Q: My 10 year old used to be an avid skateboarder and baseball player—until Call of Duty on XBOX Live arrived. I didn’t in my wildest dreams think that he would become addicted to a video game. I have a 21 year old who played all of the games but was never ruled by them. Since my awakening, I have removed the game, but my son is miserable. How long does it take to deprogram him?
—Problem Gaming, in Kansas City, MO
A: Dear Problem Gaming,
More and more young people are being referred to me for Internet or video game behaviors that are causing real problems in their lives. It sounds like your 10-year-old son falls into that category. Unfortunately, time away from the game may not be enough to deprogram him—he probably needs professional help.
Even though our healthcare system doesn’t recognize video game addiction as a formal problem, there are still steps you can take to help your son. You’ve already taken the first step: removing the game (though if he is indeed addicted, he will find other ways to keep playing). The next step is to find and make an action plan with a therapist who understands this kind of problem.
In the meantime, when talking about this with your son, frame this as a health issue, not as an issue of misbehaving. Your son’s excessive game play could be a symptom of another issue—like social anxiety or depression—and it could be his way of taking refuge in a world he can control. Explain that you see how miserable he is, and that although he may not understand yet, the goal here is not to punish him but to make his life better.
Learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment related to Problematic Interactive Media Use (PIMU).
Enjoy your media and use them wisely,