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What to do when son is addicted to video games?

"I am a father of a three children (21, 19, 14). The last one, who is 14, is video addicted. He want to play games 4 hours in the day. Now he has a new phone and he plays with this. He generally goes very late to bed (about midnight) and is studying only 2 hours a day. In the classroom he sleeps sometimes. But he says, that he has autonomy and he knows when to study. Some times is very angry and takes a stick or knife if he doesn't want to have questions...So we have fear about him. In the school get no to good. He doesn't have any other activity. He made atletics, but now he makes nothing, only want plays games..."

Asked by Carlo via email.  
In Topics: Children and video games, Teen issues, Discipline and behavior challenges
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Boys Town National Hotline
Feb 18, 2010
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What the Expert Says:

Thanks for writing to www.education.com with your parenting question. Your situation sounds very frustrating. Sometimes it can be hard to know how to parent a child that has begun to act as if he is in charge. From what you have written, it sounds as if your son has been setting his own rules without consequence for some time.

Your first priority should be to reestablish boundaries with your son. Help him to understand that you are the adult and thus will be the one to set the rules and consequences. Please understand that this will not be an easy transition for your son. He is used to calling the shots. To have that end without warning would be difficult to accept. Instead, talk with him about the need to have a meeting. Make this "meeting" official by setting a time and place - perhaps a neighborhood ice cream or coffee shop early in the evening or during the day on a weekend. You mentioned that your son is prone to acting out aggressively when he "doesn't want to have questions". A public location might help you to keep the tone of the meeting more cooperative and less confrontational. Talk with your son about setting up some rules and a daily schedule.

It is important to prepare for the meeting by coming up with a schedule you can live with before the meeting. You need to present yourself as an authority figure, making it clear that if your son does not adhere to the rules there will be consequences. It will be very important to get his input of rules and consequences however you will have final decision making power.


In addition to consequences if he doesn't comply, you might want to establish some sort of motivator for your son to increase the likelihood that he will obey. For instance, you might want to set a limit of the time he will be allowed to play video games if he completes his study time and chores.


Clearly define the rules and consequences for your son so that he will have a greater chance at success. Children are much more likely to do well if they know what their parents expect.  Along with rules for video game and phone use, establish an appropriate bedtime and be sure to prepare a list of responsibilities/chores around the house that he must complete each day.

It will also be very important to continue to develop your relationship with your son.  Spend time each day interacting with him in meaningful ways.  Establish rituals such as sharing a bagel at breakfast, taking a walk together after you return from work each day or reading the paper or a novel at the kitchen table while he completes his homework.  Listen to what he has to say, reflect back what you are hearing to indicate that you are really hearing him.  

Shifting gears can be really hard for a family that has developed an unhealthy balance. It might really help you to engage the services of a professional from your community such as a family counselor or therapist. To obtain information on referrals in your local area don't hesitate to contact the Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000.

Parenting is really hard work. If you feel that you could use some additional support and encouragement, please don't hesitate to contact a hot line counselor. In addition to providing local referral information, trained parenting counselors are available to help you work through tough situations. The Boys Town Hotline staff can provide you with the help you need to succeed. Counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help so do not hesitate to call at a time that is convenient for you.

Boys Town also provides a parenting website at www.parenting.org. If you are not sure about contacting the Hotline, at least check out the suggestions on our website.

Wishing you the best,

Linda, Counselor
Boys Town National Hotline
1-800-448-3000
Resources:

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Additional Answers (8)

hlevitan
hlevitan , Teacher writes:
It is unfortunate that his addiction to video games is taking a toll on his sleep.  Your son says that he knows when to study, but he should also know that staying awake in school is equally important.  It is alarming that he threatens you with a stick or a knife when he doesn't want to answer questions.  It is important that you are looking out for the safety both of yourself and your teenager.  I suggest that you see a professional who can help advise you in situations such as these.

Here are a cluster of articles on Education.com concerning video game addiction:
http://www.education.com/topic/children-video-games/

Here are some suggestions for limiting your child's use of video games:
 article http://www.education.com/facts/quickfacts-video-games/decrease-time-playing/

Here are tips on how to talk with your child about sensitive issues:
http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_How_Talk_Your_About/

I hope you find the information in these articles helpful.  I wish you and your son the best, and I hope you find peaceful solutions that will help him prosper both at school and at home.

