There is an ongoing debate as to whether or not playing violent and morally-challenged video games like “Call of Duty” or “Grand Theft Auto” can have an impact on a child’s mental health.

An abundance of research supports the theory that psychiatric disorders may be perpetuated by excessive playing of video games, but still other research contradicts their results. So, which is it? Concerned parents continue to ask, “Does playing video games hurt my teen?” But they aren’t getting any definitive answers. So, how can you know if teen gaming will cause your teen to acquire some form of psychiatric disorder? 

Video Games and Mental Health: It’s All in the Research 

Studies addressing the possibility that psychiatric disorders may be caused by teen gaming have revealed more than just the obvious side effect of aggressive behavior – they also showed that teens became morally disengaged, showed less self-restraint, and exhibited less self-control. A study from Social Psychological and Personality Science, published online, notes these changes specifically, and gives a lot of insight into how quickly video games can affect a teen’s behavior. 

To further support the argument that video games may be related to psychiatric disorders, Elevations RTC, a residential treatment center for teens, addresses the connection between teen gaming and mental health in their own article on this topic. They cite additional research that shows teen gaming may result in its “negative effects increasing over time,” as well the fact that the more frequently video games were played by kids “the deeper their depression and anxiety became.” 

Still, just as there is evidence to support the disturbing possibility that teen gaming might affect mental health, there are also studies that claim violent video games are okay for kids. However, the bottom line is that excessive gaming does affect teens in one way or another, and whether or not it is going to be detrimental to your teen’s health can’t be determined from any particular study. 

Helping your teen 

If your teenagers is playing video games excessively and exhibiting behavioral changes, it may not necessarily be causing psychiatric disorders, but it may be supporting existing one. Your teen may also be using gaming as a coping mechanism for other mental health problems, and if you believe your teen may need help, it’s time to talk to a professional. 

As a treatment facility dedicated to the health and wellness of teens, Elevations RTC not only provides individualized care for teens struggling with negative behavior and mental health issues, they also provide a nationally recognized academic program to help them excel throughout the healing process. For any teen in trouble, it’s best not to wait when your child needs professional care. 

Elevations RTC is a program that specializes in both therapy and excellent academics for teens. To find out more, call us at (855) 290-9681.

Not Ready for a Treatment Center?

If you're concerned about your teen and video games, but not as concerned about a psychiatric disorder, there may be other interventions before seeking professional assistance. 

Helping your teen find a passion outside of the virtual world where they can socialize and push themselves is a great way to break an addiction to video games. Studies show that team sports can be a great outlet for youth and teens to develop skills and friendships with like-minded individuals. Participants in team sports can build lasting relationships that help break the cycle of internet and electronic addiction. 

The study above found that, "The results suggest the effectiveness of and need for sport and physical activity in Internet addiction treatment programs and for other addictions as well. Moreover, sports participation has a wider variety of psychological and physical benefits unlike intervention strategies or pharmacological treatments. Thus, the adoption of sports needs to be broadened from physical development to treating diverse psychological problems among adolescents."

Any teen addicted to video games and the internet, may feel lethargic at the idea of being active again. A good, natural way to give them motivation to get in the gym or on a sports team and to have the energy for it is through a pre-workout. These provide a caffeine boost as well as other benefits which can make someone feeling sluggish, full of enthusiasm in a matter of minutes.

If your teen is not at a point where you think you need professional help, seeking help on your own through sports club teams may be a solution.

Finding a Sports Team and Getting Excited

It's best to talk to your teen about what their interests are outside of video games or observe them yourself and make suggestions. Trying to force them could backfire, but gently coaxing them into a team sport can do wonders for their addiction as long as you find the right endeavor to pursue.

Some sports are hard to break into in your teens, but a sport that seems to draw the world together is soccer. It doesn't cost much for a ball and a net, and it's the most viewed sport in the world. One way to help them get excited about soccer is through viewing matches and finding a team they love. A great resource for discovering futbol or soccer teams is through futbol libre

Watching matches together is a great way to bond as a family and build on the excitement of the sport together. Once the interest is there, there are many resources to find both indoor and outdoor teams depending on the state you live in. US Youth Soccer is great resource to find ways to get involved as a player, coach, or administrator. Finding ways to get the whole family, or at least, a parent and child, involved together increases the chances of it becoming a lifetime passion and breaking addiction to video games and the internet. 

Options Outside of Sports

Sometimes teens are resitant to sports or show no interest, so what other options are there? Studies show that being outdoors is one of the best ways to reset and give your mental health a boost. In the linked article above, Mclean Hospital wrote that, "Because time in the outdoors offers the benefit of mental rest and rejuvenation, it has been shown to improve memory, attention, impulse control, and creativity in the general population. For example, in children, it has led to improved school performance."

Your circadian rhythm can be reset by sun exposure in the morning and evenings as well. Electronic addiction can rob teens of sleep and exposing yourself to the sun, daily, helps fix sleeping issues. A well-rested teen is more capable of resisting temptation than one who is chronically sleep deprived.  

So get your teen into nature anyway you can with family trips or daily exursions. Make time outside a priority for your whole family and see the difference.

If you still need help, wilderness therapry could be an option. The Aspiro Adventure Therapy Program has excellent resources and activities to help teens kick addiction and learn to love life again in an outdoor setting.

For more information, please email them at [email protected]

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