How to Prevent Video Game Addiction

video game addiction

The signs of video game addiction can be subtle or obvious—and you can see them in kids as young as two. It’s the toddler having a meltdown because he wants his iPad or mommy’s phone. It’s the 8 year old who can play games for hours straight. And it’s the teen who lets his grades slide because he can’t walk away from his XBox.

And whether or not you even agree that video game addiction is real (even the experts debate it), kids  who get angry, bored, or surly when they can’t play their games is a reality. Prevent video game addiction in your kids so that they can enjoy all the rest that life has to offer.

Set Limits.

Is your child spending too much time with his games? Is he at a loss without his XBox, iPad, or phone? Help him restore balance by setting limits—time limits, location limits, even limits by days of the week.

Take it Away.

If setting limits doesn’t work, take it away. Explain to your child that this “whatever it is” has become too important in her life. Tell her that she needs to realize that she could actually live without it if she had to. Then decide how long your child should go without it.

Give it Away.

This is a pretty drastic measure, but its power is two fold: first, it gets it away from your child, next it teaches the power of sacrifice and sharing, and finally it shows your child that you are extremely serious about setting limits.

Hide It.

When my son gets too attached to his iPad, I hide it. Then, he has to complete a list of chores or read, or anything else to put a bit of distance between him and his go-to item.  Then, when he’s made a good separation for a while, I bring the iPad out of hiding.

Make him earn it.

Some families do a 3 for 1 exchange on video games—for every three hours you read or do something positive for your brain, you get one hour of video game time. Or you can tie their screen time to doing chores.

Talk to him about it.

When my son gets carried away with his iPad, I tell him the iPad itself isn’t bad, neither is enjoying using it. But, I talk to him about the fun and potential for fun in doing other things. And, I also want him to continue to use his imagination and ability to choose other things to do. I explain all of this to him and tell him that I love him and want what’s best for him.

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In The Comments

How do you set limits on video games and technology?


  • Sheriff

    This is SUCH an issue for my boys, grown adult son, and even my husband. For the minors, I make the no video games (IPod, game boy, iMac, iPhone. Etc) during the week while the school year is in. Weekends there is video game time, but even then the time consumed playing games was too much. They (the boys14, 16) were good about doing chores first prior to playing and knocking out their first things first (must wash up, eat breakfast, get dress, household cleaning chores) however I still found that in the weekend it still was hours upon hours ( even after church) of playing Xbox, etc. sure it made leaving them home while I did my typical errands easier, but they rarely went outside. Only when forced to ride their bikes or kicked out doors, would they see the sun. I remember growing up where from the crack of dawn till the street lights came on, I played out doors. I’m afraid of the addiction I see in the boys because I see it in my adult son and in my husband. I will call it in addiction because in the men of our household, I see how the time consumed with gaming has made them neglect so many areas of their lives. It has also lead to so many other addictions such as online gambling, card games (magic), college drop out due to bad grades, etc, that is destroying their lives, our marriage and male leadership model in our home. I don’t take the video games away but I fight the boys on the addiction daily. The men, I pray that God will open their eyes and my adult daughter and I handle all the responsibilities of the home.

  • Sarah Albers

    I have done all of these thing. My 13 year old son is so sneeky about it. If i take the xbox away i have to take it to work or he will find it and play on it while im at work. Or he will just sit and play on the computer all day. Then ill take that away and he will play on his phone all day. When he has nothing else he will go outside and hang out with friends. But as soon as i any of these things back, he is right back into his gaming, all day while im at work. How do i teach him the self control to stop after 2 hours while im at work all day?

  • Ashley

    We try to lead by example. We all play sports and instruments together. It’s fun and it’s mandatory without being harsh.

  • Sheena

    @ Sarah Albers — Is your son getting his expectations/responsibilities done during the day? Showering, eating, picking up after himself, laundry, walking the dog, taking out the trash, making his bed, cleaning a bathroom, etc? If he is able to play his game(s) & complete his tasks — I personally say let it be. It is summer time and a break from our normal routines. There could be bigger problems/worries to worry about. Now, if on the other hand if he isn’t completing his responsibilities — there will need to be checks/balances. Taking all 3 devices to work with you would stop him from playing. But then there is the creation of a bored teen with nothing better to do — would he find something not so appropriate to be doing? Changing the WiFi password; daily could stop him from connecting to the internet; but some games don’t need the internet. That’s a tough one and one that might require talking to him and praying about.

