A new study from the Pew Research Center indicates 59 percent of girls and 84 percent of boys 13-17 play video games.
“For parents I think that at any time with anything, they should always be looking for moderation,” said Christina Jimenez, licensed associate marriage and family therapist with Doorways in Phoenix.
Anytime a child is engaging in excessive behavior, that’s when we have to look and say, ‘OK, what’s going on here’, she said.
“When someone is overly doing, and they’re doing it to extremes, they’re replacing all those other areas; the family, the friends, education … with video games,” she said.
Video games can be like any other addiction, Jimenez said.
“They’re getting so consumed in it that they are detached from their reality,” she said. “Because of that we’re consequences to their ability to socialize with people. We’re seeing consequences to their emotional needs.”
The reason? They’re teenagers and constantly competing and seeking validation through the video game, Jimenez said.
“And unfortunately sometimes that doesn’t happen [in real life] and that’s actually becoming a reflection of their self-worth.”
In her experience, Jimenez is seeing teenagers not engage in the family and becoming angry if parents set limits around the video games.
“For parents if you’re seeing your child engaging in video games in an extreme manner, that’s where you’re going to set some structure and boundaries around it,” she said.
“You’re are going to get some push back immediately because this is what the child is literally addicted to,” she said, “so we’re going to see some of that push back that we would see in any other forms of addiction.”
Setting time limits is key, according to Jimenez
“Saying ‘you have your homework done first, and then you can engage in your game for an hour,” Jimenez said. “And then we’re moving on to other things and making sure that that teenager is getting out there and socializing.”
For some teens, though, this may not be enough. If the kids are sneaking around to play games, playing hours on end, or in any other extreme manner, she said, then parents need to look to a professional to help manage why.
“What’s the underlying reason why this child is having to engage in the behavior, and helping them to reconnect to who they are, without the video game,” she said.
Jimenez also notes parents should know the ratings on games, talk to their teens about how they feel when they play and maybe even play with them to experience it first-hand.
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