View Full Version : Why the obsession with video games?


MommysBears
04-02-14, 04:11 PM
My dh and my ds love video games. I mentioned getting rid of the games and they both melted down. Why the obsession? I don't get it. I had to take the games away from ds recently because he refused to stop playing when I told him his hour was up. His psych said he should lose the game for a week when he refuses to stop playing or it interferes with other activities. It happened to do both that time. We were planning to go see a movie and he couldn't tear himself away from the game. He refused to stop and then told me he hated that movie and there was no way he was going. Okay then, no games for a week. Every day this week he's asked me over and over again how many days until my game comes back.

sarahsweets
04-02-14, 04:17 PM
Does you son have adhd? If he does I encourage you to read the essays by Dizfriz in the parenting section. Punishment does not usually work for adhd kids, certainly not something long term. After awhile the child with adhd will not even remember exactly why he is being punished for a week. Taking the games away immediately will work but taking it away from a week? Not so sure. If he has adhd then he will have emotional regulation issues as well as issues with cause+effect and understanding the specifics around the consequences gibven.

anonymouslyadd
04-02-14, 04:20 PM
Does you son have adhd? If he does I encourage you to read the essays by Dizfriz in the parenting section. Punishment does not usually work for adhd kids, certainly not something long term. After awhile the child with adhd will not even remember exactly why he is being punished for a week. Taking the games away immediately will work but taking it away from a week? Not so sure. If he has adhd then he will have emotional regulation issues as well as issues with cause+effect and understanding the specifics around the consequences gibven.
My mom punished me for months on end, and I did end up forgetting why I was being punished. I think a day is enough time for him to know that there are consequences. Also, speak to him the moment the issue occurs or the punishment won't be linked to the behavior.

FroGpants
04-02-14, 04:33 PM
Well I can only tell you from my p.o.v. but when I play my games on my phone I can zone out and completely relax. They really just make my brain feel good. And it doesn't matter what I need to get up and do, if I haven't reached a point where I'm ready for the world again I'm going to resist and look for any little reason to keep doing what I'm doing.

MommysBears
04-02-14, 05:05 PM
Yes he does have ADHD. He is not what most people think of when they think hyper - he can't sit still without his meds. Also he has the hyperfocus thing where he can get lost in a video game or legos for a long time. He also has an engineer-type brain where he likes to see how things work. My girls have inattentive ADD only. They like video games but can easily walk away without caring. His psych told me she did not think video games and kids with ADHD were a good combination. Also another Dr. in her practice told me he sees boys with video game addictions so bad they have lost interest in all other activities. So I guess I'm worried since my son prefers video games to everything else.

Stevuke79
04-02-14, 07:13 PM
My dh and my ds love video games. I mentioned getting rid of the games and they both melted down. Why the obsession? I don't get it. I had to take the games away from ds recently because he refused to stop playing when I told him his hour was up. His psych said he should lose the game for a week when he refuses to stop playing or it interferes with other activities.

I agree it may be a good idea to take away the game for a week if he refuses to stop playing or it becomes an interference, but whether or not you do that it's really more of a side-point. It's not going to actually address the problem or help him. I'm speaking from experience. I may have something in common with your son in this regard and also in terms of non-traditional hyperactive ADHD. So does my daughter. The behavior sounds a little obsessive compulsive and perhaps has elements of perserverating. Also traits me and my daughter share.

This is a challenge he will have his while life and there is no one-off solution. Overtime you will help him learn how to deal with this. So confiscating the game may help him see the gravity of the behavior, but by itself there is no co structure message and I actually think that by itself it will become a very poor and destructive message.