  • Krystal

    What happens when the childs father is also addicted to gaming and refuses to set a better example?

    • Hi Krystal, it’s a difficult situation and one that doesn’t have easy solutions. It’s important to identify why the father is playing (games fulfill certain needs he has), and to find ways to fulfill those needs in other ways. Remember that gaming is a symptom of an underlying issue (unmet needs), so doing your best to learn more about what’s really going on underneath the surface will help a lot. Hope you have a great day.

  • Believer

    I have the same issue, Krystal. Hubby spends the entire day Saturday playing on the computer, only stopping for meals and any kid sports game. Same thing after work. He says it’s his privilege for being the breadwinner.

    • Hi! That’s pretty interesting. Do you feel like he’s wrong?

  • The issue with this article is that it doesn’t address why kids are so drawn to games in the first place, which would be real prevention. Removing games or limiting time are bandaid solutions to the real problem, which relates to how gaming is a source of identity for kids, it’s how they interact with their friends, it’s what gives them confidence and self-esteem, and it’s something they feel passionate about.

    None of that is to say you can’t remove games or limit time, but without addressing why they play so much in the first place does little other than make a kid feel more alienated and misunderstood.

    It’s great to write an article on a topic that is urgent for parents to understand, but by your desire to write some clickbait, you actually hurt the problem you’re trying to write about instead of offering anything of substance to help.

    • Jarrod Bell

      If playing games is a source of identity, it should be thrown away. No way should you get your identity from games. it gives false confidence and self-esteem because they haven’t actually done anything meaningful. Have them create. Build something. Do something to add to their life or others, possibly fail in parts of it, learn from it, and then succeed. Confidence is built by overcoming failures, not earning xp. It’s great the feel passionate…but about video games? Again, do something that will add to their arsenal of skills and talents for later in life and let them geek out on that

      • Hi Jarrod. That’s all good in theory and much of what you share is what I encourage through Game Quitters, but it’s important to understand that everything you speak of is what gamers *do* get from games. They are creating, building something, it’s something that is adding to their life (and others), it’s something they fail and learn from and succeed in. It’s their main source of confidence and self-esteem.

        By acknowledging this that doesn’t need to take away from the opportunity we can present them to move on from games (if they want to), and in fact, one of my most popular videos is on the topic of “What If Gaming Is The Only Thing You’re Good At.”

        Gamers identify that gaming is something they *are* talented in (and they are), but by helping them understand how their skills in gaming can translate into them developing new passions (as you speak of), that actually helps them move on.

        The issue with the way you speak about gaming is that it creates a stigma, and many gamers are using the community BECAUSE they have a hard time fitting in, feel like “outcasts” or experience “rejection” from the world, so this common attitude really only causes them to feel more misunderstood, causing them to play more games.

        Something to think about.

        • Jarrod Bell

          My theory is what used to occur before the invention of video games, so historically it has occured. Again, you repeat the example in which I detest: that video games are a primary source of confidence. My point is that it should never get that far. It’s faux self esteem and confidence because if they are rejected (as you assert) this causes them to play more video games. That is addictive behavior not the behavior of a well adjusted confident individual.

          • If your goal is for someone to be a well-adjusted confident individual than you’re better off focusing on the vulnerabilities that caused them to become engrossed in gaming in the first place. Blaming video games is the same failed approach of the War on Drugs. You are right, it should never get that far, but that’s a problem that occurs before video games, not because of them.

    • james

      its because of the dopamine in everyones brain that is why we get addicted to stuff

      • Hey James. The dopamine surge in video games is part of why an addiction can happen yes, but I do believe there are other factors as well, such as how it becomes a way to escape (numbing mechanism), a way to interact and hang out with your friends (social community), a sense of purpose, and so forth. I share more on YouTube under “Game Quitters.”

  • coolstuffhd832

    This site seems kind of generic