Newly Recognized Dangers of Video Gaming for Your Children (Pedcast)

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According to the Wall Street Journal, there is a growing phenomenon on college campuses- video game addiction leading to college failure and other horrible consequences. And it is not rare! Stay tuned to learn just how dangerous video games can be for your college age children.

Musical intro

Playing Video Games Can Become an Addiction 

Childhood anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, depression, teen suicide, and acting on violent thoughts with a gun are all on the rise. Like with all sociologic phenomena the reasons for this are varied and complex but many experts think that video games use, and addiction is a definite contributor. And I don’t use that word addiction lightly. It starts innocently enough-a gift at Xmas or a birthday present of a gaming platform to play on, usually bought by the child’s parents! For some, playing video is just a relaxing activity, a diversion from the stress of life. But for others, especially boys, it morphs into an all-consuming activity that frequently goes on for 8-10 hours straight. Late night or even all-night gaming is not unusual either. That’s when there is time to play. It is generally recognized by psychologists, mental health workers, psychiatrists, parents, and the gamers themselves, that some suffer from an addiction. Just ask them.  For some, it has all the features of an addiction-it is a compulsion somewhere deep in the child’s brain that drives them to play, its very difficult for the gamer to stop, over time the gamer needs more and more gaming time to satisfy their craving, and finally, with withdrawal from gaming, the child experiences a very unpleasant sensation. Sounds like an addiction to me.

The Story of Jake and Many Others

OK, so back to the WSJ article that I referenced in the intro. The article tells the story of Jake, an insecure college student who gamed all through high school but, with the structure of his parents around him, managed to get by- functioning academically and otherwise. But then came college. Jake quickly learned that no one really cared if he didn’t go to class, stayed up all night gaming, showered, or ate regularly. His parents didn’t find out how bad things were until they saw him and realized that he was not bathing, sleeping very much, or eating enough to maintain his weight. Here is a description of Jake’s life and many other college student’s experience:

“The cycle works like this: Gamers develop a problem in high school, but they are able to get away with it. The transition to college is a different story,” said Cam Adair, founder of Game Quitters, an online support community for people with videogame addictions. “There’s less parental supervision, more independence, more responsibilities, a change in their social environment, more difficult classwork and they experience an increase in stress.”

“To deal with stress they play videogames, which causes them to get behind in class, which causes more stress, and they escape further into games to deal with it, perpetuating the problem. This creates a cycle of academic self-destruction,”

For Some, Gaming Has Serious Repercussions in College

For some, gaming has serious repercussions when they get to college. We already know that 50% of entering college freshman will fail to get a degree. There are many reasons that these young adults fail to graduate from college- the high tuition costs, homesickness, too much partying, too much alcohol, lack of seriousness about their education, and a need for more immediate income. These are just a few of the reasons young adults fail to graduate but as this WSJ article points out, videogame addiction is now being recognized as an important contributor to college failure.  If you have a college age student, especially a boy, who likes to game, I think you need to be aware of this trap and keep a close eye on their overall academic and life functioning while they are at school. As I tell the high school graduating children I see going off to college, “Drop out of this school and I can guarantee that your next life opportunity won’t be as good. Give this your best shot!” Playing videogames 12 hours day is not what college is for.

How do I Know I Have a Problem?

Melanie Hempe is recognized expert in video game addiction, and she runs an excellent website called FamiliesManagingMedia.  There is post on her site called Don’t Send Your Gamer to College. In it she has a list of 10 signs that might tip you off that your child (son) has a problem. Read over this list and if your child has many of these features, Ms. Hempe thinks your child at risk of heading for serious trouble, especially if they are headed off to college. And, by the way, I think she use the “He” pronoun because this problem is almost exclusively a problem among boys and young men.

  1. He doesn’t leave his dorm room for anything but classes or meals.
  2. He is more concerned about his friends at home instead of making new friends.
  3. He doesn’t date or talk to girls in person.
  4. He pays little attention to his hygiene or his living space.
  5. He spends more money on take-out food and goes to the dining hall less.
  6. He sleeps less and may take over-the-counter stimulant drugs to stay awake.
  7. He avoids campus social groups, clubs and study-groups in exchange for more game time.
  8. He lies to his parents about the amount of time he spends gaming and his low grades.
  9. He shows signs of depression.
  10. Gaming remains his favorite hobby.


So, what is the Doc Smo advice about video games and your children? That’s a tough one and there is probably no answer that is right for all families. But first, let me say that having videogames in your home opens up some serious potential dangers-addiction being just one of those issues. You need to understand that before you buy them for your children. Secondly, children were not born with a birth right to own their own video game equipment. You can decide not to make this available to them in -your -home. You have that right. Its your house, your money, and your decision. Decide for yourself if they are a good use of their time. Yes, they will probably game at the homes of their friends even if you forbid them but that doesn’t mean you need to make it easy for them to play at home. Thirdly, realize that the videogames of today are more like movies than the games that you grew up with, often touching on sexual, demeaning, and violent themes. That’s why they have ratings! And finally, if you do decide to provide these games for your children, you need to be quite vigilant at looking for signs that your child is becoming consumed by them. Take a moment and read over the above list one more time so that you make sure you know when there is trouble.

With regards to the college issue, what a tragedy to have everyone’s grand hopes for your child’s bright college future end with a bucket of debt, failing grades, moving back home with no degree. So, if you think your child has a problem with videogame dependency or addiction, be very very careful about sending them off to college and seek professional help before letting them loose on their own. As this WSJ article points out, you may be setting them up for colossal failure.


Well, that’s it for today’s pedcast. If you value the information that you get from Portable Practical Pediatrics, consider taking a moment to write a review wherever you get your podcasts and share any pedcast that you like. I would also love for you to take a moment to make a comment at my website, Let others benefit from your wisdom. This is Dr. Paul Smolen, your pedcast host, hoping that no child’s college failure can ever transfer blame, to playing too many video games. Until next time.