Real Talk     Hot Topics     Teen Health    

Real Talk: Dealing with video game addiction



A mom's perspective

real talk, parents of teens, dealing with video game addiction

Today's teens are growing to adulthood in a world vastly different than ever before. Many issues modern adolescents face didn't even exist when I was their age.

Video games today are almost unrecognizable when compared to the ones I played as a kid. I grew up playing ColecoVision, Atari and Nintendo 64. Today's game consoles make those three systems seem primitive in comparison.

Setting rules and limits
Approximately 88% of American children play video games. Yet many of their parents (including myself) grew up in a pre-internet world. Having no frame of reference to base our rules upon, it can be tough to decide what they should be.

RELATED: Screen-savvy tips for your family

These days, my rules and limits are derived from two sources: my husband's input and my own gut feeling. And to date, that has worked out quite well.

As a parent and a teacher, I notice that young kids are more likely to have “screen time” rules set for them than older kids and teens. For me, regarding my almost 13-year-old, I’ll admit this is also true, but only to a point. While she does have less rules and more freedom with the internet and her devices than her little sister does, rules and limits still exist. In addition, my oldest daughter’s internet usage and social media accounts are also closely monitored.

Negative effects of gaming
Local teacher Nicole Scalzo of Poughkeepsie has seen the negative effects gaming can have on young people firsthand. "Students have told me that their classmates swear at them while playing Fortnite," she says. "Friends end up not speaking to one another due to online disputes from the night before."

Professor Dr. Brian Primack warns parents that allowing kids to play video games does come with risks. He recommends:

Limiting or disallowing violent games. Violent video games are currently limited for my 12-year-old, and completely disallowed for my 4-year-old. Primack claims violent role-playing can increase the likelihood that a child will display aggressive behaviors to resolve conflicts. Also, developmentally, a 12-year-old can separate fantasy from reality while a 4-year-old cannot. Thus, the rules for each of my children should be different.

Too much gaming can lead to isolation. While Primack believes in-game collaboration renders the isolation issue less problematic, I disagree. I want my children playing with tangible objects and real people, and not solely communicating online.

Currently, my daughters do not have set limits on screen time. My reason for this is that I prefer they learn to self-regulate. However, their usage is closely monitored. If I feel they are spending too much time on devices, warnings are given. If nothing changes, their devices get locked away for a time.

I call this "detox."

RELATED: 17 screen-free activities

How parents can help
If you suspect your child has a gaming addiction, seeking out professional help is the best possible first step. At home, however, you can also help your child.

Some ways include:

·        Removing all electronic devices from view. When my kids lose their devices, at first, they act like the world is ending. Yet soon enough, miraculously, they adjust and find other things to do. Placing games and devices out of sight and out of mind does help.

·        Stay off your devices when around them. If you unplug and live without a screen, this shows your kids that they can do the same thing and still be OK.

·        Spend time with your child. Scheduling quality time with the afflicted child shows them how much you care. This also helps reinforce the notion that you are not taking away their devices and games out of spite, but because you love them.

·        Enroll them in extracurriculars. Both of my daughters play sports, take dance, and play instruments. This keeps them busy, active, engaged, and bonus: it takes their mind off of screens for a while!

Jill Valentino is a wife, mom of two, elementary educator, and lifelong resident of the Hudson Valley. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Medium @doublesmom77.




More Real Talk


  • Weeklong FAIR Film Festival 2022

    The Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR) Hosts a Film Screening Plus Q&A

    The Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR) will kick off the FAIR Film Festival 2022 with an in-person screening of the documentary film I Am A Victor plus a selection of short films on Sunday, June 12 at 1:00pm EDT at Caveat on the lower east side in Manhattan. read more »
  • Resources for LGBTQ youth

    Positive online places for your child

    LGBTQ youth are more likely to be bullied and harm themselves because of it. read more »
  • How to prevent cyberbullying with technology

    Who is at risk and what you can do

    Cyberbullying is becoming more prevalent among children and teens, as young people now spend more time on phones, computers and digital devices. About 6 in 10 teens have been bullied or harassed online, according to Pew Research Center. read more »
  • Teenage Period Cramps

    How much pain alerts to medical conditions?

    More often than not prevailing period stigma holds adolescents back from expressing concerns about severe menstrual pains. Experts say that debilitating cramps are not normal and might be caused by underlying medical problems like endometriosis. read more »
  • Mother Shares Her Journey with Heroin-Addicted Daughter

    Read the gripping new book about this family

    September is National Recovery Month and one mom has shared her journey with her daughter struggling with addiction. read more »
  • Learn How to Help Your Struggling Adolescents Navigate Change and Overcome Anxiety

    Parenting expert Erica Komisar has a new book that can assist you

    Adolescence is a notoriously complicated time for kids as well as their parents. Plus, the epidemic of mental health disorders in young people has made parenting today even more challenging. But it’s not too late. Parents of adolescents can still have a profound impact on the health and well-being of their children. read more »
  • How to help high-achieving students manage stress

    Tips and insight for parents

    School administrators at Howard County Public Schools (HCPS) in Maryland were surprised to learn that high-achieving students wanted to get rid of class rank—a measure of student success that weighs higher-level classes differently when calculating grade point average. The class ranking system created an unnecessary burden, students said, and discouraged them from taking the classes they really wanted. read more »
  • Tips to keep your teen active in lockdown

    Physical activity is more crucial than ever

    Wintertime isolation during Covid makes physical activity even more of a challenge, but it’s important for everyone, especially teens, to get the blood flowing, here are some helpful tips. read more »
  • Best uses of downtime for teens

    Does your teen feel better after downtime or worse?

    All downtime is not created equal. Some is more restorative, some not so much. Learn how you can help your teen rest well. read more »
  • Teen attitude blues

    Why is my teen depressed and what can I do about it?

    The teen years can be distinctly difficult for a variety of reasons, particularly if your teen has a bad attitude. Here are some ways you can better understand and help your teen. read more »