So confiscating the game should be combined with teaching him how to address the compulsion. First of all, don't confiscate it for a week "in the moment"; that will get you the worst possible result, message and reaction. Make a rule with time limits and acceptable times. Do it when everyone is happy, on good terms and not playing the game at the moment. Set expectations so that when he picks up the game, he knows how long he will have with it and when he will have to stop. Warn him when he has 15 minutes left so he can mentally say good-bye and transition. Give him a 5 minute warning and a reminder when time is up. If confiscating for certain behaviors is part of the plan, tell him what behaviors will get his game confiscated. You can't change the rules in the middle of the game .. like you cant change a rule in order to enforce it in the moment. And it can't be subjective or based on your judgement on the moment. That doesn't teach him a coping skill. You want to teach him to manage his impulses and emotions by planning, thinking, setting tangible reliable expectations, etc.

This will take a while for him to fully comply, ... But when he does.. When he stops just when he's supposed to, .. Praise the craap out of him. Positive reinforcement is so much more powerful and effective than punishment. As a parent I find it's hard to remember to praise "basic" "decent" behavior. Like when things are "as they should be" i didnt feel like i needed to say anything. But NOW, I do it ALL THE TIME!! Why? Because I tried it once and WHOAAAAAA!! Boy does that stuff work. Which is in itself proof of the effectiveness of positive reinforcement on parents as well.

MuEdLife
04-02-14, 08:31 PM
Taking stuff away never worked for me as a kid, I have non-hyper ADHD or PI. It actually got to the point where punishment was a game. First tv, then laptop, video games, I never used my phone so nothing there. It got to the point where I was grounded from practicing instruments I didn't have private lessons on. I would always find something else to do or would sleep! (I was grounded for poor grades, I wasn't diagnosed until recently so I just figured I was a natural failure and gave up)

Basically, just be careful doing this! If it ever stops working, try something else.

Another thing, for me personally, I couldn't read well. I still have issues reading fiction, none with non fiction though. Video games are a way for me to experience fantasy in an engaging way.

Also, my mom gave me an incentive. I could play games on weekends for as long as I wanted so long as EVERY house hold chore was complete and I agreed to do the mountain of laundry while playing. House stayed clean and I got to do something I really enjoy. :) my parents never had time limits on tv/video games, only requirements that homework had to be done along with chores.

As far as video game addiction goes, I've played since I was very young, like 3 and I'm an adult now, no addiction issues. Same with my dad, brother, and fiancÚ. Typically people who start on games later in life have the addiction issues.

One last thing, research has shown video games HELP people with ADHD, I can PM a link from Psychology Today if you'd like. Sometimes I think I made it as far as I did THANKS to my allowed unlimited video game time. I know video games helped me bridge social gaps in life and are probably the only reason I have many of the friends I have today :)

messyme
04-03-14, 08:49 AM
Although I agree with everyone's advice to a certain extent, it's difficult to give general advice to fit an individual child. I think that if a child's mother who knows the child extremely well thinks there might be a problem, then there might be.

My son also loves video games. Usually he's okay and will often choose to do something else on his own, like playing with Lego (rather than building, although he does that too, he loves imaginary play with the minifigures). But other times he wakes up at 6:30 am excited to go onto the computer or wii, and hours later he's still playing. I find that those days tend to be the days where he's very grumpy/irritable; it's hard to know if it's because he's been playing so long, or the other way around (he's in a bad mood so he plays longer). But at times I have thought that he might be better off with NO video games at all -- not as a punishment, but just as a lifestyle change for him. Sometimes I wish we lived before video games were around and playing outside with friends until the streetlights came on was the norm as it was when I was young. I also dream of having a cottage or little summer beach house or trailer or somewhere where the kids can enjoy activities with no electronics for at least a few months of the year!

Right now I don't have limits on my son's electronics time (video games/TV etc.). Some days aren't good, but most days are okay and he'll sometimes choose to do other activities on his own. I kind of worry that if I put limits on electronics, it'll just make them more appealing.

But other times I think my son needs limits. Like your son, he'd rather stay home and play video games than go out anywhere -- even somewhere I know he'd usually enjoy going.

One thing that I do let my son do is, if he hasn't reached a level/save point yet, I let him pause the game and turn off the TV only, so that he can return later (sometimes the next morning). I don't know if that's bad for the game/system, but we've never had a problem with it. But usually he just doesn't want to stop playing, regardless.

