Technology is a double-edged sword, a gift and a curse. Anyone who has used the internet has heard these sayings at least once, and with the advent of the digital age, more people see the good in technology than the bad.
With video games, much of this virtual world is filled with unlimited opportunities to express yourself without consequences. With 9 out of 10 children surveyed by the NPD Group admitting to playing them, video games seem to be an integral part of children’s lives. Yet for 10% of the gaming community, this hobby has turned into something much worse: addiction.
Because games are designed to appeal to large audiences, players are drawn into the fast-paced and unpredictable aspects of a virtual world that instantly rewards players for their efforts – a huge difference from the slow results of reality. Combined with the heavy reliance on sensory actions and the common use of multitasking, it’s almost as if they were designed as addictive drugs.
Surprisingly, there are many similarities between the two. Video games cause the release of dopamine, or the hormone that induces pleasure, at levels comparable to those of amphetamine and methylphenidate. These are drugs normally used to treat ADHD and Narcolepsy and are known to have serious repercussions such as loss of cognitive ability, sleep deprivation and risk of addiction, all symptoms of playing video games for too long. .
These effects can seem extreme, and at first the behavior of game-crazed individuals resembles fabricated stories designed to keep children in line: first introduced to video games at an early age, the child begins to devote more and more time, and they eventually reach an extreme point, skipping school or stealing their parents’ money to get as much fun as possible. But these seemingly outlandish stories go deeper in some cases, with children completely severing ties with their families and locking themselves in rooms for days at a time.
In difficult situations, they may even be prompted to attack others when the lack of social connections that results from gambling addiction leads to stress and anger. Cases of teenage murders due to violent gambling addiction extend to school shootings, with some planning the attacks using gambling software. While the effects may seem extreme, all are plausible outcomes of gambling addiction.
In those terms, gambling addiction looks like – and is – a very scary thing. Fortunately, it also has solutions. As with any addiction, the most important step to ending it is recognizing the problem; not knowing you have the addiction leads to a lack of effort to get rid of it.
Everyone should also be aware of the addiction – that way there is a better chance of successfully getting rid of it. Next comes the hardest part of letting go. Although it can be difficult to stop playing, cutting all connections with him has given the best results, albeit with great difficulty. Finding replacement hobbies like playing a sport or learning an instrument is crucial to preventing the desire to want to go back.
Recovery from addiction is not an easy task, so preventing gambling addiction completely is more important than catching it first and then struggling to get out of it. With a technology-centric world and ubiquitous play opportunities, the risk of falling into this trap is a serious concern for many parents.
The key to recognizing gambling addiction is relatively simple: look for any intrusion into their lifestyle. If it affects their health in any way, whether through sleep deprivation or a loss of social connections, it is, in short, an addiction.
As a disease unrecognized by many, gambling addiction could be seen as a hoax aimed at ruining the gift of technology. But it’s real. And it is important that we recognize it as such, because otherwise we turn a blind eye to a curse.
Yoo-Shin Koh is a junior at Gainesville High School.
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