Video Games & Your Kids

Hilarie Cash, PhD and Kim McDaniel, MA

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Parental Assessment

Are you concerned about your child's gaming habits? Go through the following checklist and answer the questions honestly. The list of symptoms is the same, but we have included cues that will help you with your responses.

  Unable to predict the amount of time spent on gaming
Older children and teens should be able to give you an estimate of how much time they will spend on a game before they start.
  Failed attempts to control personal gaming behavior for an extended period of time
Frequent power struggles over gaming; not able to stop at a predetermined time.
  Having a sense of euphoria (an exaggerated sense of well-being) while playing
Ask: How do you feel when you are in the game?
  Craving more gaming
How often does he or she talk about the game or ask to play. Is it the first thing that he is drawn to upon arriving home? Is it the last thing she wants to do at the end of her day?
  Neglecting family and friends
Would he prefer to play the game instead of playing with others? Does she opt out of family events? Are friends calling less often? Are there fewer invitations for sleepovers or events?
  Feeling restless, irritable, and discontented when not gaming
Is he unhappy when he's not gaming? Is there an increase in anger and fighting when he is unplugged?
  Lying to family or authority figures about gaming behavior
There are software programs that will track the amount of time spent on gaming. Have you ever had to lock up the keyboard, disconnect the modem, or hide the mouse because you don't trust your child?
  Problems with school or job performance as a result of time spent gaming
A decline of school grades after the introduction of a new game; missing her first class of the day or often tardy at school? Are there power struggles around homework? Has he been unwilling to seek a part-time job? Has she been fired for poor attendance?
  Having guilt, shame, anxiety, or depression as a result of time spent on gaming
Would your child feel proud to talk to parents or teachers about his gaming habits?
  Changing sleep patterns
Gaming all night and sleeping the day away wreaks havoc with the body's natural rhythms and establishes patterns that are difficult to reverse.
  Developing health issues such as carpel tunnel syndrome, eye strain, weight change, and backaches
Weight gain or loss of ten to fifteen pounds or more; a need to change the prescription strength for eyeglasses or contact lenses; increased difficulty with physically demanding activities.
  Denying, rationalizing, and minimizing the adverse consequences of gaming
"I don't have a problem," "My friends play a lot more than I do," "You're too old to understand," "I can stop any time," "It's no big deal," "I have lots of friends on-line, so it's not like I'm spending time alone."
  Withdrawing from real-life hobbies and social interactions
Quitting the team; turning down opportunities to participate in hobbies that would have appealed to him before he started gaming.
  Obsessing about romantic/sexual acting out through gaming
When not gaming, does she talk incessantly about it? Has she ever dreamed about being in the game? Does she draw game characters? Spend hours doing research in order to improve her on-line character?
  Creating an enhanced persona to find Cyber love or Cyber sex
What type of on-line characters does he choose to represent himself? Observe his chat and interactions with the other characters. Is he a flirt? Does he create a character to get closer to girls?

Evaluating Your Child's Score

0 - 2: Gaming is not a problem for your child. You encourage him to keep it light, keep it fun. You may have already established fair rules and boundaries for gaming. Stay involved. Be willing to enforce your rules and help your child maintain a healthy balance.
3 - 4: Gaming is becoming problematic for your child. It is time to review your house rules regarding gaming and establish healthier boundaries. You may be afraid to set more stringent limits but if you do not change your child's habits now, you could very easily find him addicted to gaming. If that occurs, it will be that much more difficult to teach him how to gain control over his habit. Self-regulation is no longer an option.
5 or more: Gaming has become addictive for your child. The establishment of real-world connections has given way to video game personas. And every day that goes by increases the potential damage for children and teens. These real-world connections are essential for healthy psychosocial development. It's time to get help. Family members are noticing what the child fails to see -- that he is missing out on significant parts of real life. Your child needs your help.
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