What to Do When Your Child Is Obsessed with Video Games

Does your child spend long hours playing Minecraft? Do they ignore their homework in favor of fighting for first place on Fortnite? When you go on a walk around the neighborhood, do they pull out their phone to play Pokemon GO?

Sounds like they’re a little obsessed with video games.

Since the first home video game console was invented in 1972, these digital distractions have held a special place in people’s hearts. I can understand why: video games are visually stimulating, challenging to the player’s problem-solving skills, and stress relieving. Most of all, they’re just plain fun.

Sometimes, however, a child’s love of video games can get out of hand and spiral into a full-on addiction. When this happens, they’ll ignore the important things in life (like family, school, and social connections) to spend more time in front of the screen.

If you’re wondering what to do when your child is obsessed with video games, then this info is for you. We’re going to take a look at how child video game addiction works, examine signs your child is addicted to video games, and discuss how to break teenage video game addiction.

But first, let’s talk a bit more about why kids love video games in the first place.

Why Do Kids Get Obsessed with Video Games?

Most of my childhood was spent in the early 2000s. When I wasn’t exploring the neighborhood or watching Spongebob with friends, I played video games. There were a few reasons I loved playing games: they stimulated my imagination, challenged my puzzle-solving skills, decreased my stress-levels, and were pretty fun to boot. Today’s kids enjoy video games for many of the same reasons.

Unlike me, however, today’s kids have the ability to play video games with faraway friends and family using the Internet. They can use video games to form friendships and deepen bonds with people all over the world. This gives kids the chance to have fun practicing their social skills from the comfort of the couch. Just make sure they know some online gaming safety tips before they play!

While the connection-building aspect of online gaming is definitely a positive, the ever-changing landscape of these games is anything but. Games like Fortnite and Robox are designed to keep kids playing. In fact, psychiatrists state that video games like this are “designed to be addictive.” They change their formula every few weeks, inspiring kids to regularly return and explore the new features. The more kids play, the quicker they get trapped in the web of video game addiction. 

How Does Child Video Game Addiction Work?

If your child spends more time playing video games than is healthy, their obsession may be bordering on addiction. 

Video games are colorful and exciting. When a child plays video games, the bright colors and fun gameplay inspire a rush of enjoyment. This triggers their brain to release a cascade of dopamine, the natural neurotransmitter that helps us feel pleasure.

While dopamine is a good thing, too much of it can trigger the cycle of addiction. When a child plays enough video games, their body grows accustomed to the high amounts of dopamine and starts to develop a tolerance. Because of this tolerance, the child has to play video games for longer periods of time and release more dopamine to get the same rush of enjoyment that they had before.

At this point, video games stop being fun. Rather than play for enjoyment, kids with a video game addiction play because they need it to feel good.

Signs Your Child is Addicted to Video Games

Video game addiction isn’t new, and it certainly isn’t rare. According to a CNN report’s video game addiction facts, roughly 8.5% of children who play video games in the United States are addicted. Yikes!

If you’re worried that your child is addicted to video games, keep an eye out for some of these signs your child is addicted to video games, courtesy of everyone’s favorite doctor, WebMD:

  • They think about gaming all or a lot of the time
  • They feel bad when they can’t play
  • They need to spend more and more time playing to feel good
  • They aren’t able to quit or lessen their playtime
  • They don’t want to do other things they enjoy
  • They’re having problems at work, school, or home because of gaming
  • They lie about how much time they spend playing
  • They use gaming to ease bad moods and feelings
  • They keep playing despite these problems

How to Break Teenage Video Game Addiction

Child video game addiction can be hard to break—but it isn’t impossible. With enough determination and a gentle, guiding hand, your child can take the steps necessary to address a video game addiction. Here are some ways you can help:

  • Set video game time limits. Like most addictions, removing your child’s access to video games could cause withdrawals. Rather than quitting cold turkey, help them ease off their screen time by setting time limits. Check out this article for some handy video game time limits by age.
  • Keep gadgets out of the bedroom. Your child’s bedroom should be their sanctuary. It’s a place where they can rest and relax—without video games. Make and enforce a rule that gadgets need to stay out of the bedroom. Just make sure to follow the rule yourself, as many kids learn best by example.
  • Help your child stop playing at least an hour before bedtime. Help your child take time to detox from their gaming session before they go to bed. This will give their brain a rest and encourage them to think about something other than video games as they fall asleep. It will also help them sleep better!
  • Try Troomi. If your child is addicted to mobile games like Candy Crush or Clash of Clans, try Troomi! Smartphones from Troomi Wireless help limit apps like these, while also featuring KidSmart Apps that encourage kids to develop a healthy relationship with technology. Click here to learn more.
  • Encourage them to seek out activities they enjoy. Help your child find hobbies outside of gaming to explore. Take them on a hike, whisk them into the kitchen, or sign them up for a sports team. Having activities outside the digital realm will get them excited about real life—and get their mind off video games.
  • Look into video game addiction treatment. Sometimes, a parent can only help so much. In more serious cases of video game addiction, you may need to help your child find professional video game addiction treatment.

Help Your Kids Enjoy Life Sans Screen

Video games are one of the most fascinating inventions of the modern era. They’re fun, imaginative, and a great way to wind-down after a stressful day. However, playing too many games can cause kids to form an unhealthy relationship with technology. In severe cases, kids could even develop child video game addiction.

If your child is obsessed with video games, remind them to take time for things they enjoy outside the digital realm. Take them to the library to find a good book, go on a bike ride around the neighborhood, or take an evening hike and stare at the stars. They’ll get their eyes off the screen and spend some quality time with someone they love—sounds like a win-win to me.