Video Game addiction


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Category: Reflections 23 Apr 06


The following is a conversation I had with a teenager immersed in a computer game.


Me: How long are you going to be with this game?


Teenager: (not looking away from the screen.) Huh?


Me: I said, how long are you going to be with this game


Teenager: Donno


Me: How long have you been on the computer?


Teenager: Donno


Not wanting to be a badgering adult I leave him alone and return in half an hour


Me: It’s a lovely afternoon, do you want to go for a little bike ride?


Teenager: Nope


Me: Do you want to call your friends then, and go out liming?


Teenager: Nope


Me: What do you want to do then?


Teenager: (eyes glazed over as the computer game’s 3 D sucks him into another world of which I play no part and have little knowledge) Five minutes


Me: Five minutes for what?


Teenager: What did you say?


Me: (shouting now) Take off that thing. It’s turning you into a zombie. Go outside and get some fresh air at least!


Teenager: Five minutes


Half an hour and a shouting match later, the teenager reluctantly goes outdoors to join his family. For the entire period he is absorbed by something on his cell phone, pushing buttons. His eyes are watering. He barely seems aware of anyone around him.


I start telling him about childhood—breezy days being in and out of friends’ houses, biking aimlessly, climbing trees, but his blank stare freezes me out.


To understand the force of his rage at being separated from the computer/video games I go to Google, type in computer addiction and came up with 30,600,000 sites. I gather from the first its psychological symptoms include: Having a sense of well-being or euphoria while at the computer; inability to stop the activity; neglect of family and friends; feeling empty, depressed, irritable when not at the computer; lying to employers and family about activities, problems with school or job.


The physical symptoms include:


Carpal tunnel syndrome; dry eyes; migraine headaches; back aches; eating irregularities, such as skipping meals; failure to attend to personal hygiene; sleep disturbances and change in sleep pattern.


I was not alone. I read thousands of entries like the one below:


My son plays online games and will play for 12 or 14 hours straight, every single day if no one objects, playing from the time he wakes up till he falls asleep in the early hours of the morning. He’ll skip meals to play. He will wait until we have gone to bed and then play games until 3 or 4 am. Of course he cannot get up at 7 am to go to school.


That electronic addiction is confirmed by a study conducted at the Cyclotron Unit of Hammersmith Hospital in London where researchers determined that playing video games triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, the production of which doubles during video game play.


The increase of the psychoactive chemical was roughly the same as when a person is injected with amphetamines or the attention-deficit disorder drug, Ritalin. This is the first hard evidence that video game playing is addictive, “the equivalent of a dose of speed.”


The panic sets in. Then I read. Like any addiction this one can be treated. Parents have done it by setting strict limits on times spent on electronic games to one hour a day, or only on weekends. One fed-up set of parents took away all their teenaged son’s electronic games. He was devastated, but the parents substituted electronic time with homework, football and socialising, which left him no spare time. As the teenager became fit and learned social skills he revelled in his new confidence and agreed to play games only occasionally at friends’ houses.


It’s ironic, I’m using the Internet on the computer to find out how to conquer its addictive destructive power.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur