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Overcoming Video Game Addiction

August 29, 2017

The culmination of a boy come teen who hasn’t been held accountable, has marginally attended school, is not social and spends his time on the computer is a young adult who occupies his time in his room playing video games. This is the trajectory of many young men who off-track from early on, were never sufficiently nudged to get on track.

Once so off course, the teen or young adult has learned that he can simply escalate to cause the parent to acquiesce and he can then continue leading his sheltered and sequestered existence. The parent in this situation frequently threatens severe consequences, alternately tries to bargain for compliance to more reasonable behavior, tries cajoling and guilt and then hopes the child will attend counseling. The parent then calls a counselor hoping to set an appointment on behalf of their son.

By the time the parent calls for help with a teen or young adult in this predicament, a nudge is rarely sufficient to set a proper course and it isn’t the boy who needs to attend counseling… It’s the parents. Both of them.

If the lad attends counseling, most often what occurs is the lad seeking to bamboozle the counselor. This lad may seek to throw the parents under the bus, or otherwise manipulate the counselor to limit change in favor of maintaining his status quo. Parents are hopeful if the child goes to counseling, but in effect, the process is akin to arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Attending counseling looks good, but has limited if any effect on this sinking ship.

If change is to occur, it is the parents who must manage the change process and it starts with them turning off access to the Internet.

As this will surely be met with resistance by their son, the parents must be supported and prepared for an escalation of challenging behavior.

The challenging behavior is often swift and extreme. It typically begins with hardcore bargaining and when the bargaining doesn’t restore the Internet access, behavior can include threats of, or actual violence; destruction of property; drug use; threats of suicide or actual suicidal behavior; running away/leaving home.

Parents are advised to never physically intervene with their son. If violent, parents should exit the home and call 911 immediately. If a parent gets involved physically, they run the risk of being charged with assault themselves. Similarly, if their son so much as intimates suicidal thoughts or engages in any suicidal behavior, they should take him to the nearest hospital emergency room for assessment. If the lad refuses to go, then the parents should call 911 for an emergency response. If drugs are found in the home, they should be disposed of. If they re-emerge, the parents should call police.

With years of building to this predicament, there is rarely an easy way to finesse the off-track teen or young adult into work or school. They are frightened and their social and academic skills are limited or at least remarkably rusty. They live in a sustaining and sheltered cocoon and they are addicted to the video games with other like-minded persons whose group behavior reinforces each one’s individual behavior.

Unfortunately, this strategy for effecting change does include risk of violence, suicidal thought and even suicidal behavior. Parents must enter this process with both eyes open and be willing to see it through to its conclusion, otherwise the child only learns the next level to escalate for his parents to capitulate.

It is only when the lad realizes that the parents are sincere in maintaining their expectations (no Internet, attend school or gain employment) will the lad be amenable to change. Once amenable to change, then other services may be directed to the support of the lad. Those services may include academic or vocational assessment, academic support if returning to school, job skill development, job search support, counseling and medication.

Throughout, parents need access to support and guidance. The parents in enacting the plan also may need coaching to maintain a caring and calm disposition throughout the change process and despite whatever behavior their son may throw at them. In the end, we want the child to concentrate on his own behavior and not how parents deliver their messages.

Assertive, caring, calm and supportive behavior throughout, with contingency plans in place is how the parent can help their son overcome video game addiction.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

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