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Excessive Video Gaming Can Alter a Child’s Brain

An estimated 88 percent of American youth play video games on a regular basis, meaning almost three million kids could be addicted to gaming. These young gamers not only display addiction-like symptoms, they’re also prone to physical brain alterations over time.

According to new research published in the latest Neurology Now journal, excessively playing video games can physically rewire a young person’s brain.

Experts tend to agree that unhealthy video game habits can cause “significant” changes to a child’s brain. Video games stimulate specific regions of the brain – namely the areas that control vision and movement – neglecting and damaging other areas. Portions of the brain responsible for behavior, emotion, and learning can become underdeveloped over time, affecting related functions on all levels.

Gaming Addiction Statistics

A recent study out of Iowa State University and the National Institute on Media and the Family found gaming addiction is a serious – and often ignored – condition among American youth. From a nationwide survey of 1,178 American kids between the ages of 1 and 18, approximately one in 10 show signs of addictive behaviors. In fact, some kids displayed six of the 11 symptoms the American Psychiatric Association’s uses to define pathological gambling.

Signs and Symptoms of Gaming Addiction

  • Most, if not all, free time is spent on the computer
  • Defensive behavior if questioned about gaming
  • More time is spent gaming than with friends and family
  • A loss of interest in activities that used to bring joy
  • Social isolation, moody, or easily aggravated
  • Real life friends are replaced by online friends
  • Schoolwork suffers, grades decline
  • Attempts to conceal gaming activities

Also Read: How is Technology Innovation Impacting Gambling Addiction?

Tips for Parents

So, what can parents do if gaming addiction is suspected?

  • Address the problem: Children addicted to video games will likely feel upset by the threat of decreased gaming time. Parents should not be swayed by an emotional outburst, opting instead to stay focused on the topic of his or her excessive gaming.
  • Take control of the situation: As a way to control the amount of time spent gaming, parents should consider putting computers, smart phones, and other gaming devices in a centralized location of the home.
  • Become more computer-savvy: Parents should learn technical and popular Internet terms and become comfortable with the computer. Learn how to check a computer’s search history, monitor software, install firewalls, and establish electronic limits on the Internet.
  • Set and enforce boundaries: Kids aren’t the best judges of time and often don’t realize how much time they spend gaming. Parents must establish rules for what is an acceptable amount of time spent gaming Consider allowing an hour of gaming after homework or chores, with a bit of extra time over the weekends. More importantly, parents must enforce the rules, keeping the health and safety of each child in mind.

Learn more about video game addiction treatment options.

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