Can video game playing become an addiction?

I think so. I have three children, 2 boys and a girl. The two boys, especially, can play for hours on end if I don’t intervene. I wondered if I was the only parent with concerns, apparently not.
According to some studies, the excitement of video games causes the brain to release an addictive chemical. Some countries, like South Korea, China, the Netherlands and the United States, have responded to the concern of video game addiction by opening treatment centers.
What makes these games so addictive? Media literacy specialist, 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.” Playing video games becomes a problem when it is “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.”
Dr. Brody, head of the media committee at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, says that addiction to computer games can be caused by psychological problems such as antisocial personality disorder, depression, and phobias such as social phobia. He believes that many addicts want a way to escape reality and then find that they can create a whole new persona on an online game and live their life through their new online personality. Through this they can start to like fantasy life more than reality due to newfound friends and power, and therefore, refuse to be drawn away from it.
Dr. Karen Pierce, a psychiatrist at a children’s hospital in Seattle, treats at least two children a week who play computer and video games excessively, and “treats it like any addiction.”
Not all professionals believe video game playing is bad for kids. Professor of Computer Science, Maria Klavee feels video games, if not too violent, can “offer some real opportunities for puzzle solving, strategic and critical thinking”. Klavee 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.”
Research in treatment is still in the preliminary stages. As with other addictions or dependencies, it is believed the most effective treatments are a combination of psychopharmacology, psychotherapy and twelve-step programs.
In our household, it is a constant battle for me as a parent to get my two sons away from the video games. As a result, I refuse to buy the new systems on the market now. They are playing older systems, such as Nintendo 64 and Game Cube. My children weren’t allowed to buy new video games with their Christmas money as well. I thought they would eventually tire of playing the old video games and just quit. It hasn’t happened yet.





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