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Computer Game Addiction

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My 9yo is addicted (yes, addicted) to video games

June 2013

I don't use the term lightly. We put limits on video game time and he has gotten into behavior that mimics serious addiction. When he's been told to put the touch away, he will sneak into his room and try to play it more. When I hide it, he will sneak into my room and go through my things to find it. When I catch him he lies to me. When I hide it better, he sneaks his dad's ipad into his room and plays that (he knows the passcode; I've since asked husband to change the code). This morning I was doing something in the basement and came up and he was trying to casually walk away from the computer. He has to get explicit permission to use it and he tried to lie to me, telling me that the game that was up was from another time. He promises he will change, next time will be better. He CAN change and he WILL. He will prove to me that he loves me more than his video games. See where I'm going with this?

We've gone through the whole cycle - taking away the computer and other gaming technologies for longer and longer periods of time. getting angry. trying to reintroduce the gaming technology only to have to take it away again when privileges are abused. I finally realized that to continue to try to give him any kind of access in the face of a clear addiction is a parenting failure on my part. So, I've taken it all away for the final time and explained to him that this time it's not a punishment (although I'm sure that's a tough concept for him to understand). It's me trying to love him and meet him where he's at and that, right now, he's clearly unable to control himself no matter what it costs him. I told him I want to enjoy his company and being angry at his inability to control himself all the time is hurting our relationship. I've also told him I'm not going to talk about any sort of timeline for getting it all back.

He's 9, almost 10. He's a great kid in many many ways, but he's always struggled to self regulate. I feel like he needs the time and space to grow up a little. He needs to be able to use computers and be around technology without becoming so consumed that it affects the other parts of his life. It's not like alcohol, for example, where you can carve out a reality where you don't ever drink (even if you have to figure out how to live in a world where the people around you can and do imbibe). So, here's my question. How do I know he's ready to try to integrate computers and gaming back into his life (in a supervised and limited way)? How do I do it in a way that allows for some sort of self regulation? video games are ruining my relationship with my son


I'm so sorry your 9 year old is addicted to gaming. Of course not all kids get addicted. Our 11 year old son is on a 6 week ban at the moment and it's been very, very good for him. However, he does try to sneak some time, so it's a concern for a lot of parents. The addiction is becoming recognised by the psychological community as a pyschological disorder. It typically hits males under 30 and runs the usual course of addiction - absorbing increasing amounts of time (hours per day), withdrawal from hobbies and social activities, irritability and anger when not able to indulge etc

Given the pervasiveness of devices, the addiction is most likened to a food addiction, i.e. the addict needs to learn to live in a world of computers as the anorexic needs to learn to live in a world of food. The considered advice is to get specialist (i.e. addictions expert) professional help and unfortunately for your son, no gaming. An hour of gaming is apparently like that one beer to an alcoholic. Encourage lots more outdoor and social activities going forward and maybe think about reducing your/other family members time on devices when with your son. Whizparent


Well I can totally relate. I do not have the solution but I can share our approach. Gaming is all J wants to do and he will lie, steal and cheat to get at it. Instead of banning it, we let him have 2 hours on school days and 4 hours on weekends. After 2 hours, he must take a break. To me this amount of time is excessive and I feel a bit as if I have ''lost'' the battle but as kids get older it is more about negotiating and less about me making the final decisions. J must keep his grades above C. He has daily chores He also must be part of a sport or skill (music or handcraft) that he can develop some expertise in. And then I cross my fingers. I tell him that until he can develop some internal regulation, I must enforce external regulation. It is not easy. He is constantly testing these limits and will still lie, cheat and steal for more time. My older son decided around 10th grade that socializing was much more satisfying than gaming and he stopped the compulsive aspect then tho he still is on screens quite a bit. The other part that is hard is the stress on our marriage and the different approaches we bring to discipline. My thought is that discipline is to teach and any consequence that is out of anger to emotionally hurt the child is unacceptable. My husband feels that a dramatic message must be sent to the child to let the lesson be felt and sink in. It's not easy for any of us. M
You need to get his attention very quickly. He is lying to you and being manipulative.

I would take everything out of his room except his bed and clothing. Nothing to entertain him. You need a place you can send him when he misbehaves where the only thing he can do is contemplate what he did wrong. I would consider taking the door off his room so he knows he can be monitored whenever you walk by.

He is going to need a computer for school work. I would severely lock it down to make sure he can't install his own software. I would install website blocking software that only allows him to go to websites you approve of (like the one for getting school assignments). This computer has to be in ''public'' area of the house like the dining room or living room.

Any other computers, smart phones, iPads, etc. that have internet access need to be password protected. You need to make sure you log off or lock them each time you leave those devices.

I wouldn't tell him the WiFi password so he can't use an outside wireless device without you knowing it.

I would tell him that unless he proves to you that you can trust him, he'll have to wait until he is an adult (18) to play video games.

