It’s a Sunday and you wake up to a troubling sound. It’s coming from your 14-year-old teenager’s room, although the door is shut. You have heard the background music days before when you walked by the same spot. You know your boy is hooked onto his computer, playing games, even when he has not had anything to eat. Forget about helping to prepare breakfast for the family.
Why Teenagers Get Addicted To Video Games
Teenagers get hooked onto video games for different reasons. It could be plain boredom, or loneliness, trying to fit in with friends. They could be bullied at school, failing in class, or trying to hide from conflict at home. Video games offer a convenient form of escapism. Nobody knows the real you behind that screen, you do not have to dress up, put yourself under scrutiny for God-knows-who. It’s a virtual world, getting lost in anonymity feels reassuring indeed. And video games are fun to play with for lots of teenagers, especially boys. Each time he reaches a higher level, your teenager experiences a surge of excitement and achievement, the feel-good hormones bathes his brain, beckoning him to return for more. Yet, for the teenager who knows he is failing his parents’ expectations, his mind would be filled with guilt and shame each time he returns to reality, leading him to a path of depression. If you are looking for ways to engage and connect with the digital generation, read up my book Parenting Generation Y & Z. If you wish to understand how to raise boys better, check out Cool Boys Super Sons.
Introduce And Enforce House Rules
What works? Consider house rules. Set a time limit. Some parents only allow their teenagers to do whatever they need to do on the computer in a common area at home. If you never had house rules, but now find a need to introduce it, plan how you will break the news. Stay calm and be firm – a golden rule in raising teenagers. Even if you did not say so, your teenager would know that the house rules are introduced because of his inability to discipline himself. And it’s okay. As parents, our job is to guide our children, not please them all the time. I know of parents who are so uncomfortable with confronting their teenager, they avoided bringing the matter up, even when the teenager has been locking himself up in his room 8 to 10 hours straight every day. This is not a route you want to follow.
Setting house rules is the easy part. Enforcing them is easier said than done. It’s not easy for a parent who has plenty of things to do to be there all the time to make sure house rules are followed.
If The Rules Are Broken Multiple Times
What if you and your teenager already had had a few discussions, you have stated the rules clearly, yet see no improvement in behaviour? You could immobilize internet connection during specific times, establish charging areas in public domain only, or you could install monitoring apps using available tools such as Kidslox, Net Nanny, Phone Sheriff, Norton Family Premier, FamiSafe. I have never tried any of these, to be honest. So if you did, tell me how it works.
What Are The Alternatives?
You might be so upset with your teenager spending hours playing video games, you might be tempted to just confiscate everything and chuck it all away. Every child is different, taking away everything might or might not work. But if you look deeper into why a teenager gets hooked into video games, chances are there is a certain emptiness, a void that they are trying to fill. Video games make your teenager feel powerful, it distracts them from whatever failure he’s facing. Having a heart-to-heart conversation can pay dividends, as in the case of the father who took 4 days off to coach his son and turned him around. Feeling good with one’s ability to make friends, a sense of achievement overcoming measurable challenges – all these are deeper needs that must be fulfilled. Think of alternative ways how these needs can be met.
For example, if a child is finding it hard to make friends, help him connect with a non-profit organization where he could meet like-minded youths and contribute in a positive way. Like reading to the blind, tutoring underprivileged children, lending a hand to a soup kitchen. Of course, this means more work on your part – identifying suitable groups and driving him over to the designated places. But really, not every minute of a teenager’s life must be filled with something. A teenager needs some “me” time, time to reflect on life itself.
Equally important is how you manage potential conflict during those crucial conversations. Stay calm, do not let your emotions run riot. Do not be a shark, play the wise owl. If all else fails, if you see signs of addiction: lack of sleep, lying, bad temper, loss of interest in school work, or your child isolating himself for hours on end, and you suspect it has everything to do with video games, it’s time to seek professional help.
Image by: Francois_Bellay