Aside from sports, technology has become the most popular pastime for teenagers most notably, video gaming.  Video games have become increasingly popular in adolescents, particularly teenage boys and while they can be a fun and interactive hobby, when do they become a problem?  Video game addiction is more common than you might think, a study from researchers at Iowa State University and the National Institute on Media and the Family found that roughly 1 in every 10 video game players showed signs of addictive behavior.  Today we will explore the pros and cons of playing video games, signs and effects of video game addictions, and when video gaming might become a problem.   

Signs of Technology or Video Game Addiction

Since video games first started gaining popularity in the 1970s, they have seen a surge in demand.  Nearly every teenage boy asks for the new PlayStation for Christmas at some point in his life, and there’s a reason for this.  When you achieve your goal in a video game it produces a similar reaction in your brain as to when you achieve a goal in real life.  Video games create a constant state of hyperarousal which can trigger the release of dopamine, the commonly known “feel-good hormone” and your brain craves that dopamine once it’s gone.  So exactly how much gaming is too much?  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to about 2 hours per day to promote productivity and avoid affected behavior due to excessive video gaming.  Experts say that gaming should exceed 5 hours per week and is surely problematic if you are reaching 50 or more hours per week.  If you’re still unsure rather your teen’s video gaming is problematic or not, here are a few signs and symptoms to look for:

  • Constantly thinking or talking about gaming
  • Not wanting to do other things they used to like (ie. sports or spending time with friends)
  • Failed attempts to quit or play less
  • Poor work or school performance (often due to putting gaming ahead of responsibilities)
  • Tiredness, headaches, or hand pain from too much screen time
  • Lying about how often they play and/or playing video games in secret   

Effects of Video Game Addiction

So, you may be wondering, what happens if my teen is addicted to video games?  The good news is serious video game addictions are not very common and typically do not become problematic.  Surprisingly, when done in moderation video games can actually help to improve problem-solving skills, imagination, and social connections.  However, many of the negative effects of video games come from excessive usage.  Some of the negative effects of excessive video game playing include:

  • Dopamine addiction (due to hyperactivity in the brain) 
  • Reduction in motivation 
  • Emotional suppression 
  • Poor mental health 
  • Relationship issues
  • Social disconnection
  • Escapism and getting “stuck” in life
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Poor academic or professional performance    

How to Help Gaming Addictions      

If you believe that your teen may have a video game addiction, and it may be affecting their academic or personal life it might be time to get help.  Ways to prevent or help control video game addictions include:

  • Setting and sticking to time limits for screen time
  • Keep gadgets out of the bedroom to avoid playing at night
  • Engage in other hobbies during the day, including exercise, to reduce the health risks of sitting and playing for long stretches of time

Therapy may also be a great way to help teens manage video game addictions.  Most notably, cognitive behavioral therapy has shown great results for the treatment of video game addictions with 69.4% of patients showing positive results to the therapy.  Cognitive behavioral therapy works by focusing on behavior change, replacing thoughts about gaming to help change that behavior.  This form of therapy may be extremely helpful for those with more severe gaming addictions.        

Wilderness Therapy for Technology Addiction 

If you have tried to treat your teen’s video game addiction and it has proven unsuccessful, it may be time to try something new.  BlueFire is a wilderness therapy program designed for creating behavior change in adolescents.  Wilderness therapy is an adventure-based treatment modality for behavior modification and self-improvement.  This program immerses its students into our natural environment, teaching healthy coping mechanisms and holistic methods for healing.  Wilderness therapy may be particularly helpful for those who struggle with excessive use of technology or video games, as it completely removes you from that stimuli.  Clients learn healthy coping mechanisms, how to recognize and correct problematic behaviors, and learn new life skills. 

BlueFire Can Help

If you believe wilderness therapy may be helpful to your teen, contact us today at (844) 413-1999.  

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