If he goes over to someone else's house, he is likely to have access to video games. I wouldn't allow that for a long time, but eventually, after some trust is built up, I would use that as a way to slowly reintroduce him to video games. Let him go over for a couple of hours and then pick up him. Talk to him about it.

We were helped by reading the John Rosemond books like this one: ''The Well-Behaved Child: Discipline That Really Works!'' http://www.amazon.com/The-Well-Behaved-Child-Discipline-Really/dp/0849947154/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371665531&sr=8-1&keywords=john+rosemond -parent of twins


I would get rid of the video games entirely, much the same way you might get rid of all alcohol with someone who is addicted to a substance. You mention he may need to find a way to self soothe/regulate...has he tried other means to accomplish that? It could even involve a screen (watching a movie, for example) but much less addictive than video games. As a psychologist and the mother of two boys who like video games, I understand your concern. Other ways to self soothe might be reading, some physical activity, guided imagery for kids (there are good cds out there). Also, is this taking the place of other activities he enjoys? Sports, friendships etc? Feel free to email me privately if you like.
I would rely as much as possible on systems that automate control of computer access. There are a number of inexpensive ($30) programs you can download that will limit your son's access to his computer. We use Kidswatch. We have a max number of hours per week, and then certain windows when that time can be used. Our teen gets 10 hours/week to use as he likes. But the computer turns off at 10 p.m. There are similar parental controls on the xbox. The arguments about bedtime/amount of time spent disappeared when we did this. It relieved so much stress. I would also keep changing your passwords on your phones and other devices. Once you have everything on lock down, you can make decisions about how much time to allow.

15-year-old is addicted to video gaming

March 2013

My 15 year old grandson is addicted to video gaming (in this case it's ''League of Legends''/LOL.) He'll spend every waking (and sleeping) hour doing only this. He thinks he'll have a career in it. Maybe he will (he's very bright & seems highly skilled in LOL) BUT his life as a teen is not being experienced. He plays on a 'team' of LOL gamers who are 10-15 years older. Now they are his''friends''. He was great in whatever sport he suited up for (but never had a long lasting enthusiasm for any; it's not so surprising that he's dropped out of all sports. He'll sneak onto the computer when he should be doing his homework or sleeping. So far grades haven't fallen. He forgets to eat, to drink water, to do his minimal chores. No longer does he ask a teen friend over to visit; ditto for going to their home. He had promise as a pianist or guitarist, but he doesn't practice anymore. League of Legends is it. I'm live here & he lives 5 hours away, but his mother/my daughter-in-law is concerned. My successful son/his father (who works in the computer industry & plays some video games, but isn't addicted) is unclear what is best. Mostly, however, his father supports whatever teen's mother wants to do. Thank you for your helpful input.


First step is to get on top of how many hours he plays. Your daughter-in-law can go online and search for parental control software that will turn her son's computer off at specified times, and will let her set a limit to how many hours/week he gets to play. It costs about $30. We did this with our son and it was really helpful. No more arguing about what time he's going to get off the game; at 10 p.m., the computer turns off. Period. Oh well! He gets about 10 hours per week total. You can activate similar parental controls on the xbox, so I would assume on other devices as well. She can also set her modem to turn off at specific hours, if the above can't be done for various reasons, but I prefer to take measures that only affect my son's computer. Your grandson will be angry, but like I said, oh well! He will survive. I know it's tough

Anxious 16-year-old is addicted to his computer

August 2011

My 16 year has anxiety with going out of his comfort zone. He is addicted to his computer...he plays games & nothing sexual or violent....we went to florida for a week and he stayed in his room with his laptop the whole time...he doesn't like to go out and his friends are online buddies....when we go to family events he isolates himself from everyone...he opted for on-line schooling as he could not take any more high school...and begged me to withdraw and let him do this online school and he has not been doing the work he needs to be doing with his courses and all he does when i talk to him is just a look and declares himself happy....and he refuses to go to a counselor...help


I was concerned reading your post, both about your son and you as a parent. I will preface my remarks by saying that I too faced a situation in which my teen needed to see a therapist and she refused to go. I reached a point when I could no longer allow her to make that choice. So, I told her, it is my job as a parent to get you the help I feel you need. You are going if you wish to remain in this house. My voice and body language gave a clear message: I mean what I say. She went.

So, with your son, who is in charge? It simply has to be you. If you feel that he needs professional help (and I agree that such a consultation is appropriate) then you must get this done! If your son had a serious medical condition, would you allow him to choose not to go to a doctor? Nope. Then, make an appointment with a therapist. Tell your son he is going and inform him of the consequences if he makes a poor choice and refuses to cooperate. Let him know that you fully intend to do your job as a parent. One possible consequence for such a refusal comes to mind immediately- take away his computer if your son continues to refuse to go for the help you as his parent feels he needs. anon


You have a lot of leverage with your son at this age. He is a minor. He is required by law to go to school. You can cut off his computer access at any time. He needs to prioritize school work, at a minimum, and his withdrawal from social time is concerning. I would immediately cut off his access to his online games, and let him earn that access back through meeting his responsibilities. I would also consider an evaluation by a mental health professional--again, if he wants to be able to play online, he has to go. He sounds like he could be depressed rather than anxious, or maybe both.

