Video Game Addiction


Kids’ Corner | By Patrick Biron –

If your children’s eyes are glued to a video game screen, don’t blame your kids. The fact is that most video games today are purposely designed using specific psychological factors to make players addicted. With the right know-how, you can proactively address these factors with your children, young or old, and redirect them.

Psychologically, every person needs three things in life to feel happy: autonomy, purpose and a connection between effort and reward. Autonomy means that someone has some say in what they do. Think about your kids. How many real choices do they have? Parents usually pick their kids’ meals, their school, their clothes, where they go and when.

Video games offer a world where a child feels in control. Part of the game system is even called a controller. In reality, this is just an illusion of control. The game still has rules, levels and parameters, but it is presented in a way that a child believes they are making their own choices. So, expand this illusion of control to real life. As they grow, give children opportunities to pick what they want to do and when they want to do it. Think of it as a buffet of food. Let them pick what they put on their plate, but you pick the choices before them. For example, make a list of 10 chores, but only require your child to do seven of them and in whatever order they chose.

Most of us have heard of the game Pokémon, where players walk through grass trying to catch wild animals. Those animals appear at random, and the best ones are very rare and take a long time to appear. So, your child may spend hours mindlessly walking a video game character through grass, over and over. Why? Purpose. If the rare animal never appeared, they wouldn’t walk through the grass, and they sure wouldn’t find the game fun.

Chores – and everything else in life – are the same way. If your child doesn’t understand and more importantly, value the purpose you assign to the tasks, they won’t want to do them. Talk to your kids about why a particular chore is important and what rewards are possible. They need more than just, “Because I said so.”

Tie everything together with the last factor, connecting their effort to a reward. I had a boss at an old job who would steal the credit for my ideas. It was infuriating, and eventually, I quit because I didn’t feel like my work or effort was ever going to lead to any sort of reward or recognition. Kids will feel the same way. If they are never recognized for the effort they put forth or if they feel there is no reward at all, they won’t do the action. That’s human nature.

So, recognize your children for their work and give a goal for them to work toward. With so much going on in life, this may seem impossible, but go back to the Pokémon analogy. The more rare the animal, the greater the reward was when it was eventually acquired. The animals that were easy to find weren’t valuable to the child.

As a parent, you can pick the big items that you want to reward your kids with, and you don’t have to worry about having a reward for every little thing. In fact, making real rewards harder to achieve and even random makes them more valuable. For example, don’t give a prize out simply for a right action. Instead, give a ticket to the child. At the end of the day, draw from all of the tickets handed out that day and give rewards. The kids will know that the more “good” they do that day, the more chances they have to get a reward. So, instead of stopping at one good thing, kids will try to do as many as possible.

Remember, give them a choice, give those choices a purpose and always have a rare reward for them to work toward.