featured-healthhealthIssue 14

Avoid Gaming & Internet Addiction

shutterstock_207415645webBY JACQUI D. SINARLE

Technology is great. It enables us to learn more, do more and do it faster. It’s also produced a new challenge: Gaming/Internet Addiction.

“This is the first generation of young adults and children to grow up with gaming, the Internet, cell phones, Facebook, etcetera,” observes Lynn Telford-Sahl, addiction counselor and author of Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear and Addiction into Freedom.

Individuals who use technology in a healthy way don’t allow it to interfere with the functions of daily life such as appointments, work, school and meals.

Look for these signs and symptoms of computer and Internet/gaming addiction developed by Hilarie Cash, PhD, author of Video Games and Your Kids and executive director of reSTART, the first inpatient treatment facility devoted exclusively to video game and Internet addiction. According to Dr. Cash, three to four “yes” responses suggest abuse, and five or more “yes” responses suggest addiction.

• Increasing amounts of time spent on computer and Internet activities
• Failed attempts to control behavior
• Heightened sense of euphoria while involved in computer and Internet activities
• Craving more time on the computer and Internet
• Neglecting friends and family
• Feeling restless when not engaged in the activity
• Being dishonest with others
• Computer use interfering with job/school performance
• Feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious or depressed as a result of behavior
• Changes in sleep patterns
• Physical changes such as weight gain or loss, backaches, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome
• Withdrawing from other pleasurable activities

To prevent gaming/Internet use from becoming a problem in your household, consider some of these boundaries for sustainable technology use.

• Set daily time limits on technology and let friends know these are the only times you’ll be available digitally. Aim for screen time limits of less than two hours a day total for all of your devices.
• Establish technology-free days and areas of your home and workplace.
• Reduce the number of devices you own and resist the urge to upgrade to faster and more advanced products.

“I think parents don’t always know what to do if their child is spending too much time gaming or on the Internet or texting, so sometimes they don’t do anything,” Telford-Sahl says. “According to Dr. Cash’s research, it’s best to limit Internet, phone and social media time by age. Of course, that means it’s good to limit our own use as a model for our children.”

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