Our foster son, who has a lot of anxiety as well as a lot to recover from, would be happy to just play online from rise to bedtime. We set a school-year weekly limit of 15 hours and a summer limit of 21 hours. He can earn or lose time based on his behavior. Because he has behavioral issues, this is one of our few points of leverage. It has been very effective.

Stand firm. He cannot just drop out of school and life. It's up to you to set limits. online game time is a privilege, not a right


13-year-old son addicted to video games

April 2010

My 13-yr-old son in 8th grade quit martial arts and now hangs around talking on phone & using the computer. He loved martial arts - had been at it since he was 3. When I asked him Why, he said ''It takes up too much of my life'' The point here is that he wants to hang around & use computer and do nothing else. This is isolating, bad for his eyes & body, makes him miss out opportunities to develop personality & learn social skills and makes him a boring, sheltered person. I suppose it would be OK for him to be in dance, sports,etc. as long as he has some physical activity out of the house where he is with others--but he flatly refuses. It is not OK to sit with eyes glued to screen getting ruined & body turning into mush & just being isolated in this little virtual world. It gets to the point where he does not want to answer when I am talking to him. It's the computer & phone that are taking over life (yes i sometimes take it away, but i need it myself & eventually it comes back. I suggest many different activities and look at magazines to find more, but he shoots down every one. I am hoping someone out there has a suggestion; maybe you went thru something like this & found a solution.


One solution would be to limit access to electronic devices and the internet. When he gets bored, he will hopefully pick up MA again or some other activity.

Somehow we grew up okay without all the electronic devices. You are paying the bills for these devices, so you can turn them off. Parent of teens


Hi, I could have written your posting. I, too, have a computer/video game addicted 13 year old boy. He also has been very active in martial arts and in the past year we have been getting increased resistance to going. He has gotten more withdrawn and everything revolves around getting gaming time daily. I also notice the longer he is on the more irritable he gets with me when I try to intervene, especially trying to get him off the games. He also loses track of his own physical needs and will not eat, which in turn causes more irritability. It got so bad, along with some other difficult behavior, that we sought out help at Coyote Coast Counseling in Orinda. Their program was great and now he gets a certain amount of gaming time for ''free'' daily, but beyond that, he has to earn his time by doing things each day. For example, he can earn a 15 minute ''chip'' by getting himself up for school in the morning without any prompting. He can get an hour ''chip'' by going to karate, etc. These chips are then used for weekend gaming time. We also set up some strict limits about gaming in the evening during the week. Having our son involved in the process and creating a ''home agreement'' has helped a lot. We also got him involved in boy scouts, which surprisingly, he agreed to go to and is liking it. We've also done a lot more talking and educating about the harmful effects of gaming so much and what we've observed in him. It's taken a lot of effort and energy to make these changes and we've had to deal with a lot of resistance, but slowly and surely, it is working. I have felt so much frustration dealing with this issue. All the changes we have made have been very recent, so we are still adjusting and tweeking the home agreement and trying to stay one step ahead of our son.

17-year-old is addicted to World of Warcraft

July 2008

My son is 17 and was recently diagnosed w/ ADHD and LD by a neuropsychologist. We had him tested because we were concerned about his grades, which had been very good, but curved down to bottom by junior year. He is very intelligent, but does very little homework. He sees a therapist, a learning specialist and has a 504 plan at BHS.

He plays World of Warcraft compulsively. Treatment by his therapists does not seem to help him come to the realization that his gaming is a problem. When we (the parents) take away the game, he goes on strike and doesn't go to school.

Questions: Does anyone have any experience with World of Warcraft addiction? If so, what has helped your child? Are there any local therapists who specialize in this? What about residential treatment or boarding schools? I am at wit's end. Any advice or sharing of experience would be appreciated. anon


My heart goes out to you - our young adult son is a gambling addict, and Asperger's is a key factor in his addiction. I recommend that you call Bodin Associates www.thebodingroup.com/ and discuss your son's situation with them -- they have extensive knowledge of a wide range of resources and strategies. Based on our (very positive) experience, their recommendation is likely to be an initial wilderness program, perhaps followed by a residential boarding school. Bodin consultants regularly visit a wide range of programs and schools, and they know the staff in these programs personally. I wish you and your son the best. in much the same situation
Don't hesitate to go to the mat on this one! I was a hospital teacher on an adolescent psych unit. Many parents place their child in residential treatment, for as long as 18 months to 2 years.

There is no guarantee that every teenager will make it through their teen years, nowadays.

