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Health & Spirit

Young video game addict reaches out for help

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

There is some really terrific news here, though: You recognize that you have a problem, you busted yourself for taking the key to the safe and you are asking for help. All of that is major!

My son also suffered from video game addiction when he was growing up. I foolishly put him in front of a computer when he was three, because I believed the lie that the tech companies told us about computers, and games, being "educational." He stopped having interest in other people, his family and all of the other things he used to do, like sports, music and homework. His schools made the situation worse, because even when I tried to say, "No computer use, at all," he was awash in computer time at school, and they, needlessly, required homework to be done on the computer. He was angry and anxious most of the time, and even if he wasn't playing video games, he was mentally plotting how he was going to get his next chance to do so. I think the saddest part is that he felt awful about himself.

Any of this ringing a bell?

I choke on the irony of directing you to a website, but the suggestions and support at familiesmanagingmedia.com are good.

Don't reward yourself with game time. That sets up the wrong dynamic. I don't even think you should taper off. Get rid of your gaming system. It's easier to just not have it around. Replace video-gaming time with activities that we know are good for the brain: exercise, reading, being out in nature, writing, learning to sing or play an instrument, make art, get involved in building, dance or theater. Ask your school to help you start a support group.

I ended up sending my son to an outdoor program. He lived in a tent for a year and a half, where he couldn't plug anything in. You know what, though? Even after a year and a half, he said that the cravings never went away. Stop now, before it steals your life.

Thank you for asking for help. I'm proud of you. You may have helped others do the same.

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(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamy@amydickinson.com. Readers may send postal mail to Amy Dickinson, c/o Tribune Content Agency, 16650 Westgrove Drive, Suite 175, Addison, Texas, 75001. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.)

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