Tech Talk Circles - Video Games

Screen time and video game addiction are realities. While we all feel the pull of our devices, some of us are unable to stop using screens or put down the gaming console on our own. The World Health Organization recently added video game addiction to its International Classification of Diseases. This is an important conversation to have with your kids, friends, family and community members.

How to start

Print this page from grey printer icon on the left. Welcome everyone and thank them for being part of the circle. Explain that the circle is a place to have a friendly and informative discussion. Be respectful while others are speaking by not interrupting, limit rambling and keep your comments succinct and to the point. Tell everyone that they will have a chance to speak. A good idea is to have an item that can be passed around and held by the person speaking. If there are kids in the circle, acknowledge them and thank them for being part of this important conversation.

Keeping the conversation friendly and flowing

Encourage the group to share their personal stories and feelings about video games. Commonalities and recognition of behavior are some of the best ways to bring about awareness of excessive internet and gaming use. Remind the group that being honest and open will raise the awareness needed to take personal action in regard to internet and gaming addiction.

Scenes from the movie to talk about

  • California State University psychology professor Larry Rosen explains in the film, “Someone addicted to video games shows similar brain patterns as someone addicted to drugs, gambling… all sorts of substances.”

    • Strong limits set and managed by adults and empathy are the best ways to help your child have healthy screen time and gaming habits. Our post on how to unhook from video games is a great resource to share with the circle.

For younger kids, and for people who are more susceptible to compulsive behaviors, changing a habit on one’s own is not so easy. That is why it is vital for us as parents to talk about how to set limits for appealing things like Fortnite. If you are unsure whether your kid needs strong time constraint rules, try this:

  • Decide (ideally with their input) the amount of time they have until the game needs to be turned off.

    1. When that time is up, do they shut off the game themselves?

    2. If not, talk to them about what is happening and why they think they are having a difficult time.

  • Andrew became addicted to video games in his first year of college. He couldn’t stop playing and failed out of school. He expresses his regret not using the time he played games to master the piano after 12 years of lessons. “If I had dedicated all of my computer time to mastering an instrument or reading or exploring things, I would be way above where I am now,” he says. [WATCH CLIP]

    • We did a follow-up interview with Andrew that you might want to share with the group.

    • Have everyone talk about their favorite video game or all other consuming internet activities. What makes them so appealing?

    • Do you ever use gaming to escape or is it just for fun?

    • Are there passions that you have let go in favor of spending that free time gaming?

  • Cosette Rae, co-founder of ReStart, the addiction rehabilitation program Andrew attends explains, “The same neural pathways are activated when you ingest a chemical as when you play video games. The addiction is powerful, with effects similar to substance addictions.”

    • We recently interviewed a former video game addict about how he quit. He says the biggest thing that helped with the cravings was becoming aware of them and disassociating with them. Meditation and exercise helped me a lot, but the biggest thing that helped with the cravings was becoming aware of them. I started to feel the sensation in my body and recognize that it was controlling me. The more I craved it and didn’t feed the craving validated that I shouldn’t be gaming.

    • Ask your children how easy is it for them to set their own limits around using the internet and gaming and then stop when the time is up.

    • How many hours per week would you (the kids) like to spend doing fun things on the internet?

Resources

  • We often hear people say they are addicted to their phones or they can’t stop playing a game. Clinical addiction is a more serious matter. You can find the signs of clinical addiction and what you can do about it here.

  • Why is pulling away from a video game is so hard? When someone plays a video game, the brain’s pleasure chemical, dopamine, is secreted into the reward center. Today, we are receiving dopamine when we play video games and see notifications. When the notifications stop coming or the game is turned off so is the dopamine. This results in anger and sometimes aggressive behavior.

  • Why 3 hours is too much.

    • Psychiatrist and Gaming Addiction Specialist, Dr. Clifford Sussman makes this point, “The more time one spends online, especially in one sitting, the more a process called downregulation causes a drop in the number of dopamine receptors in the reward processing area of the brain. This causes a decrease in our ability to feel pleasure, resulting in a need to seek more stimulation.”

    • Dr. David Greenfield, Founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction says, “Although performing well in major life-spheres is often a key contraindication of internet or video game addiction, there are other issues and neurobiological consequences that may be more subtle, but nevertheless impactful.” He adds,“Heavy use seems to have several negative impacts (including getting less sleep) this is perhaps the largest imbalance in our use of time, which we all have limited amount of.”

    • Clinical Psychologist Edward Spector says, “Almost any problem in your life can be overcome with 3 hours per day of effort. Likewise, almost any hope or dream can be accomplished in 3 hours a day. That gaming habit turns out to be very expensive.  It costs you the gold medal you would have won, the musical instrument you would have mastered, the problems you would have overcome, and the dreams you would have realized.”

    • Do you agree or disagree with what the experts said?

    • There are several relevant posts in Screenagers’ Tech Talk Tuesdays blog on addiction.


How to wrap up the conversation:

Thank everyone for coming. Reiterate some of the key points that were made. Remind everyone to remain aware of their video game use and put actions learned into practice.