Radical treatment is needed here. Get rid of his computer, admittedly difficult to do. Electronic screens in general, have become the malaise of American children.

Call the BUSD attendance office and/or the Berkeley Police if necessary. It is nothing to feel shy or stigmatized about.

You can't let your son control the situation. You need to rein him in.

My own son has a degree of computer addiction (racing games). I sent him away to camp for 9 weeks this summer, largely to get him away from the computer.

Bill Gates lets his daughter use the computer 45 minutes on school nights and 1 hour on weekend nights. If that's enough time for Bill Gates' child, it's enough time for our sons.

Best of Luck and Don't Be Reticent! Berkeley Teacher and Mother


That's a really tough issue, and my heart goes out to you. I wrote a Contra Costa Times piece earlier this year on the topic of video game addiction, and I've got a couple of sites and resources you may find helpful.

First, Iowa State psychology professor Douglas Gentile says there are red flags to watch for when it comes to any video game addiction. It's not the hours, he says, it's the impact on the rest of life. So here's the list of red flags: http://www.ibabuzz.com/aparentlyspeaking/2008/04/06/game-on-too-long/

World of Warcraft was a hot topic on a recent Q&A session we ran with CSU Dominguez Hills professor Larry Rosen, author of ''Me, Myspace and I'' (great book, by the way),Walnut Creek therapist Steven Freemire and Times video games blogger Danny Willis -- and Danny raised some particularly interesting points about why forcing a teen to go cold-turkey meets with the reception that, well, you've experienced. He says parents tend to think of these games like virtual solitaire, when they're more like varsity football. They're played in teams, so if your son doesn't show up to play, he's letting down real people to whom he made a commitment. So it may be helpful when you talk to your son, if you understand that to him, it's like being yanked off the varsity football team, or told he can only go to two practices a week -- in which case, the team will dump him. Your discussion will go better if he gets that you get it. Or at least, the door may not be slammed quite as hard.

Excerpts from the Q&A, as well as the full Times story, are archived here: http://www.ibabuzz.com/aparentlyspeaking/2008/04/06/game-on-too-long/ Jackie


Who's paying for the account? Who is in charge of the computer? I am an adult and I play WOW, but only when time allows. My 20 y.o. plays too. She began 3 yrs. ago. There was a time when I had to restrict her access. She had to show me her completed school work and must have finished her home chores before she got on. I also limited her amount of time to 3 hours MAX.! Its easy to get caught up in a group raid our chain of quests and be on for hours at a time. Its also very easy for teens to get caught up in guild and group conversations.

As with any other excessive activity, he needs to be reminded who the parent is. Bring him into school if necessary. Take away other privledges. Whatever you have to do to re-establish the parent-child relationship. Jenny


I have only personal experience with WOW addiction. Last year my very bright 15 year old son with no behavioral or learning problems became addicted and his grades dropped. After several warnings, we set up controls. He somehow got access to my confidential parental and computer passwords and used them to bypass controls I had set up. We stopped paying for the game and immediately cut off his access to the game. Unlike in your situation, he did not refuse to go to school, although he was pretty angry for a while. In the long run this worked for us. He did well in school for the rest of the year and he has access this summer. The school year remains to be tested.

I read about game addiction in a medical journal, and the effect on the brain appears to be similar to substance addiction--increasing use needed for the same ''high'', etc. This is exactly how WOW is set up. Not everyone is susceptible to it, but from what I read, as with substance abuse, if someone is really addicted, access to the game has to be cut off. Hopefully you will get recommendations for treatment from other readers. parent of WOW fan


High School sophomore addicted to internet games

March 2002

My son is a sophomore at Albany High, and he appears to be addicted to video games. I think his ideal life would be sitting in front of a computer monitor with an IV in his arm to deliver enough nutrients and caffeine that he wouldn't have to eat or sleep. He also has started to lie to his mother and me -- and to his teachers -- about his schoolwork to maximize his access to the video games, particularly those on the web. He has some friends, but they tend to be limited to other "gamers."

Does anyone have any advice and/or good resources for dealing with this problem? In one sense, I'm glad he isn't out on the streets getting into drugs or other forms of trouble. But I fear his life has become so one-dimensional that he will be damaged as a result of this obsession. Anonymous


To the parent of the Sophomore at Albany High School who is addicted to computer games:

My son is a Senior at AHS and has the same addiction. We tried monitoring, reducing, limiting the hours he spent playing his favorite game (Diablo). These were all just band-aids put on a serious injury and ultimately not successful. We recently took the game and threw it in the garbage. He was, surprisingly, not angry, and seemed almost relieved. I realize that this isn't a permanent solution, since computers are everywhere, but it's a start. I wish I had taken more aggressive action a long time ago, and I urge any parents facing this same situation to take it seriously. Some may feel that the word addiction is thrown around too lightly these days and that this is not a true addiction. I can testify from our experience that this is an addiction, and one that is not easily broken. It's not as easy as just finding other activities for your son to take part in. While they're in their gaming mode, they don't want to do anything else. That is inherent in the nature of an addiction.