I know that my son does need several warnings. If we're going out somewhere, I need to remind him hours ahead of time, then an hour before, half an hour before, 15 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute. It's annoying for me and I'd rather he be able to transition himself without all the warnings, but it seems to really help. Sometimes (not always!), in the end, he almost seems to get annoyed with all the warnings, and is more than ready to stop playing because instead of being so engrossed in the game, he keeps hearing my voice telling him he has "2 minutes..." etc. Whatever the reason, it seems to really help, but I have to give lots of warnings like that, not just a 5-minute warning.

If your husband really loves/is obsessed with video games also, this makes it more difficult for your son. I know in my son's case, part of that reason is that it makes video games seem more cool; he wants to be like his dad, and his dad loves video games. It also makes his father less supportive of putting the game down when he needs to.

My son has started really getting into Harry Potter. He's watched the movies and wants to read the books like one of his friends does. But although he wants to do that and was excited to buy the book, for a long time he hasn't chosen to read if he has the choice of playing video games. And he also really enjoys doing other things (riding his scooter outside, playing board games, etc.) but he rarely chooses those activities if he has the choice of playing video games.

Those are just some of my thoughts on the subject. I really do think that every child is very different and what works for one (unlimited video game time, no video games on weekdays, etc.) might not for another child.

Fuzzy12
04-03-14, 09:16 AM
I don't have any solutions but I can imagine what the obsession with video games is. I don't play exactly video games but I can spend hours playing silly online word games or stuff like spider solitaire. And I often continue playing them at the cost of doing something much more productive and even much more fun. A video game provides instant satisfaction. Going to a movie might actually be more fun but it's not immediate in the sense that it's not going to happen in the next few minutes.

1. Instant stimulation and rewards. They are fast, they are relatively easy but not boring and you can see instant results, instant feedback. And you very quickly get better at them and that in itself can be very rewarding.

2. Distraction: You can really lose yourself in these games. They occupy so many of your basic senses and cognitive functions. They aren't emotionally challenging but they make you focus on something else apart from the worries and stresses in your life (I'm not sure how much it applies to kids but I can imagine that kids with ADHD have their fair share of stress).

3. Soothing: They give your mind a break and the commonly repetitive actions that you are performing are soothing. They allow your mind to focus on a single thing and to shut up the million other thoughts we are normally subjected to.

tripleE
04-03-14, 10:09 AM
Do it when everyone is happy, on good terms and not playing the game at the moment. Set expectations so that when he picks up the game, he knows how long he will have with it and when he will have to stop. Warn him when he has 15 minutes left so he can mentally say good-bye and transition. Give him a 5 minute warning and a reminder when time is up. If confiscating for certain behaviors is part of the plan, tell him what behaviors will get his game confiscated.


yes - warnings before transitions. so true of my DD for video games. and also for taking a shower. once she's transitioned, she's fine, but stopping one thing and starting another can be very hard for her!

and double yes to having a structure. we don't have limits per say, but we have things that need to be done before "screen time" - it works well now and my hope is that when she is older she will have the habit of getting something done and then the reward, like screen time.


Positive reinforcement is so much more powerful and effective than punishment. As a parent I find it's hard to remember to praise "basic" "decent" behavior. Like when things are "as they should be" i didnt feel like i needed to say anything. But NOW, I do it ALL THE TIME!! Why? Because I tried it once and WHOAAAAAA!! Boy does that stuff work. Which is in itself proof of the effectiveness of positive reinforcement on parents as well.

Triple yes - nothing has worked so brilliantly for us as "acknowledgement in the moment". I got it from Dizfriz's corner and it works reliably and amazingly.


Good luck. I think most of us here can relate to the challenge of video games with our kiddos!!

