Video Gaming and Overuse of Electronic Devices

There is nothing inherently “wrong” with video games. It is true that some games are more violent than others, and parents are always advised to make the final decision about what games their student plays. In the same way, access to the Internet and social media, with parents’ oversight, can be part of normal life for youth.

HOWEVER, excessive time spent on video gaming and other electronic devices has grown to become a problem in many households of middle school and high school age students. For a while, parents may complain about this, but not take it that seriously, as “so many kids are doing it” – it seems “normal.” In addition to excessive time spent, there is also concern about some of the content students are accessing online, and about some of their interactions on social media.

Parents often begin to take more notice of their student’s excessive time spent on video games and/or other screen use when they notice one or more of the following things happening with their student:

Middle and high school students’ brains are still developing. If your student is spending excessive time on video games/devices, they are not developing coping skills and social skills they will need for life. Beyond that, some students may form a process addiction to their online activity. Their brains (prefrontal cortex) lack the ability to self-regulate and recognize that they should turn the game/device off for their best self-interest. Teens need parents to facilitate their development in this area.

When children say they are “bored,” parents often take that as a negative and rush in to try to fill the void. But feeling “bored” is an opportunity for students to use their creativity to entertain, calm or focus themself. If students are always going straight to games/devices, they are not developing these skills, which are necessary in adulthood.

In addition, they are missing out on other important things in life including in-person social interaction, exercise or team sports; learning – (focusing on school work; reading for pleasure); creativity through art, crafts; spending time with pets; volunteer work; developing responsibility by helping with household chores; helping other people (helping a younger sibling with homework, making a home made birthday card for grandma, mowing a neighbor’s lawn, volunteer work in the community); playing a musical instrument; exploring new interests, and much more.

While there are challenges and barriers to addressing this situation, there are steps that parents and students can take. In counseling, underlying factors are explored and addressed for the goal of a healthier balance in the student and family’s life.