There have been many wild claims about video games. They’re the cause of violence in teens, they teach the wrong lessons by rewarding immoral behavior in a consequence free environment, and so on. The list is exhaustive, and often lacking any real basis.

Does that mean that there is no risk or danger in letting your son play all of the video games he wants?

Addiction: A Very Real Danger

The idea of video game addiction has been met with mixed responses in the past. The same parents and experts rallying behind the cry of blaming video games instead of poor parenting decry those same games for their child’s disregard for responsibilities at home.

At the same time, there are children and adults alike that agree that while they enjoy gaming, they in no way sacrifice money, family, and health for the sake of playing. It’s a hobby, and like any hobby, they should be allowed to indulge when they see fit.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

What Is Addiction?

The New England Journal of Medicine has recently released a study about the science behind addiction. In it the authors explain the link between addictive substances and behaviors and the affect it has on the brain.

For those susceptible, especially teens, the constant flood of dopamine can desensitize the reward circuits of the brain. This then contributes to the conditioned responses to the reaction of stress, causing them to crave the activity that makes them feel better. As this continues over the course of months, the brain changes, altering the prefrontal cortical regions—specifically those linked to decision making.

The Lie

The end result is a teenage boy caught in the loop of intoxication, withdrawal, and preoccupation until the next “fix.” When this happens, it’s not an active decision to let schoolwork and responsibilities go in favor of playing games. Instead, the willpower and decision making portions of the brain have been compromised.

They fool themselves into thinking they can do what they need to do later, that a little gaming now will relieve stress and help them. As time grows shorter for them to do what they need to, instead of stopping the games, they convince themselves they can do it tomorrow.

This loops over and over; day by day. Each occurrence reinforces the addiction, further altering the brain.

The Big Picture

Addiction affects more than just the addicted. As responsibilities are ignored, life grinds to a halt in favor of getting their dopamine fix. Nothing is without a cost. Addiction can cost a community as much as other chronic conditions.

With addiction comes decline in health, hygiene, and even so far as refusing to go to work or eat. This can cost a community in lost wages, healthcare costs, and other things affected by neglect.

By understanding addiction on a scientific scale, it helps us further develop remedies to solve addiction effectively and prevent further instances.

Author's Bio: 

Tyler Jacobson is a proud father, husband, writer and outreach specialist with experience helping parents and organizations that help troubled boys. Tyler has focused on helping through honest advice and humor on: modern day parenting, struggles in school, the impact of social media, addiction, mental disorders, and issues facing teenagers now. Follow Tyler on: Twitter | Linkedin