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Is your child addicted to video games? What to look for, and how you can help

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MILWAUKEE -- Is your child addicted to video games? According to research, nearly one in 10 young gamers is.

Ryan Sipes

Ryan Sipes

Ryan Sipes is in his 20s and still likes to play the occasional video game -- but he limits himself -- which is something he didn't used to do.

"It's difficult with video games because it's not like alcoholism where you get drunk one night and ram into a mailbox or another car or heaven forbid hit somebody and then the light flashes on that 'oh my God, I'm an alcoholic,'" Sipes said.

When Sipes was in high school, he admits he probably played too many video games for too long.

Video games

"With games, you get these little micro-achievements -- like 'hey, you did good' and that's positive reinforcement.It keeps you coming back to play more because you're like 'maybe I'm not achieving all that much in my day-to-day life, but in these games I feel like I'm making these achievements,'" Sipes said.

Sipes liked role-playing games, like World of Warcraft. He says those types of games are the most time consuming because you're participating in a story with other people.

Video games

Sipes says much like a good book, the game can be difficult to put down.

"In some ways, that can actually add to the addiction, if you are so inclined, because you are now sharing it with everybody. You are in sort of a support group of sorts with people who are obsessed with the game," Dr. Wes Crenshaw said.

So how do you know whether your child has a problem?

There's no cut and dry answer, but almost everyone agrees that gaming crosses the line when it starts to impact other areas of a person's life.

For example, Sipes school work was suffering.

His family stepped in to help.

Video games

"For me, it's a good story because my family is very supportive and involved so they would never let me fall into a situation where I might just hole up and not talk to anybody and not do anything," Sipes said.

Sipes says he has friends who never moved on from video games, and their lives are testimony to that.

"There's two issues. One is the amount of time the child is playing, and the other is the content they're being exposed to," Dr. Rochelle Harris said.

Video games

Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest two hours per day as the max that a child or teenager should spend in front of a screen.

"There's an impact on physical health. There's been an association with lower academic performance. There's has even been some research that's looked at children acquiring attention problems,"

While video games can also be educational, entertaining and even valuable, moderation is where parents come in.

Experts say parents need to regulate game usage, content and time -- a tough job, but one experts say will pay off in the end.

3 comments

  • John

    Well written but anything in excess can be a problem. An even more dangerous hobby is running for several reasons. 1. it takes you away from your family not even being by leaving the house to go run. 2. You get a sense of achievement by how far or long you can run each time. You also feel more accomplished by making what you believe that is your body looking better. 3. Also by running after a certain period of time you get whats called a “runners high”. This is what can also fuel the addiction.

  • Laura

    The 2 hour a day recommendation of screen time for kids is a joke most of these kids spend more time than that on screens at school now especially since they keep pushing the self paced learning programs. Does know one see these self paced learning programs = more kids jammed in a room with laptops and i-pads and less teachers. It’s a mass plan to cut down on school costs.

  • Vygun

    Except that addictions happen due to personality issues and chemical reactions inside the brain, at best. If someone’s addicted to video games, they’d have found something to get addicted to (like drugs). In itself, having an addiction to video games is the least harmful addiction in human history; it certainly is THE CHEAPEST.

    I’m 32 and I play even more video games than I did was growing up. I’m also a game developer.

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