern. Other ways to self soothe might be reading, some physical activity, guided imagery for kids (there are good cds out there). Also, is this taking the place of other activities he enjoys? Sports, friendships etc? Feel free to email me privately if you like.

I would rely as much as possible on systems that automate control of computer access. There are a number of inexpensive ($30) programs you can download that will limit your son's access to his computer. We use Kidswatch. We have a max number of hours per week, and then certain windows when that time can be used. Our teen gets 10 hours/week to use as he likes. But the computer turns off at 10 p.m. There are similar parental controls on the xbox. The arguments about bedtime/amount of time spent disappeared when we did this. It relieved so much stress. I would also keep changing your passwords on your phones and other devices. Once you have everything on lock down, you can make decisions about how much time to allow.

Obsession with Video Games in 6-year-old

Sept 2006

Our 6-year old son's passion for video games runs deep, and his interest in most all other activities has diminished. He used to look forward to play dates, going to the park, etc. Now, when given a choice, he prefers to go to his 10-y/o cousin's house and play video games. He has rec'd an older, obsolete game console (not kept at our home), and an older Game Boy handheld as hand-me-downs. He also likes playing video games on the computer.

Anything short of a newer game console from Santa this Xmas will be a huge disappointment to him. While we don't want to completely deprive him of playing video games, we also don't want him to grow up into some slacker who spends all his waking moments engaged in this activity at the expense of relationships, school, physical fitness, etc.

Any advice on how to effectively develop his interest in other activities and maintain a balance between those activities and his desire to play video games. Thank you for any input

You need to set a time limit on his video games. Also, he shouldn't be allowed to play unless everything else he needs to do is done, including homework, quiet reading time, chores, etc. (If he doesn't have chores, you should give him some.) Something else that works for some families is making kids earn all of their screen time, that includes television, dvds, computers, and video games. They start with zero minutes and earn minutes of screen time based on good behavior, following through with responsibilites, and so on. They can lose time for infractions too. I have friends that have used this to good effect, but it is a little too structured for me.

My son was quite obsessed for a while about 3 years ago. I just severely limited all of his screen time. I leveled with him about my reasons without being angry at him. I told him that it is my duty to raise him as a well-rounded kid and that playing video games all the time is bad for him, just like eating cake and cookies for every meal might taste good but in reality would be very bad for him. He moaned and groaned at first, but it worked. As he played less, he though about it less, and eventually got to the point where he only plays a couple of times a week.

You should enroll him in some activities, be it sports, drama, art. Just choose something that a friend is doing, to get him going. Even short-term city-rec type programs will get him out and his mind off the games.

The main thing is that you are firm and resolved. Once my kids figured out that nothing will change my mind on these kinds of issues, they stopped fighting me on them. Or, they learned to come up with really good compromises, which is a good skill Fight the Good Fight!

It is up to you the parents to set limits. For example, he can play one hour a day, or he can go to his cousins' house 1 x week. Whatever you and his pediatrician think is reasonable. On the other days, he doesn't get to choose between video games and another activity. He gets to choose between other activities. So he pitches a fit or is disappointed, he has to get into some other activities. If you and your spouse are too busy to engage him maybe it would help to bring a slightly older boy over to play (supervised) with other types of games. Maybe have a family board game championship. Also set a good example, are you and your spouse active or watching tv in your down time? I would love if you post a follow up in a month or two!! Ready to Unplug?

if it was my son (and it may well be in a few years) I'd take a two prong approach introduce new activities maybe something physical but not competitive. And severely curtail or eliminate the video games for a long time. video games can be addictive to kids and adults alike. Whem my husband noticed his work and life were suffering as a result of playing SimCity or something like that, he deleted the game from his computer. He was an adult at the time, children can't be expected to display that kind of restraint or judgement good luck