Playing games is a natural part of growing up. It’s one way that kids learn to socialize and compete. Computer and online games, in most instances, are no more dangerous than other games that kids play. But sometimes, computer and online games become more than just play. They become an addiction. And when they become an addiction, your child’s psychological and physical well-being may be in jeopardy. Escaping into games
When your kids play games online, is it play? Or is it something darker? Addiction to computer and online games is a real and growing problem. It affects both kids and adults. Often the most addictive games are the online multi-player games. They include role-playing, endless levels of achievement, and an IM or chat function. Groups of players play and chat online, creating a fantasy world that provides an escape from real life. Kids can get caught up in this fantasy world to the exclusion of their real life responsibilities. What gaming addiction looks like?
Playing online or computer games is an innocent hobby that can become a pathological behavioral problem, in which playing games becomes more important than other aspects of life. Addicted kids spend hours on the computer to the exclusion of other activities. They lose interest in their school, fail to turn in homework assignments, and their grades suffer. They turn their backs on their friends, preferring to stay at home on the computer with their “online friends”. Much of their conversation may revolve around the games they’re playing. They may be inordinately proud of their gaming successes. If you challenge them about the time they spend at the computer, they try to hide their gaming activity. Physical warning signs include sleeplessness, dry eyes, and carpal tunnel injury. A recent study by Harris Interactive reports that nearly one in 10 kids between 8 and 18 are addicted to online gaming.† There are many reported cases of addiction to online gaming: teens who become reclusive; students whose grades drop precipitously; kids who drop out of high school to play games; kids who play games 60 or more hours each week; and more. This isn’t, by the way, a problem that’s exclusive to kids. Adults get caught up in it, too; turning their backs on their families, losing jobs, threatening their financial well-being, and losing spouses. Other gaming dangers
Online gaming addiction opens kids up to other dangers, too. Chatting online with other game players may expose them to online predators. Predators go where kids go online, and where better than a fantasy world that includes children? Also, gaming addiction can take a toll on your pocketbook. Many popular online games require that players buy the game, and then pay monthly subscription fees. Tools, accessories, and additional characters cost even more. It is possible to spend hundreds of dollars a month on monthly fees and add-ons. According to an article in Bay Area Parent,†† a 14 year old boy used his mother's credit card to buy online a set of gaming accessories, including “magical dragon armor and 100 pieces of virtual gold.” His mother noticed unusual activity (amounting to $600) on her statement and quickly figured out what had happened. One can buy additional characters and accessories from the gaming Web site and there are cyber shopping malls where one can pick up accessories like virtual Elvin bows, mystical armor or a sword of fire. One site listed a complete World of Warcraft character for sale at the extravagant beginning bid of $1,600. Finally, maintaining an open connection between your computer and a gaming Website/chat room, may lead to intrusion and possible theft of your identity and financial records on your home computer or network. It’s always a good idea to have good Internet security software installed on your computer. It’s even more important when your computer is used for online gaming. Parenting is the best prevention
Good parenting goes a long way toward...