Online gaming addiction is real. Perhaps anytime you attempt to corral efforts at managing online gaming in your family, you run up against a wall. Maybe your child or teenager is moody, sneaking time online or is lying about her online use.These and other symptoms are typical of an unhealthy online gaming obsession, according to WebMD. You need help with the battle to help your child break a habit that may have started out innocently enough, but now has turned into a full blown craving by which they seem to be enslaved.
You are not alone.
If you missed Part One of this story – Online Gaming Addiction head here to read it!
Although we’d love to tell you it was a painless shift to get Dillon off of his addictive games – it was just not so. It took incredible determination and perseverance to help their son, as he gradually matured through this challenge.
There were four phases of addictive growth over time:
- Anger. Addiction is addiction, and no addict thanks someone for taking away their drug. Initially it was really rough. Dillon reflected back recently, “I hated you for a while after you took away [access to] my games.” He suggested to other parents trying to help their kids – “Expect to be hated.” The key in this phase was Kate and Marc’s patient, empathetic responses to lots of angry, hurtful barbs from Dillon. They understood his pain. Their response communicated – even in your darkest emotions, you are safe with us.
- Adjustment. The non-electronic, alternative activities listed above were really important for Dillon to adjust to his new reality. (Looking back he felt it would have helped to have even more options when he had the urge to play electronic games.) Over time he developed a lot of other interests and values, and now has well established habits of diligence in homework, sports/working out, socializing, playing guitar, etc.. His parents’ effort to provide all these activities communicated – you are loved and so worth sacrificing for.
- Wisdom. Kate and Marc wrote down six key reasons for the no-gaming policy to remind Dillon when he wanted to resume playing. They began to have regular (i.e. monthly) discussions on the impact of technology on their lives, sharing research and personal experiences/family values. Dillon now recognizes, “Those games are so rewarding, because the longer you play the more big and powerful you get. It would be great to just play them a little now and then, but I realize you can’t, because it just gradually consumes more and more of your time.” Their effort to keep an open dialogue and share their experience communicates – you are capable of learning to make wise choices.
- Independence. Dillon’s parents are increasing his digital independence in preparation for college. They anticipate he will have his own iPhone this fall, and possibly a laptop too. (Right now he uses a school laptop that he does not bring home. Although this is not the norm, it works well for them.) When using the internet he is making reasonable and reality-based choices, with Covenant Eyes for accountability. He anticipates he will play some sort of video games when he gets to college, but probably not the same addictive ones. Kate and Marc’s careful planning to gradually increase his independence communicates – you are ultimately responsible for your life, not us.
So as seasoned veterans of a very difficult “battle”, what is Marc and Kate’s advice for younger parents?
- Avoid the slippery slope. “It’s best if parents avoid letting their kids get immersed in these types of online games. Just playing games on your own computer or device or xbox etc. is hard enough to manage, but it doesn’t hold a candle to this kind of ongoing availability and enticement. These games often begin with just “cute stuff,” but it is a pretty slippery slope.”
- Prioritize connecting with your kid! Kate stated, “I think back on myself as a young mother, and see other moms now focusing so much time and energy on decorating their house, making elaborate recipes or photo albums, or pursuing their own online preoccupations. I wish we could all have a do-over and just realize it is all so much less important than relaxing with and enjoying our kids absolutely as much as possible.”
After Kate interviewed Dillon for this article, he said, “What should we do now?” Kate has learned that phrase actually means, “I would like to do something fun with you.” Everything in her wanted to say, “Oh, Honey, company is coming and I still need to do x,y and z.” She swallowed it all down and realized it was way more important to spend a few minutes playing frisbee with him than having her house shiny for guests.
Just the fact that a 17½-year-old wants to play Frisbee with his mom is great testimony to the power of what Marc and Kate accomplished with their son!
My Response: What jumps out at me regarding technology challenges in my home?
- I have young kids and want to establish solid early habits and guidelines about technology to prevent the difficulty level of this.
- I want to start having more discussions about what’s important in life and how technology impacts our family life.
- I want to try a technology fast, and work toward strong limits on screen time for my addiction-prone child.