China Restricts Online Gaming In Youth

Last month, the Chinese government enacted new restrictions intended to mitigate video game addiction in children. Gamers under the age of 18 may now spend no more than 3 hours a week on online gaming; other restrictions, like those limiting youth gaming to 1.5 hours a day on weekdays and banning gaming between 10 PM and 8 AM, have existed since 2019.

China has long taken a severe stance on video game addiction. Chinese state media has recently referred to video games as “electronic drugs” and “spiritual opium;” the Chinese government has also reportedly participated in the operation of draconian treatment programs meant to curb gaming addiction. Multiple deaths have occurred in treatment programs like these. Brutal methods like beatings, electroshock therapy, and solitary confinement have allegedly been used as ways to “treat” gaming addiction in China.

Many in the United States struggle to limit their online gaming; some are concerned that similar programs might soon be established to treat video game addiction in the US if they don’t exist already. As one Vice News reporter wrote, “the US already has a network of boot camp, wilderness and other poorly regulated residential programs… During the 90s and 2000s, dozens of children died in these programs, which often used similar tactics to those described in the Asian ones.”

Safe, effective treatment for video game addiction is a priority; the pandemic has only increased the amount of Americans struggling with the condition. Fortunately, many qualified treatment centers exist to aid in recovery; some treatment options are detailed below.

The Pandemic Has Affected Video Game Addiction

The global spread of COVID-19, the proliferation of lockdown orders, and the ever-increasing number of video games available to gamers have all correlated with a recent increase in people struggling with video game addiction.

The Guardian reported in June that “The number of children and young adults entering treatment for gaming addictions and disorders tripled over the last year.” Dr. Anand Nadkarni, psychologist and founder of the Indian Institute for Psychological Health, says he’s seen twice as many cases of internet addiction since lockdown measures began. One teenager was even hospitalized after he developed an addiction to the video game Fortnite; the boy had become isolated, would not speak to others, and required professional intervention.

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The increases in video game addiction cases could be explained by merely how much additional free time at home many have had since the pandemic began; the stressors of recent months, however, may also play a role.

“Life is hard,” as Dr. Scott Teitelbaum, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience and director of the University of Florida’s Health Florida Recovery Center, told Healthline. “People are always looking for something to soothe themselves, and some people get pathologic attachment.”

There’s no shortage of reasons why self-soothing might be in vogue these days. But if a “pathologic attachment” has indeed developed, then it must be addressed. The good news is, there is also no shortage of relevant treatment modalities available for video game addiction.

Many Gaming Addiction Treatment Options Exist

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been demonstrated effective in the treatment of video game addiction; the researchers behind one study, conducted in Germany and Austria, reported a 70% remission rate after the use of CBT to treat gaming addiction.

One of the study’s authors, Kai Müller, said that treatment “usually starts with a thorough inventory of the patient’s characteristics that are contributing to the development and maintenance of the gaming disorder.” Patients studied also kept a diary, mindfully observed triggers and emotions associated with their video game addiction, and received help changing the problematic aspects of themselves and their behavior.

Other treatment modalities, like adventure therapy, which can involve collaborating with a team and solving problems in an exciting and novel setting may scratch the sensation-seeking itch scratched by video gaming in a more healthy and sustainable way. Learning to get fulfillment from rising to the occasion of a real-world challenge rather than that of a virtual one could help to combat video game addiction.

Different treatment centers may offer different treatment plans; a wide variety of solutions may therefore be available to the individual struggling with gaming addiction. If you have tried to cut back on playing video games and failed, help is available. Reach out to a treatment provider who can answer your questions and discuss your treatment options. There may be underlying or co-occurring conditions present in addition to the video game addiction; the sooner they are identified and addressed, the better.

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William Henken

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  • Will Henken earned a B.A. in Advertising and Public Relations from the University of Central Florida. He has had his work published in the Orlando Sentinel, and has previous experience crafting copy for political action committees and advocacy groups dedicated to social justice. Addiction and mental health are personal subjects for him, and his greatest hope is that he can give a helping hand to those seeking healthy and lasting recovery.

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