"I just don't understand it." My Uncle shakes his head in despair, at a loss on what to do. My cousin, James, has been exhibiting signs of video game addiction. According to the World Health Organization, people (not just children and teens) have an addiction to video games when they experience a loss of interest in activities not related to gaming and spend most of their day playing video games.
Like most video game addicts, James's grades have fallen dramatically since he spends most of his time playing video games instead of doing homework. A 2016 University of Oxford study likened video game addiction to gambling addictions, claiming people with either of these addictions experience withdrawal symptoms if they don't continue to play.
Jimmy Kimmel, a late night talk show host, recently poked fun at young video game addicts by challenging their parents to turn off the T.V. while their children were playing Fortnite. Nearly all of the children screamed in frustration, some of them even becoming violent when their parents turned off the T.V. Were their reactions funny? Yes. Unfortunately for many parents, including my Uncle, this comedy is rooted in a harsh reality.
Parents across the country are having trouble getting their video game loving children to come to dinner, go outside, and do their homework. Their children, meanwhile, are perfectly content and see nothing wrong with playing their video games (particularly Fortnite) for ten hours or more a day.
Why does Fortnite hold such a loving place in gamer's hearts? For starters, it's free to play. However, the game also sells weapons and other add-ons. All you need is a credit card. Fortnite has also wormed its way into our national pop culture, its famous dances being performed by children and adults everywhere.
Many treatment centers across the country have online gaming addiction treatment programs to help parents and children combat this national crisis. Treatment often includes an electronic detox—a process that bans children from their electronic devices. Children are then encouraged to participate in other activities—whether it be socializing with their peers or playing outside. Cognitive behavioral therapy, a treatment option used to help someone identify a problem and figure out ways to combat it, is also being used by psychologists and therapists to help combat video game addiction. These treatment options have helped children and teens learn to set time limits on their electronic devices—creating a balance in their lives that was not present before.
Unfortunately, video game addiction treatment is not covered by many insurance providers. This is due to the fact that the American Psychiatric Association has not labelled video game addiction as an official disorder in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, or DSM. The DSM is what insurance companies use to help determine which disorder treatments are covered by insurance.
While video game addictions aren't yet covered by insurance, I am hopeful that as the problem worsens, the American Psychiatric Association will take notice and update their DSM to include video game disorders. In the meantime, psychologists say that parents can help solve the problem by detoxing their children and teens from video games. They can do this by replacing video games with other non-electronic based activities, a process similar to what treatment centers do. According to a former video game addict, the key is to keep the child or teen busy so boredom isn't an option. If the child or teen is bored, the former video game addict warns, they will go straight back to playing video games.