Nearly every Canadian teenager has access to electronic devices. Those devices can often become the most important component of their lives at the expense of everything else.

Unfortunately, like other addictions, the immediate accessibility, engaging nature and rewards of gaming and online connections can sometimes hijack a developing brain making it the activity of choice at the expense of other crucial developmental activities.

Without timely and thorough intervention, teens can suffer serious adverse effects from gaming addiction. The impact of those effects could last a lifetime if not addressed. Not sure what to look for? Here are the seven most common effects of gaming addiction.

a girl sits in a window looking outside and thinking about the adverse effects of teen gaming

1. Poor Sleep Habits

To reach the next level, obtain the best gear or earn new achievements, teens may stay up late to play their video games nearly constantly, giving sleep the backseat to entertainment. As their brains process perceived rewards, disruptive neurochemicals are produced and processed en masse.

While gaming, it is normal for the resulting rush of neurochemicals to eliminate sleepiness and increase excitement levels. Gaming time tends to increase at that point, leaving even less time for sleep and self care.

Be careful, it’s not just video games that can negatively affect sleeping habits; in a poll from the National Sleep Foundation it was found that any screen time or interaction with visual technology could negatively affect sleeping habits. Simply replacing gaming with movies, or texting, or computer time late at night can perpetuate poor sleeping habits, and furthermore, can even affect relationships with family and friends.

2. School Performance Impacts

Video game addiction can quickly start to impact performance in school as well. Reduced impulse control and adequate sleep, the capacity for children to function well in a school setting decreases significantly, especially during testing periods.

Furthermore, adolescents with constant access to video games may attempt to skip homework in favour of a bit extra game play each day. Even if parents have set homework time, kids addicted to gaming usually cannot keep their focus on the homework subject matter. Instead, they may daydream about gaming and grow frustrated trying to understand the main concepts of their assignment. School scores can plummet as video game addiction starts to take hold.

If your teen is struggling at school as a result of a gaming addiction it’s also possible that the school will take disciplinary action, adding more problems to an already difficult situation. A lot of schools are overzealous in their use of discipline for troubled teens, and handle the issue in the wrong way. Being proactive about your child’s behavioral issue can help to minimize any long-term negative effects.

3. Avoidance Increase

Video games are an excellent way to escape difficult problems through avoidance. Despite the temporary alleviation of stress, active avoidance of problems or feelings can lead to debilitating mental health effects, including panic attacks and social anxiety. Clinical research has determined that avoidance tends to snowball as the problems increase in severity or frequency.

As the repercussions of avoidance escalate out of control, your child may attempt to further increase reliance on video games as a way to escape reality. This circular pattern of escapism continues until the core issues escalate to a point that requires outside intervention. Kids prone to gaming addiction will attempt to turn back toward avoidance through video games after utilizing this method of escapism the first time around. It’s a never-ending cycle.

4. Coping Skill Reduction

By utilizing video games to avoid difficult problems and feelings, affected adolescents fail to learn healthy coping skills. Kids and teens need to learn coping skills to avoid turning toward addictive substances, including video games, drugs and alcohol during stressful times.

Video games provide a brief reprieve from stress, which may trick the brain into thinking that practice is healthy and sustainable. Unfortunately, without strong coping techniques such as mindfulness adolescents may never learn how to actually deal with life’s problems and may rather simply ignore them or turn back to gaming itself for stress relief.

5. Social Isolation

Although many of the games kids and teens play are based in online worlds where they interact with others, the real social aspects are extremely limited, especially when compared to face-to-face playtime with peers. Research indicates that excessive gaming can lead to increased feelings of social isolation that cause depression, anxiety and various other mental health ailments.

As daily video game playtime increases, development of age appropriate social skills tends to halt and even reverse. Eventually, teens are unable to relate to their peers in anything beyond an online format. Even with direct online interactions with peers, the resulting social network remains rather fragile and susceptible to failure over time.

6. Outburst Uptick

Children addicted to gaming may respond with loud, angry outbursts when interrupted during game play. You may even notice that tolerance for disruptions stay low and frustration levels remain high for hours after ending the gaming session.

The outbursts are often caused by the effect long gaming sessions have on the nervous system. Clinical research indicates that extended playtime actually physically damages the areas of the brain that manage impulse control. Over time, the normal impulses learned in your child’s early years are forgotten or suppressed, resulting in inappropriate outbursts at the most innocuous triggers.

It can be extremely difficult to remove your child from the grips of their gaming addiction. Even parents that recognize the issue can have trouble solving the problem on their own. It’s common to see parents attempt to remove their child from addicting video games only to trigger a higher level of aggression. If you’re struggling to help your child with gaming addiction professional intervention may be necessary. A gaming addiction program can help your child learn healthy coping mechanisms and ways to recognize and deal with feelings of aggression as a result of their gaming addiction.

7. Violent Ideation

As gaming addiction starts to take hold, adolescents may entertain uncharacteristically violent fantasies. The violent ideation often takes form of imaginative scenarios based within the game world. Over time, however, the thoughts begin to intertwine real world happenings with game world mechanics.

If the video games’ subject matter is particularly violent, this process may also include a startling amount of desensitization. The combination of unhealthy ideation and severe desensitization can increase the risk of violent outbursts and actions. Any noticeable violent fantasies or actions are a definite call for help that requires your immediate attention.

If your child is dealing with aggressive outbursts or exhibiting violent ideation as a result of their gaming addiction, and you can’t get it under control, it may be time to seek some help by enrolling your child in a gaming addiction program.

Please call: (855) 281-5813

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