Monday, November 29, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
A question that I often get is how young should my children start to use the Internet. Or, how young should my child be before he or she should start gaming online? Mainly, this is due to the violent content contained in many games that are available. Parents are increasingly worried about how these games impact childhood development. One consistent factor in developing compulsive or addictive habits related to gaming addiction among children is that the younger they start online makes them more at risk to develop an addiction to online gaming. For example, a recent client of mine who was already 21 started gaming by age 12. In his younger days, Dan was drawn to Gameboy, Sony Play Station, and Nintendo with his friends, and gradually progressed to X-Box. He was able to manage how much time he spent gaming until he went on X-Box live. “It was like a whole other world opened up to me,” he explains. Suddenly, he was able to interact with fellow players inside of sit beside friends while playing the game.
Gaming had already become a large part of his personal identity, and despite having Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) he was able to sit in front of the computer for hours. His parents became concerned when his gaming habit turned into an obsession. “He went into a trance-like state every time he went online but unlike other hobbies, he never lost interest in this,” his mother explained. “When he quit the track team, which he loved, we knew he had a serious problem and the game took over his entire life.”
What tends to happen is that parents initially see gaming as a healthy recreational activity among children but then it becomes more apparent that there is a problem as the child gets older. Say when the child goes to college and fails freshman year due to gaming. Say the child is put on probation or academically is expelled from college and loses a scholarship only to move back in with the parents. This is usually when parents see the ramifications of gaming in full bloom. They see how a son or daughter has let other important areas of life go by the wayside just to spend time gaming. One mother said that her son had three computer screens in front of me going from one game to the next. He was 22, kicked out of college, and living in her basement. She had no idea where to turn as he had no other goal except to play the games.
In general, there is not an ideal age to introduce online gaming to children. It is more important that clear time limits are used from the very beginning. This is important! Otherwise, without time limits, a child can play games for hours. With time limits, children then should be encouraged to engage in other offline activities - social clubs at school, learning to play a sport, learning to play an instrument, spending time with family, whatever the activities, these should be social and engaging for the child. The fear is if children start gaming so young, they will not to engage in social activities at school or at home, and the result is that gaming will always be their only focus.
Monday, November 01, 2010
A large part of gaming is about making social relationships. Gamers often make friends with other gamers and it is these friends who may even first introduce the gamer to the game. Ultimately, online gaming is a social activity. Most online games include copious amounts of chats, allowing players to interact with each other in the guise of the characters they represent. The social aspect is a primary factor in many game addictions. Many people are lonely, have never felt like they belonged. People get a sense of belonging in the game. In some cases, it provides the only friends they interact with. Gamers can become hooked on this social fantasy world. Why chat with player in some low-tech Internet browser when you can go destroy the undead, complete epic quests, and chat in a large graphical extravaganza? Gamers can join guilds that provide a great sense of community and accomplishment when they take out those big monsters. Gamers are trying to make their mark on the world in these games and many like this aspect. Being the person with the biggest sword or highest level is what makes them keep playing.
Gaming provides individuals with an outlet for their imaginations. Especially among adolescents and children who are academically bright and who feel under-stimulated in school, they turn to the game as a place for adventure and intellectual stimulation. Such games also lure players with complex systems of goals and achievements. They drawn into the virtual fantasy world of the game and they internalize the game as a real place and others characters are seen as real people and not fictional characters. Especially in goal-oriented games such as “EverQuest” players engage in activities to develop their characters from one level to the next and compete to find valuable in-game elements such as armor and weapons. Players can find themselves wrapped up in the game for hours as they struggle to gain one more skill or weapon. Children who have problems in school due to low stimulation then may turn to video games or online games as a way to stimulate themselves. It has become a growing trend that children with high IQs, SAT scores, grade performance in general have been most vulnerable to gaming addiction. It might be something that teachers need to screen for regarding asking more questions of children about computer use in general and gaming use specifically. If we can find ways to prevent the problem through awareness and early detection, we can better stop the problem.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
I receive so many questions about online gaming addiction. I have a new book available on Kindle 'When Gaming Becomes an Obsession: Help for Parents and their Children to Treat Online Gaming Addiction" and thought that I would take excepts from the booklet. It seems a good way to handle some of the questions I get. The next few posts will focus on risk factors associated with gaming addiction.