Stevuke79
04-03-14, 10:27 AM
If your husband really loves/is obsessed with video games also, this makes it more difficult for your son. I know in my son's case, part of that reason is that it makes video games seem more cool; he wants to be like his dad, and his dad loves video games. It also makes his father less supportive of putting the game down when he needs to.

I missed this part before. This is a great thing and an opportunity. He wants to be like his dad so make sure your husband limits his use and stops when he's supposed to. It may be possible that your husband may have to first learn to manage his video game playing and then teach your son.

Also, do not read from this that your husband should stop playing video games. He of course could if he wanted to stop, but that would negate the opportunity. If it's something they both enjoy then your husband has an opportunity to model healthy appropriate game playing.

MommysBears
04-03-14, 10:45 AM
Thank you all for your comments! It's great to hear everyone's perspectives and experiences. I need to read Dizfriz's corner this afternoon.

Per the psychiatrist's advice I limit his game time to 1 hour per day and I use a timer. I do give warnings and if he is in a "critical" spot in the game I'll allow an extra 5 mins to wrap it up. The Dr. is the one who said if he can't accept me turning off the game after an hour then we need to take away the games. She said 6 months but I thought that was really extreme so I said how about a week? It sounds like that isn't the best idea either.

His big obsession is the Lego xbox games. My husband has changed his thinking on video games after seeing how difficult it is for my son to walk away. He doesn't play as often and only plays when my son can play. Looking back, my husband did the same thing in college. He would stay up late determined to finish a level. He couldn't walk away and when he played the games he was totally checked out. His mom still brags that he was so good at video games she would let him play all day long. It sounds like his mom found a great way to keep him busy in my opinion ;).

Also, I forgot to mention my son is almost 6 so still very young.

stef
04-03-14, 11:03 AM
wow these are all really good points

I'd say, don't be negative about it - I mean if it's something he loves that much, he would feel bad if you refer to it in an unpleasant way. Make sure he sees you enjoying your own hobbies. you could even ask him to show you how it works, etc. (be prepared for the "withering look", though!
Also Lego Xbox doesn't seem violent, at all.

Now that I think about it my son & husband played for hours on weekends, I think it was Star Wars (this was a long time ago...). I thought it was a nice bonding thing, actually. I probably should have set more limits, though.

sarahsweets
04-04-14, 05:47 AM
His psych told me she did not think video games and kids with ADHD were a good combination. Also another Dr. in her practice told me he sees boys with video game addictions so bad they have lost interest in all other activities. So I guess I'm worried since my son prefers video games to everything else.

What kind of sources does your psyche use to reference that adhd+ video games are a bad combination? Very often for a kid with adhd that has emotional regulation issues, social deficits and perhaps a limited amount of what he is "good" at (in relation to his peers), video games can provide a good outlet. Of course if it is a true addiction (not eating or sleeping to play, failing grade,consequences from playing too much), then he needs addiction help. If he is just a 6 year old who likes the bright and shiny stimulation from video games, then as long as everything else in his life is moving along as usual and he is able to hold up his end of the bargain with other responsibilities,socialize etc, then I would advise you to try your hardest at involving yourself in his games so that he has someone in his corner that understands his likes.

As far as taking away the games for 6 months? Your psyche is a tool for that suggestion. Taking away one of the few things and adhd child is good at is more about teaching him a good lesson or an "Im the boss!" moment and less about trying to increase his strengths elsewhere. Plus adhd kids are 30% less mature than their peers.
Just my opinion.

Stevuke79
04-04-14, 08:04 AM
Well said Sarah. It seriously blows me away how dumb snow therapists are. It's one thing not to know what your talking about. But to be so oblivious to your ignorance that you give people this awful guidance .. and with such authority.

It truly baffles the mind.

CrazyLazyGal
04-04-14, 03:29 PM
This isn't directly about the question, but it is about video games.

There are video games that are addictive but also provide a good workout. Some examples are Dance Dance Revolution and the Wii Fit. I love the Wii Fit. It also lets you keep track of your weight and your fitness goals. The games are fun, but they also provide good exercise. I highly recommend them for people at any age.

