• 10% of computer users are addicted to games
• Computer game addictions lead to mental health issues

More and more teenagers are immersing themselves in a virtual world. Leaving reality behind them they are becoming increasingly  addicted to computer games.

This has led to some medical facilities offering full time treatment to young people who show signs of the condition known as “pathological internet use”.

One such facility is Sydney’s Rivendell Adolescent Unit at Concord where computer game addiction expert and psychiatrist, Dr Philip Tam said “It’s not just computer addiction – there are other problems. There are issues of depression, of social anxiety, family problems”.

“The computer is almost like an escape. That’s why you might call it the Facebook Generation.”  For them “going on Facebook is far more fun often than sitting with your own family.”

“Most kids with these problems don’t come anywhere near a psychiatrist – they just run into problems at school,” Dr Tam said. “This is likely to continue to grow inexorably and in ways we cannot yet imagine”.

“These are tricky and complex cases and the people themselves often don’t see it as a problem. Its families and the teachers who see the problem.”

Dr Philip Tam said: “They can’t stop playing. The longest I’ve had is a teenage schoolboy playing 37 hours non-stop with only toilet breaks”.

Research shows that the use of computers at an early age actually encourages a short attention span, which leads to problems later on in the classroom and when dealing with real life face to face situations.

Many young people of this generation seem ill equipped and unwilling to attempt new skills and experiences in the world of reality. They do not have the essential skills of ‘resilience’ needed to overcome and solve situations that arise in everyday face to face life.

Clinical Psychologist, author of “From Surviving to Thriving” and Generation Next speaker, Andrew Fuller describes resilience as “the happy knack of being able to bungy jump through the pitfalls of life – to rise above adversity and obstacles. It is the strongest antidote we know of for self-harm, depression and drug abuse and it’s built on our sense of belonging. ”

Mr Fuller suggests 10 ways to help develop resilience in young people:

  1. Promote belonging
  2. Have some mooch (unstructured time at home together) time
  3. Rediscover some family rituals
  4. Encourage Spontaneity and curiosity
  5. Love kids for their differences
  6. Parents take control and responsibility
  7. Be consistent
  8. Teach them the skills of self-esteem
  9. Know how to argue and resolve disputes fairly
  10. Parents should be predictable

It’s not just teenager boys who are suffering from computer addiction. Teenage girls are also at risk. Many girls are becoming withdrawn and shy away from face to face interaction. They shut out their families, friends and teachers.

“There are children dying from this . . . 17-year-olds committing suicide – I have been to a funeral,” said the mother of an 18 year old girl.

“They become isolated and then depressed, suffer from a lack of motivation, don’t socialise or get a job. It’s not just boys. Girls are sitting in front of the computer all night playing these games against others.”

This comes at a time when leading UK expert Dr Aric Sigman has found that exposing children to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) before the age of 9 years old  can actually be detrimental to their development by “subverting the development of children’s cognitive skills”.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha. 
Source: Daily Telegraph