Straight Talk Advice

Video game addiction zaps formerly-fun kid

Oct 06, 2015

Health and real-life accomplishments usurped by video games

Dear Straight Talk: I was excited to have my 14-year-old brother in high school with me, but he’s completely changed. Our single dad bought a computer and game console for our study and refuses to set rules on it. My brother has become a shut-in gaming addict who I hardly know anymore. He plays from the minute he gets home till 2AM and barely gets to school. He returns to our mom’s bugged-eyed, anxious and angry and it takes several days before he returns to normal. Then we go back to our dad’s and the cycle starts again. My dad says we must monitor our own lives — which my brother isn’t doing. What can I do? — Big Sister, 16, Springfield, Oregon

Nick 18, Corte Madera, California Ask me a question

Fortunately, my parents wouldn't allow video games in the house. Thus, I developed social skills and other things that made me a smarter person. Show him that he’s missing out on friends, meeting girls, etc. Make him feel lame for playing video games all day. It sounds mean, but it should work.

Lisa 22, New York, New York Ask me a question

The games are designed to be addicting. I rarely game, but when I do, I binge. Then I go weeks without thinking about them. It’s a huge problem for kids who don’t resurface. I drift toward video games when I’m bored and alone. Encourage your brother to find hobbies that are social. Point out that the addiction is the cause of his anger and anxiety. Self-monitoring has some merit, but not when kids need guidance. Your mom should talk directly to your dad because everyone is being negatively affected.

Brandon 23, Mapleton, Maine Ask me a question

Your brother won’t see the error of his ways until he's a senior, overweight, socially awkward, and angry that nobody stepped in. Or worse, he continues in denial. I regret doing this when I was younger and it took years to correct my course. Gaming itself isn’t wrong, but isolating or letting it ruin your health is. What were his interests beforehand? Would he enjoy sports video games? I played FIFA Soccer, then one day, joined the soccer team. Call of Duty and Counter Strike fans often enjoy airsoft and paintball tournaments.

Molly 23, Oakland, California Ask me a question

Your dad may want to be the favorite “no-rules” parent. Or he’s just copping out on being a dad. He needs to wake up for your brother’s sake.

Meghan 19, State College, Pennsylvania Ask me a question

One approach is to be curious about the games, ask him questions and try to understand his interest. Mention gaming clubs and conventions that involve face-to-face interaction. If you aren't attacking him, he may be more open to recognizing and changing his behavior. Another approach is speaking with your dad non-judgmentally and suggesting a time limit.

Samantha 23, Toledo, Ohio Ask me a question

We gamed some, but my three brothers and I were all athletes and good students so at-home practice and homework generally trumped gaming. Like for any addiction, your brother needs help. Suggest activities, sports, clubs, even going to movies. Enlist your guy friends to get him out and about.

Breele 21, Los Angeles, California Ask me a question

Being the little sister in a nearly-identical situation, I finally took matters into my own hands and threw my brother’s computer and console into the pool. When he came home, I hid, crying and terrified he’d beat me up or hate me. We did go through a rough patch, but now he’s my best friend and confidante and has actually thanked me. I see much older guys still “under the influence”, doing nothing in real life. I promise you, there’s no better gift. If you don’t have a pool, use a large outdoor bucket.

Dear Big Sister: Providing unchecked gaming to certain teens is like supplying them drugs. I suggest trying everything the panelists mention, and if, after two months, none of them works, employ the “Breele method”. It will force a break and wake him up.

Readers: Society has lost its way normalizing gaming for kids. It’s a profound service to not allow them in the house like Nick’s parents (and I) did.The 8,000 average hours core gamers spend during adolescence could be used to attain mastery at something real — as demonstrated by Nick, who just opened for top-10 artist B.o.B. (Hear this accomplished 18-year-old at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/launch-nick-lopez/x/7562914#/.

Editor’s Note: My bad. And I don’t care. My stance of video games is increasingly unpopular. 

A full 99% of boys and 94% of girls played video games regularly according to the 2008 Pew Internet and American Life Project — and 62% of parents felt the game playing had no effect one way or the other on their child. And 19% said the effects were positive! (Which I suspect meant they enjoyed not having to deal with their kids because they were zombified.)

To those parents, please think again. A 2010 study published in Psychological Science compared two groups of boys who were “home gaming virgins” (meaning they’d never had gaming systems in the home). One group got a gaming system first, while the others had to wait four months to get theirs. In that four-month period, the boys with the gaming systems developed significantly lower reading and writing scores and greater teacher-reported learning problems than the virgins.

