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It worked: Coping with a teenager's computer game addiction

A teen and his parents get professional help to deal with screen addiction.

GreatSchools Blog

By GreatSchools Staff

Name: Avi
State: California
Child's Age: 17
Child's School Level: High School
Area(s) child struggles: Attention

Describe a challenging incident or situation involving your learning or behavior.

I'm a 17-year-old boy with AD/HD. Recently I became aware that I had developed a "screen addiction." I watched my grades drift downwards as I abandoned studying in exchange for more time on my computer game. I was playing the interactive Internet game from after school until midnight. Not only did my grades suffer, but I was starting to turn down social interactions with friends, believing that I was happier with my computer game than I was with friends. After months of lying to my family about time spent on the computer game, I confessed the problem to my parents.

Describe how your parents responded to the situation, including the actions they took or strategies they used to support you in the situation.

My parents immediately sought help from professionals. It turns out that the addiction center at Cedar Sinai Medical Center has someone who specializes in this kind of addiction. The screen addiction cannot be treated like a drug or alcohol addiction, because computers can't be taken from my life any more than food can be taken away from an obsessive overeater. But with guidance, I was able to see that the rewards that I was getting from the game were not real, and I had to face my personal challenges with lack of self regulation, a common problem among adolescents with AD/HD.

Describe up to 3 things you learned from the situation?

  • to turn to my parents when I sense things aren't going the right way
  • that I will always struggle with my difficulty with self-regulation, but that I am able to do so

What do you think your parents learned from the situation?

I think my parents realized that computers and video game playing can take on addictive proportions, and need to be treated like an addiction. It can affect many areas of functioning, including school, social life, family relationships, and even health.

What do you wish you had done differently, if anything?

I wish I had admitted to the problem earlier. For years my parents expressed concerns about the amount of time I spent playing video and computer games, and I always argued for - and rationalized - my use of games.

What advice would you give other teens and parents in this type of situation?

Because many kids with AD/HD are at increased risk for "screen addiction" due to their difficulties with self-regulation, parents need to limit their kids' computer time. (There are devices that actually monitor usage time.) Parents and teens should have ongoing discussions about this issue.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

04/2/2009:
"Our 17 y.o son is addictive toward the use of his ITouch. It has an online lock in place so he can only access email, facebook and my space but he doesn't communicate with us much at all. Recently he lost use of his ITouch due to swearing and defiance and his reaction was huge. If the addiction is not to a game specifically is it still considered an addiction?"
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