I am 50 years old and I have a teenaged son. He has always loved video games, but lately he does nothing else but play them. Every time I try to talk to him, he tells me that I do not understand him, that as long as he is forced to be locked up at home due to the pandemic, it is the only way to communicate with his friends, with whom he plays the games online, and that as long as he does his chores and schoolwork I should not interfere in how he spends his free time. The truth is that he does very well in school, his grades are excellent. However, I am very worried, because this year he will take his college entrance exams, and I do not see him trying as hard as he should. He plays more than he studies. I would like to ask two things: How do I know if he is addicted to video games; and do you think it would be effective to cut off his internet access? Many times I think about doing it, but I am afraid that it will cause an even greater rupture in our relationship. Also it should be noted that I am raising him alone.
The phenomenon of the attachment of children and adolescents to electronic screens is, unfortunately, common nowadays. Children from a very young age come into contact with the internet and video games which are gradually becoming an integral part of their daily lives.
Many times we parents worry too much about this situation without thinking that like anything else, playing video games has two sides.
Electronic games train attention and memory, cultivate strategic ability, imagination, and problem-solving ability. They especially help children with lack of self-esteem to boost confidence in their abilities, while many experts claim that it is a means of expressing energy and socializing. Through online games, children talk to their peers, and they feel that they belong to a wider group where they are accepted. Therefore, in times of pandemic when our children are locked in the house, communication with peers with the help of electronic media and games is important.
But how do we know if our child is addicted to electronic games?
A child may be addicted to gaming when it is difficult to control it and when the desire to play prevails over other daily activities. For example, it may be that a child is addicted to video games when his or her school performance drops, when he or she prefers to stay indoors and play instead of meeting friends or engaging in activities outside the home, or when using video games as a medium to deal with the problems of his life.
Also, children who are addicted to electronic games may constantly talk about them, play for hours, and become aggressive when someone interrupts them. Many times they have physical problems such as headaches or red eyes and their daily needs such as eating and sleeping do not follow a fixed schedule.
From what you write to me, you have a son who is a very good student, which means that he is responsible and consistent in his obligations. Although many parents are concerned about seeing their children spend hours playing video games with their friends, we need to understand how limited their opportunities currently are for hanging out and spending time with peers. Many children do not even go to school, they are at home remote learning and unfortunately the only way ‘out’ is to be with their peers online. So check your son's school performance, talk to his teachers, ask how he appears in the classroom, if he is tired, if he participates, if he shows interest. This way you will better understand if there is cause for concern.
However, if you notice any worrying signs in your son, such as those mentioned above, contact a video game addiction specialist right away.
In any case, talk to him, express your concerns honestly, calmly, and lovingly in a way that you do not blame him or pressure him. It is better to say to him "I am worried when I see you for many hours absorbed in the game and I would like to discuss it" than "what are you doing? You will never get into university like that,” or “you will never accomplish anything in life.” When people are criticized, everyone distances themselves, cuts off communication, or becomes aggressive.
I do not think it would be appropriate to cut off the internet for a young man who is old enough to take a college exam. This act shows authoritarianism a lack of trust and probably only negative consequences would result.
Stavroula Tsoutsa is a Certified Holistic Professional and Life Coach, Certified Heartmath Coach/Mentor, and Certified Points of You practitioner.