No duh, Einstein. When you’re busy gaming you don’t have as much time for homework, reading, conversations with parents, or even just playing outside, which is connected to learning.

What I can’t figure out, is why, knowing this, the parents of the “virgins” accepted the gaming systems? And why the first group, didn’t give them back?

And these weren't the hardcore gamers putting in over 8 hours a day. Imagine that toll. And we aren’t even addressing the effects of absorbing the violence and sexual perversity found in many of the top-10 favorite teen games, which is linked to aggressive behavior in many studies. You are what you eat. We did cover this connection to violence in two columns: JAN 15, 2013 and JAN 8, 2013

Death by video game. One more thing: Quoting from a 2012 LiveScience article: “The gamer community had a near-miss this week in Ohio, when a 15-year-old boy collapsed after playing "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3" for up to five days straight. The Columbus teen was rushed to the hospital with severe dehydration, where he recovered… in July, a Taiwanese teenager was found dead after sitting for 40 hours in an Internet cafe playing "Diablo 3." At the time, doctors speculated he died from a heart attack caused by a blood clot that formed during the long session. And last summer, a 20-year-old man from the U.K. died from a blood clot after spending 12-hour sessions on his Xbox. His father told "The Sun" newspaper, "He lived for his Xbox. I never dreamed he was in any danger."”

To hardcore gamers, you probably aren’t reading this anyway. To those living with one, consider invoking your “inner Breele”. —Lauren


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  1. By Lyndie, age 17, from Arcadia, California on 10/06/2015

    My twin brother has also become totally obsessed with video games that he plays on his laptop and hardly ever leaves our room except to reluctantly go to school.  We share the bathroom and he’s so obsessed that I even see him playing the games “on the facility” if you know what I mean.  What concerns me the most is that lately he’s been obsessed playing games that involve really sick sexual violence against women.  Even though he’s my twin brother and has never shown any sexual interest in me even when we undress and see each other nude, it still makes me nervous as a girl sharing a room with him.  However, he’s so obsessed with the video games on the computer he pays no notice to me even when I’m completely naked, so I don’t think I really have anything to worry about.  I’m more concerned about the way this is going to make him look at other females as well as the fact that this has literally become his whole life.

    Our mom is a single parent busy with both her job and her latest boyfriend.  She rarely comes in our room and has no clue as to what is going on with him.  At first I was hoping that this obsession was just a temporary thing and he would get over it and move on, but he’s been at this for several months now, and it seems to be getting worse rather than better.

    Lindie

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    1. By J.K., age 16, from Lodi, California on 10/09/2015

      Our stepbrother is also hooked on these kind of video games involving sexual abuse of females and it makes me and my sister real nervous.  We don’t have an extra room so we’ve had to share our room with him since he came to live with us since his mom couldn’t handle him anymore and thought his father (our stepfather) should try to straighten him out.  They got us a partition that we can pull out when we undress so that we only undress in front of each other which is no problem since we’re sisters, but not in front of him.  However, he doesn’t even bother to pull out the patrician when he undresses and thinks its funny that it makes us very uncomfortable and embarrassed.  It’s bad enough to have to share a room with a boy under these circumstances even though we are able to avoid him seeing us undressed due to the partition, but we still have to sleep in the same room and have him be naked in front of us and it makes us especially nervous when we can’t help but seeing him constantly playing these sexual abusive video games.

      J.K.

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      1. By Steve, age 17, from Garden Grove, California on 10/09/2015

        So if he won’t pull out the partition, why don’t you pull it out for him??? Did that ever occur to you, or would you rather just complain about it?  That’s what I did when I was in the same situation with my stepsister, although it was in the reverse since I was the guy and she was the girl.  It was just on weekend visitations when I stayed at my dad’s and our parents thought the partition solved the opposite sexes undressing issue.  No way would I undress in front of her, and I always pulled out the partition.  However, she seemed to get a kick out of exposing herself to me.  She used the excuse that the human body was nothing to be ashamed of and that nudity is “natural” and “the way God made us.”  However, I really feel that she was an exhibitionist who got a thrill out of exposing herself and that she also had a crush on me and would have willingly had sex with me.  Even though she had an attractive body and I would have been tempted, I knew that it was wrong even though it wouldn’t technically have been incest.  So whenever she started to undress, I would pull out the partition.  She would laugh at me and say I was a prude and being stupid, but I still think I handled it the right way.