MommysBears
04-05-14, 02:07 PM
Well, that's why I'm here :). I don't think I should take one person's advice. I want to gather a lot of information and opinions. So his psych is very against video games in general but she believes kids with ADHD are more likely to have a problem walking away from the game. She would would prefer I took away the games all together but I'm trying to strike a balance and not take away the games, just set reasonable rules and limits. They must have seen a lot of kids with video game addictions in their office. Her and her colleague (who sees my middle child) both said they have seen children who were depressed and no longer depressed when they took away the games.

willow129
04-05-14, 03:35 PM
Well I can only tell you from my p.o.v. but when I play my games on my phone I can zone out and completely relax. They really just make my brain feel good. And it doesn't matter what I need to get up and do, if I haven't reached a point where I'm ready for the world again I'm going to resist and look for any little reason to keep doing what I'm doing.

Not really contributing to the discussion but - well put. That's exactly how I feel about using the internet/forums/social sites/online games....and it's worse when I'm tired


You know what I think can have a similar feeling to video games? Learning to play a new instrument :)

OK randomness done :)

Matt329
04-05-14, 04:04 PM
Oh man playing Halo 4 locked in on Dextro is so much fun. This is of course after I've achieved all school work for the day :)

messyme
04-05-14, 08:01 PM
Well said Sarah. It seriously blows me away how dumb snow therapists are. It's one thing not to know what your talking about. But to be so oblivious to your ignorance that you give people this awful guidance .. and with such authority.

It truly baffles the mind.

I agree that there are some ignorant therapists (and ignorant parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, telemarketers, etc...). And I always like to do my own research and not blindly follow people's suggestions, no matter how educated they are or how much experience they have. But what's to say this is awful guidance?

The psychiatrist is giving the best advice he/she can give with his many years of education and experience. In psychology/psychiatry, issues are not often black and white. But, generally, guidance is given based on these years of education and experience. Think about how much you've learned on this board, just reading about people's experiences. Times that by thousands and that starts to compare with the experience most psychiatrists have. Add to that years and years of education and most psychiatrists are in a position to give very good advice.

I'm the type of person who wants to know where this advice is coming from (ex: What does the research say about video games and children with/without ADHD? What effect does taking video games away have on the moods of these children? Etc.) Most professionals can't and won't explain in detail where their advice is coming from, but it's not usually just made up.

I don't mean to be confrontational, but as I said although I don't blindly follow others' advice, I also don't blindly dismiss it as "awful". We have to trust professionals to a certain extent at least, unless they give us reasons not to. If not, I think this could put us in a very dangerous position.

There are obviously different opinions here. Parents who say video games are fine/good for children with ADHD probably have good experiences with this. But other parents, like me, who are less sure or lean the other way probably have children who don't do well with video games, and may be the ones who are (eventually!) happier without them in their lives at all. These parents will realize that a psychiatrist who says that video games aren't good for children with ADHD might know what they're talking about.

It'sPeter
04-06-14, 03:45 AM
I'm 30 years old and a huge gamer. I've also been an editor for a games magazine and did an internship at one of the major videogame publishers in the world today. All that with my ADD. And I was happy to see this thread on the forums, because I've been trying to find out the link between gaming and ADD myself.

As said in this thread, the instant satisfaction is a major one for me personally. And it's no longer about a high scores anymore. Games today let you build houses, grow ingame characters and take over cities or even planets. Just by playing a few hours (and I know a few hours sounds like a lot of time to non-gamers) you are able to create something and make a difference in a virtual world. This to me, touches another thing that I consider ADD'ers to be sensitive about: a feeling of accomplishment.

