Video Game Addiction in Teens and Pre-Teens

Studies show that the excitement of video games makes playing them addictive. Parents of preteens and teens hardly find the realities of video game addiction surprising.

Ask any preteen or teen how they love to spend their spare time, and chances are you’ll get an earful about video games. But why do they love them so? Is video game addiction real? According to some studies it would appear that the excitement of video games causes the brain to release a chemical that is, in essence, addictive. For any parent who has seen the fervor by which some kids play video games, this news is no surprise. What makes video games so addictive?

Media literacy specialist and UBC professor, Dr. Charles Ungerleider explains that “they’re very compelling with increasing complexity, so a child becomes more facile, yet wants to know more and apply new skills.” While wanting to improve their game isn’t a problem in itself, it becomes one if video games are “taking a youngster away too much from other activities,” says Ungerleider. “Then the parent has to intervene and limit the amount of time the youngster spends with the video game.”

Professor of Computer Science, Maria Klawe feels video games, if not too violent, can “offer some real opportunities for puzzle solving, strategic and critical thinking”. But she adds that it’s important that video and computer games are played in moderation. Klawe says parents should “provide a selection of activities, not just the ones that have the most action or are addictive. Choose some that involve problem solving or good story lines. Also aim for a balance in your child’s life. Sports are important, reading’s important. Just think of computer games as one more component in a child’s exploration of what’s out there in society.”

As for video game addiction? Ungerleider believes that “a parent can prevent youngsters from becoming addicted to too much TV or too many video games by establishing a pattern of selective viewing or by using video game material early in a child’s life so that by the time a youngster gets to be an adolescent and there’s very little surveillance or control, it’s less likely to occur.” Finally, Ungerleider remind parents that “if a youngster becomes addicted to video games it can be a problem and the parent does need to intervene and provide attractive alternatives.”


Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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