My husband recently did some research on the internet about gaming addiction and this is what he found.

    From:  http://www.vifamily.ca/cft/media/media.htm
    Parents and teachers often comment that "kids become absolutely wired"
when absorbed in video games.  Now, there's a scientific study which
confirms that observation.  In a study conducted at the Cyclotron Unit of
Hammersmith Hospital in London, Dr. Paul Grasby and his fellow researchers
determined that playing video games triggers the release of dopamine in the
brain.
    The researchers discovered that dopamine production in the brain 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."

    From:  http://www.computeraddiction.com/
    Psychological Symptoms of computer addiction are:
      Having a sense of well-being or euphoria while at the computer
      Inability to stop the activity
      Craving more and more time at the computer
      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
Another article about gaming addiction is at: http://pigseye.kennesaw.edu/~tbennet1/

The list of symptoms above described my son to a tee. Now that the game is gone, he has started going out more with friends and is friendlier to us around the house. I wish you luck with your son and his addiction. I know that every situation is unique, and you have to do what feels right to you. I certainly wish, for my son's sake, that I had known what I know now about this addiction. I am signing this anonymously, but if you wish to talk to me, let me know through this site and I'll contact you. Good luck.


I'm not a parent but I cover parenting issues for the Mercury News, and this is one of the first stories I wrote for the paper two years ago (Entranced by Electronics, March 2000, you can find it on the web www.mercurycenter.com.) All of the experts (including parents who experienced what you describe) said the best way to cure kids' video game addiction is to set strict limits. They suggested not allowing kids to have computers, PlayStations, TVs, etc. in their bedrooms if monitoring their behavior is a problem. One family whose teenage son was lying etc. to play games, got fed up and took all of his electronic toys away. This devastated the kid at first, but the family substituted with homework, extra curricular activities, church and other outings, so that by the end of the day there simply was no time left for video games. Once they were sure he was cure of the obsession they eased up a bit and I think now allow him to play games occasionally over at friends houses.

Of course, it's impossible to know what kids are doing ALL of the time, but it seems the key to getting this under control is to be firm and consistent in setting limits. Hope that helps.
Yomi


15-year-old can't get up in the morning

March 2003

My 15 year old son often does not get up on time to get to school on time. He stays up too late and has his radio on all night. At times he seems to be addicted to computer games. I would like to get some advice as to how to deal with this situation.


At some point teens will have to take responsibility for actions such as not getting up on time -- flunking college classes and getting fired from jobs. But for now, if the radio and computer are tempting him to stay up too late then take them away until the weekend. He may throw a huge fit, but he had the opportunity to make a mature decision about bedtime and clearly he is not yet mature enough. Tell him when he thinks he is mature enough you will let him manage his own time again. LC
Computer over-use has been a serious problem for my 17-year-old for the past several years. I learned it is an addiction from advice I got in this newsletter. 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 till we have gone to bed and then play games till 3 or 4 in the morning every single night. Of course he cannot get up at 7am to go to school. For the past two years he's had a more amenable schedule at Berkeley Independent Studies with all appointments scheduled for after 1pm. He has never been very academically motivated, and the computer addiction greatly exacerbated the academic problem. He is no longer in school - he is waiting to take the high school equivalency exam. He is a good kid, sweet, and he has other (non-academic) interests and talents besides the computer. His social life comes ahead of computer games, so the problem is not completely desperate, but computer use continues to be a big big problem. It uses up all his time and keeps him from other activities like music and recreation. He is not writing computer programs or being otherwise creative. He is playing games for hours and hours on end.

The only thing that works is physically removing the computer. We tried many other tactics. We'd say ''computer after homework'' but he'd say he had no homework. We tried taking away the computer till grades improved, and they'd improve, he'd get the computer back, and grades would take a nose dive again. We tried locking the keyboard in the trunk of our car (he found another keyboard), unplugging the internet connection (he plugged it back after we went to bed) and taking out the graphics card (he borrowed one from a friend). So we have to take the CPU and lock it up. I feel like an ogre - I know how important email and instant messaging are to teens and I really hate to take it away. I am myself a software engineer who's on the computer all day. I like games myself. But he is completely unable to limit the time he spends on games - it really is an addiction. Now he only gets his computer on the weekends. Even though he is not in school anymore and has very little else to do. He complains continually and bitterly about this but even he agrees that he cannot control himself.

My advice: take the computer away. Give it to him on weekends if his grades are satisfactory. Don't crumble if he complains. Hold your ground. He will find other things to do.


Obsession with Video Games in 6-year-old

Sept 2006

Our 6-year old son's passion for video games runs deep, and his interest in most all other activities has diminished. He used to look forward to play dates, going to the park, etc. Now, when given a choice, he prefers to go to his 10-y/o cousin's house and play video games. He has rec'd an older, obsolete game console (not kept at our home), and an older Game Boy handheld as hand-me-downs. He also likes playing video games on the computer.

