Are you hooked?
The Internet and social media are super-useful! Today, we can access them anywhere, at any time. We get access right away… whenever, wherever!
So it’s hard to know when the use we’re making of the Internet, social media, and online games is no longer “normal.”
Some clues that you’re losing control
How do you know if your use of the Internet or video games is becoming a problem? It’s pretty simple: when you lose control, these activities are creating problems in your life, and you’re in distress.
Here are some examples of behaviours that suggest your Internet use may be problematic:
- You give up the activities you used to do and isolate yourself.
- You need to spend more and more time online: it becomes your only pleasure.
- You’re happy when you’re online.
- You use the Internet to forget your problems.
- You’re irritable, depressed, and bored when you can’t be online.
- You’ve tried to change the amount of time you spend online, but you can’t do it.
- You have sleep, concentration, and memory problems.
- Your lifestyle isn’t healthy anymore: for example, you don’t play sports, your diet is worse, or you don’t sleep much.
- You play secretly at night, even when you have school or work the next day.
- You turn down activities with your friends or family in order to go online.
Do some of these points correspond to what you’re going through? If yes, you might have good reasons to worry!
What makes a person hooked?
Look beyond the game
Imagine an iceberg: a floating block of ice with a huge mass of ice underwater. Your cyberdependency behaviour is the tip of the iceberg: it’s hiding something very big. Why are you spending so much time on the Internet or playing your video games? You might be doing it partly for fun. But it must also meet other needs: escaping from a life you don’t like, forgetting your loneliness, feeling some excitement. You need to understand it to be able to act.
When we feel depressed, we may tend to escape into video games. The game takes us out of our daily life; we turn into someone else. The perfect escape! In addition, we get immediate pleasure and frequent feelings of satisfaction, once we complete a mission or kill an enemy. In real life, it takes longer for enjoyment to build up. Developing a passion, learning a sport, mastering a musical instrument… all those things take time!
If you’re feeling very anxious, video games can be an escape hatch from your daily stresses. While playing, we forget arguments with friends, problems with the family, bullying at school, tests we’re afraid of failing, etc. Games become our way of running away and not thinking about stressful situations. A monster enters our field of view, and pow! It’s dead and the problem is solved. In real life, things aren’t always so simple.
Lack of self-esteem
In adolescence, we often lack self-esteem or self-confidence. This transition period isn’t always easy. We may feel a difference between what we’d like to be and what we think we really are. In some cases, we use this dissatisfaction as an engine of change. In other cases, we feel like hiding away instead. Then video games become a way to project ourselves out of the real world and become a character we like in a virtual universe where we feel competent, accepted, and acknowledged.
Frequently asked questions
It is recommended that kids aged 5 to 17 years limit screen time to less than 2 hours per day, or less than 14 hours a week. Screen time includes video games, TV shows and movies, and time spent on the Internet and social media. Beyond this amount, young people can start experiencing negative effects, such as more time spent sitting down and sleep problems.
If you’re spending far more time than this online and you find it hard to cut back, don’t hesitate to talk to a counsellor at your school or at Tel-jeunes. They’re there to help you.
Violent video games can make you less sensitive to violent images. Seeing a brain explode isn’t an everyday event! But players see these kinds of images every day in their games, and they eventually get used to them. Moreover, violent acts rarely have consequences in games. You can forget that violence is unacceptable and that violent actions are punished by law! Finally, violent video games can give you the impression that aggression is a good way of handling everyday conflicts, and that can lead to violent acts. So it’s very important to develop a critical mindset toward what you see when you play.
Of course, girls play video games too! The attraction and interest we feel for games has nothing to do with our sex. There are so many different kinds of games that practically everyone can find something they enjoy, regardless of sex, culture, interests, or lifestyle. And any guy or girl might also not find what he/she is looking for and prefer to do something else. After all, there really isn’t any activity that everyone likes.