A new “addiction” that seems to be appearing more and more is the fascination with gaming. Because of that, there are more teen programs for gamers starting to crop up. Parents may come to me assured that their teen is not using any mind alternating substances and will often be proud that their diligent home drug testing will always come up negative. However, in the same breath, the behaviors that they may describe are of a child who isolates and has become withdrawn, whose grades are dropping, whose friends are changing and who always seems to have the glow of the computer coming out of his/her room at all hours of the day or night. The fascination with gaming and internet preoccupation to the point of leaving much of his/her usual daily routine behind is every bit as much of an addiction as any of the mind altering substances that other teens may be ingesting.
Teen programs for gamers have started to recognize that the pleasure pathway for these students is very similar
to the “high” that substance abusing teens will achieve. It may look less ominous to the parent because the
tox screen will come up clean but the “screens” that these teens are pre-occupied
with are just as damaging and all consuming. When there is a computer in a child’s
room, unless you are checking his/her sites regularly, and/or monitoring closely
the amount of time allowed on line, you could be opening the door to another
type of addiction. The old adage is “If it looks like an addiction and acts
like an addiction, it probably is an addiction.”
So as parents, don’t be fooled that your child is busy doing book reports on
his/her computer at 1:00 am. Therapeutic programs are routinely addressing
the issue of including specific program tracks for gamers as they realize
that this pre-occupation of on line games and the internet is a growing
problem among teens. This is a need that is not being overlooked in
therapeutic programs; should it be overlooked in your own home?
Since therapeutic staff at programs for gamers are seeing this phenomenon
more and more, perhaps it should encourage you as parents to recognize
that this may be a problem for your child as well. If you really want to
know if this is an issue, try taking away all your child’s screens; Ipad,
phone, computer and anything that he/she can use to communicate to his/her
2000 closest “friends”. Watch the response that occurs. Only you can
tell when this is more than just an occasional issue and has turned into
a situation which can no longer be ignored.