How to Recognize Computer Addiction & What to Do
Tuesday, January 26, 2010

By: Lawrence E. Shapiro, Ph.D

According to the Media Research Lab at Iowa State University, about 8.5 percent of 8-to-18-year-old children can be considered addicted to video games. And nearly 1 in 4 children, (more boys than girls) admit they've felt like their video game playing was out of control.

Is your child or a child you know spending too much playing video games?

Check off any of the statements below that pertain to your child.

1. Most of the child's "free time" is spent on the computer or playing video games.
2. The child is always tired, sometimes falling asleep in school.
3. The child is not keeping up with homework assignments and projects.
4. The child has worsening grades.
5. The child is lying about computer or video game use so privileges aren't taken away.
6. The child is choosing the computer or playing video games rather than spending time with friends or family.
7. The child is dropping out of activities such as social groups, clubs or sports.
8. The child is irritable, cranky or agitated, when not playing a video game or on the computer.

If you check even one of these statements, your child is spending too time playing video games, and you need to do something right away.
Here are some things you can do:

1. Talk to your child about the affects of playing too many video games, including: irritability and mood changes, weight gain, and loss of friends.
2. Decide on a reasonable amount of time he or she can play (most experts feel that children should not be in front of a "screen" (including TVs, computers, and video games) for more than 1.5 hours a day. Software is available to help you limit time on the computer.
3. Provide many alternative activities, preferably ones that involve active play and exercise.
4. Avoid leaving the child alone for long periods of time in his room or other unsupervised places.
5. Reward activities like reading, spending time in the library, or community service with lots of praise and attention.

Lawrence E. Shapiro, Ph.D, is an internationally-known child psychologist specializing in the emotional intelligence of children and teens. He is the author of dozens of books, including: "How to Raise a Child with a High EQ: A Parents' Guide to Emotional Intelligence," which has been translated into over 25 languages.