Game tantrums: addiction or depression?

By Katie Ritchie


Does your child or grandchild play video games? Have you experienced firsthand the whining and tantrums which accompany the end of playtime? Why do meltdowns happen when kids stop playing? The answer is more complicated than you might think.

Neurologists claim children and adolescents can’t stop a rewarding activity, like playing a game, if the activity which follows is less fun. Experts say it’s less like an addiction, and more like eating a slice of cake.

Imagine you’re at your favorite restaurant. You’re in the middle of dessert, and suddenly the waitress takes the plate with your half-eaten slice of cake. You’d be irritated. You might even have a few choice words for her because she didn’t let you finish. That’s what happens with kids and games.

When you pull the plug before they’ve finished their level or mission, they’re flooded with the same “hey, that was my cake!” grumpiness.

So what can you do? Create rules for gaming, such as when they can be played and for how long. Follow the rules you make consistently. If you find they aren’t working after a week or two you can revisit them. Just remember it’s not too late to establish rules, even if your child or grandchild has been playing video games for years. Bad habits can be broken with time and effort.

If you think something else is going on with the child, as games are often an escape for anxious and depressed children, seek treatments from professionals with experience with kids and teens. Don’t look for game addiction experts, as they focus on gaming rather than the root cause of problem behavior.