Children and internet/gaming addiction
anonymous Asks ...
At what age can a child become addicted to the internet and to playing games online and on the ipad? Of course all children like playing games but my son seems obsessive about it and if he spends too much time playing he gets really behaviorally out of control, but if you pull him away before he has had ‘enough’ he gets furious. He is 10. I am an ex cocaine addict and I see the same obsessive and compulsive glint in his eye as I used to have about drugs and alcohol. Is he more likely to have an internet addiction because of my past cocaine addiction? I am divorced and my wife does not agree that this is a serious issue so it is hard to set consistent limits on his gaming time. She lets him play as long as his homework is done and this can mean 4 or 5 or even 6 hours of play time a day, not counting the hours he sneaks in his room at night I am sure (I have caught him doing this on many times). Can he be actually addicted addicted and if he is how can I get my wife to see the forest for the trees? What is the best next step for us?
Zelik Mintz Says ...
It is hard to quantify at what age a child might have addiction issues concerning the internet and video games because of the relative newness of the internet. It certainly is a serious concern. There also might be other personality issues and boundary issues that play a role in how your child responds to limits and control. That said, your concern is understandable, particularly because of your first hand experience dealing with your own addiction. Your son getting out of control and furious about a limit set on his internet use is concerning. And spending a minimum of 4-6 hours a day gaming, especially at 10 years old, detrimental.
I doubt that your past cocaine addiction directly affects your child’s issues with the internet. Whether you are dealing with an addiction with your son’s internet/video game use or not, setting boundaries in terms of play is paramount for his well-being. It is very difficult to have consistent boundaries when a child is being raised in two homes that have different rules and ideas of child rearing. Is it possible to have a meeting with a family counselor about your son’s behavior and response to boundaries? Talking to a professional with your ex-wife and son seems indicated and would hopefully facilitate some degree of team effort for raising your son. Different rules and boundaries at different homes is confusing to a child and may exacerbate his difficult behavioral responses. If your ex-wife is not amenable to a visit with a counselor, it still would be helpful for you and your son to have a session with one. Good luck.