"Individuals who suffer from low self-esteem are at greatest risk for developing an addiction to online gaming. In one case, I worked with a 20-year-old from
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Can online gaming build social values and behavior?
The game, Urgent Evoke, is funded by the World Bank to the tune of $500,000 and launched today. It will continue for 10 weeks and features weekly challenges.
A reporter had asked me what I felt about the utility of using online gaming to promote social behaviors. I thought this was an interesting question. I think games are a great way to promote social benefits. It certain is a better way that some others and it helps gamers learn about social values. It seems like a great partnership. We live in a society that has declined in the volume of community service it provides, so games would be one way to help teach young people service values. It should not be contained to Africa but other geographic areas would benefit as well. Already, 400 people out of 3,500 is a great start, and the game just launched so only time will tell how many more sign up and how effective long range service mindedness can be encouraged through gaming. Online gaming is a great way to reach people that otherwise brick-and-mortar avenues may not. In my clinical practice, gaming behavior transfers to real life, this is part of treatment. A 16-year old might be a great leader of a popular guild online but in real life suffers from low self esteem. Treatment encourages the transfer of these skills to benefit others by using this young person's leadership skills. So, yes, skill sets learned through gaming can transfer to real life, and online learning can also transfer to real life behavior.
It would be interesting to hear from online gamers on your thoughts on the effectiveness of this?
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
While the Internet has opened the world to many in ways never imagined, new studies continue to replicate prevsiou studies that I have conducted from the 90s and reinforce that Internet overuse can become harmful.
Examples of Internet addiction include online gambling, gaming and shopping, obsession with pornography, blogs, social media and chat rooms.
The hardest part is determining how much time is too much. When you’re looking at someone who spends a great deal of time on the Internet, you’re trying to determine if they’re spending an exorbitant amount of time doing that as opposed to everyday living. If it’s causing you a problem in your life, then it’s a problem.
Internet addiction is similar to substance addictions in that many of the same symptoms are present.
If you’re more interested in spending time with the thing you’re addicted to than you are with your family and friends, then that’s a symptom. If you’re preoccupied with the thing you’re addicted to, then that’s a symptom. Those things are the same for any addiction.
Internet addiction can lead to more serious symptoms, including health problems from a lack of sun or exercise, increased senses of loneliness and depression and the loss of social skills. If left untreated, Internet addictions can increase the likelihood that the individual will get divorced or fired, or have financial, academic or sexual problems.
Internet addictions can be very serious.
Whereas treatment for substance addictions focuses on abstinence, Internet addiction treatment focuses on abstaining from the specific problem, not necessarily from the Internet itself. The reason for that is that it’s not realistic in today’s job market for an individual to never use the Internet.
A person who is an alcoholic should never drink again. The goal (of Internet addiction treatment) is to never engage in the problematic aspect of the Internet. If your addiction is centered around social networking, then our goal for you would be to stop using Facebook or the other social networking options available.
Certain groups of people are more at risk.
Teens are more at risk because, let’s face it, they have been raised in technology their entire life.
Other at-risk groups include people who are immobile or homebound, people who lack social support, people who suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, and people who have addictive personalities.
One of the later large-scale studies conducted on Internet addictions was completed in 2006 by Stanford University’s School of Medicine, which interviewed 2,513 adults in a nationwide telephone survey.
Researchers said 68.9 percent of respondents were regular Internet users, and one in eight displayed at least one possible sign of problematic Internet use.
The team, moreover, said:
That 13.7 percent found it hard to stay away from the Internet for several days at a time.
That 12.3 percent had seen a need to cut back on Internet use at some point.
That 8.7 percent attempted to conceal nonessential Internet use from family, friends and employers.
That 5.9 percent thought their relationships suffered as a result of excessive Internet use.
Elias Aboujaoude, the study’s lead author, said he was particularly concerned by the number of people who hid their nonessential Internet use.
“Obviously something is wrong when people go out of their way to hide their Internet activity,” he said in a news release. “We often focus on how wonderful the Internet is — how simple and efficient it can make things. But we need to consider the fact that it creates real problems for a subset of people.”
Internet usage in general has clearly increased over the past decade, with 68.7 percent of homes boasting Internet access in 2009, compared with 41.5 percent in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.