Video games are now officially considered a “public health concern.”
Video gaming for adolescents can become just like a drug addiction.
They lack control over their impulse to play, they prioritize gaming over everything else in their life and they continue gaming in spite of negative consequences.
Dr. Nihit Gupta, psychiatrist at OVMC and the Robt. C. Byrd Adolescent Behavioral Health Center, says he sees more boys than girls with this disorder, and more teens than younger children.
“We used to have Mario and a few other games, which were very benign games, very low detail,” explained Dr. Gupta. “But you see these very realistic games talking about a lot of negative stuff going on in the community. If you review the contents of things like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, you’d be disturbed to listen.”
He says children become numb to the violence, or even worse, they start imitating it.
He said he has one patient who was gaming 16 hours a day.
He said suicide, homicide, sexual aggression and drug use are common themes played out in these games.
He recommends, first of all, that pre-schoolers should have no video game time at all.
For older children and adolescents, he recommends limiting screen time to 60 minutes a day, and only after they have done their homework and their household chores.
He says the correlation is clear–the less gaming time, the better the grades.
He urges parents to stick to the 60-minute limit.
“Screen time in itself has a lot of health considerations,” Dr. Gupta noted. “And even the homework being done at school on computers qualifies as screen time. So all in all, screen time including video games or YouTube should be under 60 minutes, max 90 minutes a day.”
He says parents need to comply firmly with the game’s ESRB rating.
For instance, he says no one under age 17 should play Call of Duty and no one under 13 should play Fortnight.
He also says all gaming must take place in the public areas of the house, not in the child’s bedroom, and with a parent or guardian there either watching or playing along.
Imposing these rules from the beginning is the best route.
Imposing them suddenly on a gaming-addicted teen will almost certainly prompt some pushback.
He says in one case, a teen became oppositional and punched a hole in the wall.
“It is very similar to an intervention with someobdy who is addicted to drugs,” he said. “There’s a lot of violence, there’s a lot of aggressive behavior, especially with boys. And what the family needs is a lot of support around, a lot of people who can come together and help in a situation of crisis.”
He says it takes weeks and months to overcome this addiction and it can always come back.
He says in parenting, a warm but firm approach always has the best outcome.
He described the way to approach it.
“I do love you, but these things are not OK.”
He said to seek professional help if the problem continues.