By drip-feeding instant satisfaction until finally a goal has been accomplished, games can really take over a day for me. And again, no more highscores here. I'm talking about maxing out your ingame character's abilities or controlling a city. Much more imaginitve things than some numbers at the top of your screen. With the previous generation of game consoles (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) achievements and trophies were introduced with games. These virtual awards are registered and compile a score of all played games combined. That also became something to accomplish for gamers and has an almost OCD-like attraction to people that want to collect them all.
The awful thing to me is, that after a day (yes, easily six or seven hours sometimes) of 'accomplishing things in video games' you turn off your console or PC and you have nothing real to show for it. And so it's full circle, because now I'm mad at myself and depressed for having no self discipline and wasting a day playing games.

When schoolwork doesn't go fast enough or there are chores I just can't start, it's so easy to play videogames, because they're engineered to keep me excited continuously, and ADD'ers are considered dopamine junkies, as I read somewhere.

I recognize the Lego games as being very well designed to keep playing. I have played most of them. They have amazing replay value and for completionists it's a wonderland. There is so much to collect, build and complete, that I really see how the Lego games attract ADD/ADHD'ers.

Your child is six now, so it's amazing you are on this. I wish my parents would have been thinking about this when I was young! If he has an interest in videogames now, that will probably only grow. More so, when he has a gamer dad. There are games that, like Lego, have addictive qualities. Games like World of Warcraft (so called MMORPG's) are a hundred times more attractive and can be very addictive for the same reasons other games are.

The good thing about the Lego games is, that toy stores sell real life Lego kits of those games. Maybe invest in some of those? Perhaps dad and your kid can build the Lego kits together? Because that's the good thing about Lego, it doesn't matter how old you are, it's always awesome :).

MommysBears
04-06-14, 04:10 PM
I can't thank you guys enough! You have been so helpful.

So I'm not sure where the psychiatrist bases her information. I only know her opinion and they see kids with video game addictions.

Peter- I can see where you're coming from. Video games do provide him with a sense of accomplishment not to mention, he's good at them! He loves minion run on the ipad. I've tried "beating" his score with no luck.

When my son isn't playing Lego video games, he is playing Legos. Legos I get. I don't understand video games myself so I spend time everyday playing legos with him. He enjoys kits but he often turns them into something else. We have built some cool stuff! I also made him a lego table for his room.

Stevuke79
04-07-14, 11:33 AM
But what's to say this is awful guidance?

It's very old school in it's approach. Relatively harsh punishment without any positive reinforcement, goal setting for the child or teaching coping skills.

It treats the video game like it's an isolated problem or temptation and attempts to avoid and limit it in a way that won't work in real life. It's also a solution which structurally resembles a punishment which makes it even less likely the child will embrace any messages even if they do exist.

The psychiatrist is giving the best advice he/she can give with his many years of education and experience. In psychology/psychiatry, issues are not often black and white. But, generally, guidance is given based on these years of education and experience. Think about how much you've learned on this board, just reading about people's experiences. Times that by thousands and that starts to compare with the experience most psychiatrists have. Add to that years and years of education and most psychiatrists are in a position to give very good advice.

You have a lot of faith. Good for you. I also start by giving therapists the benefit of the doubt so we have that in common.

I'm the type of person who wants to know where this advice is coming from (ex: What does the research say about video games and children with/without ADHD? What effect does taking video games away have on the moods of these children? Etc.) Most professionals can't and won't explain in detail where their advice is coming from, but it's not usually just made up.

If you look at what I wrote I wasn't struck by confiscating the game as much as I was struck by the fact that it wasn't coupled with anything else. No lesson, no coping, no positive reinforcement.

... I also don't blindly dismiss it as "awful".

I call 'em like I see 'em.

MommysBears
04-10-14, 08:48 AM
So I read the entire parenting section at DizFritz's corner. Very useful information. Then I watched the videos he recommended. I'm an auditory learner so those were significantly helpful. I took notes. Thanks for pointing me in that direction.

ccom5100
04-13-14, 03:05 PM
There's a very interesting and informative article on the Great Schools Website entitled "Your child's brain on technology: video games." I don't think I can link it because the site carries ads, however, if you are interested in reading it, go to greatschools.org and put the name of the article in the search box. It's Part 1 of a two-part series.