Gaming Addiction. Is it Real?

Meet Eli Eli is an 11 year old boy. He loves to play popular games

Is Gaming Addiction Real?

Yes, gaming addiction is real, and extremely prevalent across the U.S. and the rest of the world. In fact, 1 in 10 gamers exhibit addictive behaviors, and the average gamer spends 6 hours a week playing video games.

Let's go through an example of someone named Eli who loves playing games, and has unfortunately developed a gaming addiction, like many others.

Meet Eli

Eli is an 11 year old boy. He loves to play popular games like Minecraft, and he loves video games so much that he watches YouTube clips of other people playing games. In fact, he follows 4 players regularly, watching for hours as they play games. He regularly switches between the main television in the living room and his iPad when he is in his bedroom or someone else is using the television.

His parents believed that screen time was normal especially for children today and they thought nothing of it until it got to the point where Eli wouldn’t eat because he was too addicted to his game. His parents would have to yell at him to pause the game and focus while they said things like, “You aren’t thinking clearly. Let me do your thinking for you: you are hungry and your body needs food, you just don’t realize it because you are addicted to your game.”

They would force him to stop the game and take a break to eat. He would comply but he would eat as quickly as he could, as little as he could get away with so that he could get back to his games.

When not doing homework Eli was given strict rules on how long you could watch or use the television. When the 9 p.m. deadline arrived, Eli would turn off the TV as instructed and go upstairs only to be caught using his iPad. This upset his parents because they had told him the 9 p.m. was the deadline for all screen time.

Eli Really Likes Playing Minecraft

Every time one parent left the house to run errands or pick up a sibling, Eli would immediately turn on the TV and start playing Minecraft again. When another parent came home from work or came back from running errands he would get in trouble for being on a screen playing video games or playing with his phone when he shouldn’t be.

There were times when Eli said he was too sick to go to school or go to church, so his parents would let him stay home under the auspices that he was to sleep and take his medication. But as soon as he had a free moment he would play a game on his iPad or his phone and when that was taken away he would switch to the big video games on the living room TV. His parents would ask if he took his medication at the 4 hour mark and he would outright lie, all while playing Minecraft and never looking away from the TV.

Eli is just one example of how you really can be addicted to electronics.

It doesn’t matter if it is a smartphone, a tablet, a television with video games, or a computer with computer games. You really can be addicted to electronics. What’s more, you can become addicted at any age.

Too much screen time can cause serious problems. One study found that addiction to electronics can reduce the number of transporters for dopamine, the chemical in your brain that helps you feel good.

Playing too many online games or using electronics for your leisure activities overloads the brain with dopamine to the point where your brain stops producing the positive effect the dopamine should have. This is very similar to the same neurological consequences that come from addiction to other drugs which desensitize your brain.

The Consequences of Electronics Addiction

Addiction to electronics can bring with it other problems like physical related problems that cause eye strain, headaches, and blurred vision.

Spending hours playing online games typically means you don’t get enough time outside engaging in physical activity which increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. People like Eli, stop playing outside because they would rather play inside so they don’t get exercise, they just sit around.

They also start neglecting other parts of their lives like social activities with friends, engagement with family when home, or regular responsibilities like taking pets out for a walk. Eli for example has a dog that he used to regularly take for walks but now he forgets to take the dog for a walk let alone play outside because he is too busy playing Minecraft.

Finding solutions

What is the solution?

The solution is to detox. Overcoming a technology addiction or an addiction to electronics requires the same type of safe detox as overcoming an addiction to other drugs. A detox period is a set amount of time during which no smartphones, no video games, no tablets, and no computers are allowed. The brain has to be given time to reset and the nervous system has to change behavior and change the patterns that have been created around the addiction to electronics.

This can start with having a day completely free from technology. Every couple of weeks a no technology day should be scheduled where all computers and all smartphones are put away for 24 hours. During those same times, individuals who have an addiction to electronics need to get outside and be involved in activities that take place in real life such as a crafting group, a painting class, or a hike.

Lacey has worked for over a decade as a writer, in conjunction with having worked around the world in poor social and economic living conditions to provide sustainability programs through numerous non-profits. Her efforts focus on making a difference in people's lives one small step at a time.