Anything short of a newer game console from Santa this Xmas will be a huge disappointment to him. While we don't want to completely deprive him of playing video games, we also don't want him to grow up into some slacker who spends all his waking moments engaged in this activity at the expense of relationships, school, physical fitness, etc.

Any advice on how to effectively develop his interest in other activities and maintain a balance between those activities and his desire to play video games. Thank you for any input


You need to set a time limit on his video games. Also, he shouldn't be allowed to play unless everything else he needs to do is done, including homework, quiet reading time, chores, etc. (If he doesn't have chores, you should give him some.) Something else that works for some families is making kids earn all of their screen time, that includes television, dvds, computers, and video games. They start with zero minutes and earn minutes of screen time based on good behavior, following through with responsibilites, and so on. They can lose time for infractions too. I have friends that have used this to good effect, but it is a little too structured for me.

My son was quite obsessed for a while about 3 years ago. I just severely limited all of his screen time. I leveled with him about my reasons without being angry at him. I told him that it is my duty to raise him as a well-rounded kid and that playing video games all the time is bad for him, just like eating cake and cookies for every meal might taste good but in reality would be very bad for him. He moaned and groaned at first, but it worked. As he played less, he though about it less, and eventually got to the point where he only plays a couple of times a week.

You should enroll him in some activities, be it sports, drama, art. Just choose something that a friend is doing, to get him going. Even short-term city-rec type programs will get him out and his mind off the games.

The main thing is that you are firm and resolved. Once my kids figured out that nothing will change my mind on these kinds of issues, they stopped fighting me on them. Or, they learned to come up with really good compromises, which is a good skill Fight the Good Fight!


It is up to you the parents to set limits. For example, he can play one hour a day, or he can go to his cousins' house 1 x week. Whatever you and his pediatrician think is reasonable. On the other days, he doesn't get to choose between video games and another activity. He gets to choose between other activities. So he pitches a fit or is disappointed, he has to get into some other activities. If you and your spouse are too busy to engage him maybe it would help to bring a slightly older boy over to play (supervised) with other types of games. Maybe have a family board game championship. Also set a good example, are you and your spouse active or watching tv in your down time? I would love if you post a follow up in a month or two!! Ready to Unplug?
if it was my son (and it may well be in a few years) I'd take a two prong approach introduce new activities maybe something physical but not competitive. And severely curtail or eliminate the video games for a long time. video games can be addictive to kids and adults alike. Whem my husband noticed his work and life were suffering as a result of playing SimCity or something like that, he deleted the game from his computer. He was an adult at the time, children can't be expected to display that kind of restraint or judgement good luck

Kids & Teens


Husband plays video games all the time

Dec 2011

My husband spends most of his free time playing video games. He works very hard at his job. During his down time he plays video games. If we have nothing else planned and if the kids are busy, he will spend most of his weekend time gaming. He also will play late into the evening... often until 1 or 2 in the morning. I am trying my best to accept this ( though I do think video games are addictive) and need some support. Is this common behavior in most families these days? sick of games


My advice would be to separate out two concerns, one of which seems more valid to me than the other. 1)how your husband spends his leisure time vs. 2) your concern about how much personal leisure vs. family (work/leisure) time your husband spends. It seems like the first: how he spends his me/leisure time is something you should try to chill out about-- if it would be okay if he were reading a book, or playing basketball, or watching television, or gardening, or jogging, then in the grand scheme of things it should be okay that he's playing games. However, the other thing is (in my opinion) a legitimate gripe: if he's always playing games (or reading or jobbing, or watching TV, or whatever) and that's interfering with time to spend as a family (either doing leisure things as a family, or doing work around the house, etc.), this is something it seems fair to me to have a conversation about. There are lots of different ways to approach that conversation, and a lot of it depends on both of your personalities and the family dynamic. But I just personally recommend removing the specific anti-gaming element out of it and focusing on the family-time element of it. (In my informal observations, some husbands seem to resent any requests that they spend less alone/me time, but other husbands respond favorably, especially if it's an indirect approach such as just scheduling more family things in and given ''assignments,'' etc. --good luck!
I could have written your post. I figure there are worse things he could be doing- drugs, alcohol, porn... What has helped a lot is that he makes the effort to go to bed at the same time I do, around 10 PM. When he was staying up late frequently playing the video games, I would feel much more disconnected and told him this and so he changed his schedule. Good luck. glass half full
Be assured, this is not normal. Why did you accept it in the first place? You are entitled to have a man at your side, not some college boy who never grew up and treats you like a roommate with benefits. Companionship and comunication are the lifeblood of marriage. He is setting a very bad example for his children. Unacceptable! Anonymous
Your description fits my husband exactly. My husband was like this when we met and as we courted and I knew I wasn't going to change him when we got married. I did, however, make it clear that while I tolerate his gaming for the most part, when I need him to stop and do something else, he better stop or there will be trouble. If there's something that needs to be done, I say, ''Honey, I really need you to help me clean the kitchen, so no games until it's done.'' Or ''Hey, I just wanted you to know there's some free sex in our bedroom...wink wink'' or ''Honey, lately I've been feeling like you are spending too much time online. I need you to back off for a while and spend some time with your family.'' He also lets me know if he is starting a long game or planning on a tournament in advance so that I have fair warning.