        It’s a shame that you have to share a room with someone like he, but at the very least you could pull out the partition if he won’t.

        Steve

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  2. By R.A., age 16, from Carmichael, CA on 10/07/2015

    My stepsister who I share a room with on visitations with my dad has become addicted to video games ever since her boyfriend left her for another girl.  She says that this is her way of dealing with it by keeping her mind on other things.  However, this is all she does, at least when I’m there and is always at the computer in her room and often is at it practically the entire night (as well as all day long).  The last time I was there she didn’t even bother to get dressed the whole weekend and just sat at the computer in her t-shirt and thong that she sleeps in.  She also barely eats anything at least when I’m there, and I can see her getting way too thin when she’s naked or in her thong.  I’ve tried to tell her that she’s not going to find a new boyfriend sitting at the computer, but she just got mad and told me to “mind my own business” so I stopped trying to tell her and also stopped trying to get her to go out and do things with me since she always refused.  I tried to talk to her mom about it, but she says she already tried and my stepsister won’t listen so she’s just letting her do this until she “gets tired of it and gets over it.”  I’m not sure what else I can do, but I’m not so sure that she will just get over it and things seem to be getting worse rather than better lately.

    R.A.

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  3. By Charlene, age 16, from La Habra, CA on 10/07/2015

    My sister was also hooked on video games.  When it came to food, she was the opposite of R.A.‘s stepsister and would totally pig out on junk food as she played video games on the computer in our room.  I could see her getting heavier every day when she was naked in our room.  She also put her favorite games on her cell phone so she could take them everywhere she went when she couldn’t be at the computer.  Similar to what Lindie describes, she couldn’t even go the bathroom without playing her games.  We had to share our only bathroom in the morning which has never bothered us as sisters, and I would get in the shower while she was having her usual morning b.m. and she was always playing her games on her phone even at a time like that!

    Another important point that no one has mentioned is that this is like any other addiction and “cutting down” does not work any more than cutting down on the number of drinks could work for an alcoholic.  Our mom could see the problem, so she told my sister that she needed to cut down on the amount of time that she spent on the games and limited the amount of time that she was allowed to play them.  All my sister did was find ways to cheat and expected me to cover for her and lie for her.  She also suddenly suffered from “constipation” and spent a great deal of time in the bathroom where I knew she was just playing games on her phone.

    Our mom finally got wise to her cheating and took the computer out of our room and only allowed her to use our other computer where she could easily monitor her and only allowed her to use the computer for school work.  I tipped our mom off about her phone and the bathroom, so she made her delete all the games from her phone and randomly checked it to make sure she wasn’t cheating.  She did catch her cheating, so she took my sister’s phone away for a month which is just about the worst punishment you can give a teenagers these days, but I agree that it was necessary in this case and my sister didn’t try to cheat after she got her phone back.  She finally got over her addition and is back to normal, but it took extreme measures and forcing her to go cold turkey.

    Charlene

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  4. By C.L., age 19, from Rhonert Park, California, USA on 10/11/2015

    It’s true that cutting down doesn’t work, and just like with drug or alcohol addiction you have to completely stop.  I got hooked on video games and that was all I cared about doing.  My grades suffered terribly, and I was in serious danger of not being able to go to college.  I also had no social life and no interest in having one.  As others have described, I was so obsessed that I would even take the games to the toilet on my phone and my sister who I shared the bathroom with would laugh at me for playing games at a time such as that, but that’s how obsessed I was.  Our mom was a single parent who worked nights and weekends, so she left us on our own most of the time and said we were old enough to take responsibility for ourselves.  My sister who I shared a room with couldn’t help but see my addition and tried to get me to stop and could see me getting too thin when I was nude since I was so obsessed that I often did not bother to eat.  She just let it be my business for a long time, but finally got so concerned that she went to our mom.  Our mom told me that I had to cut down and set limits on the amount of time and made my sister responsible to monitor me and let her know which in retrospect I realize was unfair to her.  The limits did not good as all I did was cheat and threaten my sister if she told.  She finally told our mom anyway, and she made me get counseling that got me over my obsession.  I finally completely stopped playing the games which is the only thing that worked.  I am now in college and doing well and very glad that I got over this addiction.

    C.L.

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  5. By Muhamamd Umer Khan, age 26, from Pakistan on 05/22/2017

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    Reply to this comment

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