Regards,

Hayley
> 60 days ago

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dgraab
dgraab , Parent writes:
Hello,
 
I shared your question with Dr. Michael Rich, who is: a pediatrician in adolescent medicine at Children's Hospital Boston; an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School; and the director of the Center on Media and Child Health. He welcomes questions about media and health via the "Ask the Mediatrician" website.
 
Here is his response to your question:
 
http://cmch.typepad.com/mediatrician/2010/02/video-game-addiction-and-violence.html
 
I hope this and other answers you receive are helpful to you and your family.

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Ella.Rogers
Ella.Rogers writes:
Hi Carlo,

Why not offer him some video games which he will learn from? There are many sites which offer educational video games, but one which does it particularly well is mangahigh.com

Regards,

Ella
> 60 days ago

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waqas708
waqas708 , Student, Child Professional, Teacher writes:
I just want to share my experience with you, there might be something to learn from.

When I was in 15, I was addicted to video games and wanted to be engage in more than any other thing. My parents forced me to stop it but I didn't easily because:

I couldn't find anything excited for me at my home.
Parents did force and shout instead of talking like friends, and that made me more sad and then the only thing I found amused for me was to be back on video games.
I didn't know what my other (bright) classmates do in their leisure time.
I wasn't very much confident in my class, because my grades were already very low.

What should parents do:
Activities which looks interesting to us, aren't always excited for children.
Engage child in physical game which make him little tired and it'll bring sleep at night.
Talk him with love, My suggestion for you is to take him for a lunch at a very good restaurant and then discuss with him that how it's not good for him and it really makes his father sad too.
Ask him that you want him to be good player of Athelatic Games and please do not stop them.

Hope it'll be helpful. Please give me your feedback at this url
http://profiles.google.com/waqas708

Thank you & best for you and the child.

Waqas
> 60 days ago

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mamiflores91
mamiflores91 writes:
I am so sorry to hear this.I say take the phone & games away from him.Soon he will turn to the pc & I would take that away too. If he takes a knife or threatens you in anyway,make a report. I know that you love your son very much.But you have to be strong.Only allow him to play games when he has studied & finished his homework.Give it to him as a reward & limit the time spent on it. I don't know how much time you spend with you son,but maybe during dinner,ask him how his day was at school,if he says that he did great in something,praise him for it.Include him in family discussions.I'm sure that you are a great father,after all you do have a 19 & 21 yr old that seem to be doing just fine. I know that you will be ok & so will he. Just be strong.
> 60 days ago

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TheMediatrician
TheMediatri... , Parent, Child Professional writes:
Dear Carlo,

The situation you describe is very serious and concerning. If your son physically threatens you, others, or himself with a stick or a knife or anything else that can be used as a weapon, then he needs immediate professional care. I would advise you to reach out to his physician right away and discuss the situation. The doctor will likely recommend and refer your son to psychiatric treatment. If youâre not sure where to go, a school psychiatrist or school counselor can provide guidance as well.

It does sound like your sonâs behavior with regard to video games is addictive, and that would be concerning even without the aggression he is threatening you with. Signs of addictive behavior include excessive use, choosing games over all other activities, and withdrawalâin this case, getting very angry when you ask him to stop. On top of that, your son is willing to accept all kinds of other negative consequences in order to continue playing these games, from doing poorly in school to not getting enough sleep. You'll want to mention these things when you talk to his doctor.

Video games arenât inherently harmfulâin fact, they are incredibly powerful teaching tools. Research suggests that playing certain kinds of games for limited amounts of time can help improve skills, like hand-eye coordination and arithmetic. But there is also evidence that violent content teaches a set of attitudes that may be harmful. And even the most positive games can become problematic when played for too many hours.

Therefore, to use video games in ways that are healthy for your children's development, pay attention to what the games they play are teaching, who theyâre geared toward, and how long they are using them. In the case of your son, you will likely want to talk with his physician to determine whether your son should continue playing the games at all and, if so, how to establish a healthy, safe balance of gaming with other activities in his life.

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
The Mediatrician

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KiwiCommons
KiwiCommons , Child Professional writes:
When dealing with any kind of addiction, it is always important to broach the subject sensitively. I would begin by creating an open dialogue with your son, who may be using video games to escape from other pressures and issues in his life; getting down to the bottom of things is really the best way to go.

There are many other strategies and techniques you can use as a parent to help your son through this addiction. Check out the sources below for more information.

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MariahY0305
MariahY0305 writes:
Simply take them away and give it to someone for a while or hide in a place for a while. Turn off his phone to where he cant call or text etc. When he starts to improve give him back his stuff a little at a time. Not all at once.
50 days ago

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