It works pretty well for us. Most of the time I don't mind his gaming a bit. I read a lot and watch DVDs he doesn't want to watch and we both enjoy our solo time. I see it more as a maintenance issue - when I feel like we've been spending too much time doing our own things, instead of stewing or making up rigid rules, I let him know I need him. He knows it's not forever, so it's not a hardship for him to say he'll back off for a few days. Sometimes one of us gets annoyed, but emotions are emotions and as long as we communicate it works out. married to a gamer


I have some similar problems in my home and I feel for you. You mentioned that he does it more when there isn't any activity planned. Have you tried planning more activity both for the two of you and for the kids? Also I got my husband's doctor to mention that a consistant earlier bedtime would reduce his stress and help with some problems he was having. If all else fails I make it clear what my needs and expectations are around quality time together and chores that need to be done and if he can do those then I just accept what he does with the rest of his time is not something I control and try to focus on the wonderful things he does when not playing. Anon
It is difficult to say what normal is. The fact that he spends all of his leisure time in one obsessive activity is certainly unhealthy and is the very definition of an addiction. Yes, it is the behavior of an addict, meaning he chooses to have a relationship with his gaming rather than with you and the children. While I do agree with the poster who said his behavior is that of an immature college boy who treats you as a roommate with benefits, I also agree with all those who said he could have far worse habits. Yes, I suppose he does deserve to spend his free time as he chooses if he meets and exceeds the family's financial responsibilities, but the way he opts to do so leaves you pretty lonely, I imagine. Companionship and conversation ARE the hallmarks of a true marriage... And the children are being modeled a dad who chooses to be ''absent.''

Nevertheless, I would neither expect any big changes from his end of it, nor would I choose to necessarily end such an imperfect union. After forty-some years on this planet and a few relationships and a marriage later, my observation is that there are very few people who manage to mature into grown-up companions with good conversation skills. Good luck on that one. You probably need to give your marriage a periodic review of pros vs. cons and see if you find the situation still acceptable. The search for companionship and conversation has to be weighed against the emotional and financial needs of the children, the consequences of divorce on them, and your own emotional fortitude in handling such a huge transition in the face of these challenges. anon


Husband plays video games every spare moment

April 2010

Do other people out there have husbands who play video games for hours on end in the evening and every spare moment they can? I confess I have no patience for them and find them juvenile and addictive. I feel hurt and blocked out when he plays. He's an excellent father, but my kids/girls are beginning to notice how much their dad plays video games. Does anyone else struggle with this? When does interest turn to addiction? Thanks, anon


