Being a parent in the age of technology brings with so many challenges that people in 80s did not grow up with. One of the latest challenges in modern parenting is dealing with growing game addiction among young kids and teens. Over the last decade game or tech addiction has been receiving concerns from psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health organizations, educators and most importantly, parents.

What is game addiction?

Most modern parents agree that a little bit of game and exposure to technology does no harm, and it actually enhances their logical and thinking skills, and integrates them into a society that's largely based on technology. But addiction to games comes in when players place more importance on their gaming accomplishments than their happiness and success in the real world (e.g., academic achievement, friendships, relationships).

Game addiction is a concern faced by parents all over the world, but the growing number of pc and console gamers particularly in Malaysia are noteworthy. The number of PC online gamers in Malaysia from 2012 to 2014 (in millions) was projected to rise from 7.62 million to 9.9 million, according to NIKO Media Research and for many Malaysian parents, they are no longer just playing harmless games, parents have started to seek professional help, but often have no clue where they could find such help.

Why are games addictive?

First let's address why games are so addicting, and why are kids willing to sacrifice so much for their gaming habits. One of the main factors is the easy access and availability of games, they're all around us and kids have the opportunity to play them whenever they want unlike other educational or recreational activities that are only available in fixed schedules. Secondly, video games follow a variable ratio reward system that provides further motivation for a player to continue on to the next level and complete more challenges. Players are able to see the bigger picture like completing a conquest and know the purpose of the smaller goals, puzzles and repetitive attempts at completing a task. This makes them replay the game without giving up, or losing the motivation to play unlike what happens with other tasks. The player never knows when they might achieve the reward so they keep attempting till they reach their target. Gaming prompts a neurological response that gives feelings of pleasure and reward, and it can manifested as an addictive behavior.

Problems Associated with game addiction

Extreme game addiction should not be neglected at any cost, it has long term psychological and academic damage. According to Mehroof, M et al. (2010). Personality traits like trait anxiety, sensation seeking, neuroticism, and aggression appear to be related to the development of gaming addiction. This can lead to poor mental health, isolation and depression. To make things worse, a lot of parents ban their children from playing video games and restrict their activities on the internet. This approach will not prove helpful as another research by Wang et al. (2006) cunducted on a Chinese sample suggested that negative parenting styles (e.g., authoritarian parenting) are closely associated with increase in game addiction among high school students.

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Are there any benefits of gaming?

So should you completely control your kid's exposure to games completely? The answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT. The future of society is based on technology and gaming industry is the largest tech industry so keeping children away from it will be not preparing them adequately for the future. Like everything else, technology and gaming are tools that can either be used to teach them productivity and logical thinking skills, or if not properly guided then result in game addiction. In addition, games are not all bad, they hold very valuable benefits for example when psychologist Simone Kuhn studied the effects of prolonged video game exposure on the brains of young adults, she found that several areas of grey matter saw significant growth. Gaming in moderation also be psychologically healthy, providing a safe outlet for anger and frustrations. Online game also improves social skills and exposure to different opinions. They also improve a player's hand-eye coordination, multitasking, concentration, creativity and problem solving skills.

What are the solutions?

Finally, let's talk about the most productive solution to this problem without depriving your kids from technology or turning them into rebels. As a parent you can start with small changes in their routine activities, like engaging them in interesting replacement activities, that are productive, also try to teach them self-regulation skills, and self monitoring. The ultimate solution though is through the application of "Gamification".

But, what is gamification?

Gamification is the craft of deriving all the fun and addicting elements found in games and applying them to the learning environment. Imagine if there is a truly addicting game, where the more time you spend on it, the more productive you would be and the more you would learn. Gamification can achieve induction learning, enhances problem solving skills, and increases interest in learning. Learning through task oriented gamification courses, which are interactive and engrossing, and use of rewards and recognition, to motivate them and keep learning. This process can transform their game addiction into using game design to learn and make learning fun and just as addictive as gaming.