icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

Excessive Video Game Play By Teenagers

On a bulletin board on Amazon.com, a mother spoke of her distress at the excessive video game play by her teenager. This was his major interest and interfered with his school performance and family life. So intense was his involvement with these games that he would become enraged when his parents attempted to curtail it. What should they do?

This mother's question got me thinking. Why do some youth play these games excessively, and should the games be taken from them?

Before addressing this question, I should perhaps state my prejudice. I do not play video or computer games. This may be because, when I did try one, an early version of a naval battle game fifteen years ago, my ship was quickly sunk. Also, I'm more into psychological matters than shoot-em-ups. Were there games with adventure and a strong psychological plot, as are beginning to exist today, I might well play them.

But to return to the issue at hand. Teenagers play video games for one simple reason: because they enjoy them. Being challenging and obsessive, this activity enables them to relax from the stress of the demands which adolescence places upon them: to separate appropriately from their parents; to explore intimacy through dating, which requires that they tolerate powerful feelings; and to make appropriate educational and vocational decisions.

The greater their difficulty with these tasks, the more stress a teenager will experience and the greater will be their need for relaxation.

All obsessive activities, which includes the playing of video games, are relaxing, for the obsessive-compulsive ego defense is one of the most effective, normal psychological mechanisms that the body uses to naturally reduce anxiety.

So the basic task of the parent is not to decide whether to remove the video game (though, admittedly, some may have less than desirable social themes), but to find out what is causing their child's high level of stress and how this can be reduced. Which is an individual matter, and far beyond the scope of this Blog item.

Copyright (c) 2011, 2015 by Stanley Goldstein. All rights reserved.
Be the first to comment