Video games have been a bone of contention in my family for a while. A lot of the tension between myself and my husband has been related to him staying up late to play, being tired, and then being grouchy/useless from lack of sleep. This is a guy who really needs his sleep to function and to treat others well, yet he'd stay up until 1 a.m. consistently to play. With our son waking at 5 a.m...what a disaster. It's also sad and discouraging to see him come home and immediately jump on the game, ignoring everyone else in the room, including our toddler, guests, me, etc. Things have improved. I try to objectively state what I don't like or would prefer: I don't like it when you treat me badly because you're exhausted. It's hard for me to have you in the room yet ignoring me most of the time. It seems unfair that you immediately plug into your game and leave me to take care of our son--I don't do that to you. This isn't what I'd like to model for our child. I'd like to do things with you if you could make more time for me. Etc. He has listened. He goes through periods of playing lots and then playing less. And I remind myself: there are much worse pastimes. It's a cheap activity, it's only fair that he gets downtime, and I know where he is. It may seem like a dumb hobby to me, but I know people who don't think much of obsessive book-reading (that's my vice), which is just as sedentary. It's also helped that we socialize with some of his online buddies, and sometimes he goes to their homes to play as a group, which I respect more, fairly or not, because it's in-person interaction! I encourage my husband to have fun and relax, just not at the constant expense of our family. He has listened. WoW widow
Just wanted to let you know you're not alone. My husband plays his online video game all evening, every evening (after the kids are put to bed), and as much as he can during weekend down-time as well (when the kids are awake/around). When we first got married, he only played solo games, and not that often; he had other at-home leisure activities: reading, TV, movies. Then he got involved in online interactive games, first Vanguard and now Lord of the Rings. When he's playing, he wears a headset to communicate with other players and is always embroiled in some epic battle, and thus is very unapproachable. He now disdains TV and movies (my favorite down-time activities) as too passive, not interactive enough, and plays late into the night. I've resigned myself to the evening playing; after all, it's his down-time to spend as he wants. I do mourn the loss of together time (I can't even make occasional chit chat with him when he's got that damn head set on), and the lack of sex, and I resent being the one that has to tend to a sick kid a night because he's always embroiled in a battle when they cry....But I've gotten used to it. But when he plays when the kids are awake on the weekend, my ears start to steam. (For reference, I don't watch TV during the day; I work around the house, read, etc.) I don't like that he's so unapproachable, can't interrupt whatever battle he's in, so that I end up doing more than my share of managing the kids (and other household stuff). Also, I don't like that he's modeling such a lack of well-roundedness in his leisure activities to the kids. I imagine at some point I'll bring this aspect up to him, but I haven't yet (my kids are 2 and 4). Does he think he would have become the smart, accomplished person he is if he had started playing video games (to the exclusion of all other leisure activities) at a young age? Or if his father had modeled that for him? We want our kids to value reading, right, but if they never see their father crack open a book, what does that tell them? We model our values by what we spend time on. It's frustrating, and I'm getting steamed up just writing about it. Hubby, why not read a book for once! Lord of the Rings widow
I didn't see the original question, but from the other responses, gathered that the ''guildies'' were getting more attention than the real, live, in-person family. The straw that broke the camel's back for me was realizing that we were paying for the privilege of having a zombie dad who had to put off plans with his family in order to wait around for a raid that was starting an hour late (and would last into the wee hours). The paying part was actually a big issue for me, because although the cost wasn't high, this all happened at a time when money was very tight for us. So I did what any mature (ha ha) spouse would do and gave an ultimatum. Although I realize that you might not be at this point, and that you may not even agree that giving ultimatums in a marriage is a good idea, I was feeling desperate. My partner is actually happy that he is no longer playing, and other than a brief tryst with Mafia Wars, has avoided getting sucked into the gaming hole. it's an addiction like any other
My husband plays games. It has been hard at times. Here is our basic arrangement:

1. No games until the kids are in bed and all chores are done. Dishes and toys are his job while I do the last of the bedtime routine; he plays once all of that is done, so that when I am done, too, we are both off duty.

2. No games when the kids are awake, weekday or weekend.

3. Games have more plot these days, and there is more continuity than there used to be. He plays for a week or two, finishes a game, and then not again for a few months. There are late nights. I am much more understanding of the binge when I know that it will be followed by a few game-free weeks.

4. He plays on easy mode, which is completely unnecessary for him, but which allows him the satisfaction of getting all the way through a game without needing to spend months on the same stupid boss battle.

5. He likes for me to be involved, even though my feelings about games are much like yours. I try to watch now and then. I talk to him about the game itself when he isn't playing, discuss the game's merits, or lack thereof. I sometimes hang out while he plays, reading a book or doing my own stuff. (Most of the time I use the opportunity to catch up on sleep.) It can be painful sometimes, but it helps keep me from feeling like it is something that takes him away; instead the time is a sort of shared private time.

If you can, restrain your judgment of his hobby; mentally replace gaming with model trains or whatever else would make you happier. Imagine a hobby that you might have--rock climbing or knitting or interpretive dance--that you fell in love with but which he found boring or silly. Think about how you would want him to deal with you.

My emergency plan has always been to simply walk out the door, especially if the kids are awake and need tending to. Just put it all down and walk out. I'm all for down time, for turning off, for checking out, but it is absolutely unfair that one person in a house gets to do this while the other is burdened by the full care of children and home. That, I would say, is when interest turns into addiction--when responsibilities to self and others are unfulfilled and neglected in order to play.

We use the word addiction in our house, around both net-surfing and gaming. It certainly changes the whole conversation. Good Luck


Husband addicted to WOW - online game

Jan 2008

My husband is addicted to World of Warcraft. Much to my dismay he puts it above all other priorities in his life, including me and our 2 year old daughter. While I could stun you with examples of this prioritization (well, okay here are a few: 8 hours a day gaming, always playing during family time, gets belligerant tells me to go away if I try to get him to do anything else during this time, panics at the thought of not gaming, his own family doesn't want to see him). Thankfully, we have started counseling. I have my own therapist. I am looking for a support group that handles this sort of thing. Like Game- Anon? Any ideas, something out there I don't know about? Are there other ''Wow-widows'' or ''Wow-widowers'' out there?

I'm so frustrated and depressed. Our life together is going nowhere as this inanimate object called my husband levels up to some god ranking at this game.

Just for some perspective, we both have great jobs, always get bonuses and raises etc. so it's not like that is suffering. Just our marriage and family.... Thanks, wow-widow


My gaming (but, thank goodness, not WOW-playing) husband says that a Google search for ''WOW widows'' should find you all sorts of support groups that could be of use. feel for you!
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