Is Video Addiction Real?

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Question: We think our eighth-grader is suddenly doing poorly in school because of the amount of time he spends playing video games. Is there such a thing as addiction to video games? How can we get him to study more?

Answer: The American Psychological Association doesn’t believe there is enough evidence yet to formally consider too much video game playing a disorder. There is widespread agreement, however, that spending an excessive amount of time playing these games results in behavior similar to that of addicts of many kinds of substances.

The following behaviors may be signs of possible video gaming addiction according to Kimberly Young, a doctor of psychology and professor at St. Bonaventure University:

  •     Playing for an increasing amount of time.
  •      Thinking about gaming during other activities.
  •      Gaming to escape from real-life problems, anxiety or depression.
  •      Lying to friends and family to conceal gaming.
  •      Feeling irritable when trying to cut down on gaming.

The question isn’t so much whether or not excessive video gaming is an addiction, but whether or not it is affecting your son’s schoolwork. And this sounds like a definite possibility.

First, determine when and for how long he plays these games. Then you can set time limits. Locate the game-playing device in a family room so you can clearly see when he is playing. It is also sensible to establish the rule that homework must be done and inspected by you every day before he can play.

If your son reacts violently to any suggestion of limiting his gaming time, then there may be a more serious problem that could require professional help.

Learn more about possible video-game addiction by visiting the WebMD website at and searching for “Video Game Addiction No Fun.”

Preventing test anxiety

Question: My 10-year-old son freezes whenever he takes a test. The teacher offers him more time, but it doesn’t help. It just gives him more time to panic. Is there anything I can do to help him overcome test anxiety?

Answer: The best way for children in elementary school to feel confident before taking a test is to keep up with their work and make sure they understand what they are studying. Reviewing sufficiently is another key to facing tests with confidence instead of panic. Your son needs to review material every evening. Over-learning is one way to reduce test anxiety.

Another hint to help avoid test anxiety is to know what will be on the test. Teachers usually review for tests. Teach your son to write down and underline anything the teacher identifies during the review period as important to know. He should also complete and review all study guides the teacher uses in class.

Some anxious students find it useful to make practice tests from study guides and chapter questions so they ensure they know the material. These techniques should help unless your son’s problem is really one of an inability to learn the material.

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