Our philosophy, goals, and commonly asked questions - learn more about TechAddiction here.
Who started TechAddiction?
The TechAddiction Information and Treatment Service was created in 2005 by clinical psychologist Dr. Brent Conrad - who is currently working at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada).
Why was TechAddiction created?
While working in various community, government, and private organizations I started to notice an increase in the number of clients presenting with difficulties related to excessive internet and video game use - both as primary complaints and as issues secondary to other difficulties (e.g., video game addiction in combination with mood or anxiety disorders).
Unfortunately, I soon discovered that treatment options for those whose lives were negatively impacted by excessive online or gaming habits or internet addiction were very limited (and in most cases, non-existent).
Initial research on the issue of video game and internet addiction generally found two polarized camps. On one side were those who condemn gaming as "worthless", "pointless", "extremely addictive" and responsible for any number of societal problems (school shootings as just one example). On the other side were those who stated that it is impossible to be addicted to a game (or online experience) and that this is just an attempt to pathologize harmless and normal activities.
As is often the case, the truth probably lies somewhere in between these two extremes. However, the psychological / psychiatric communities seemed to be relatively quiet on this issue - and very few psychologists were offering specialized treatment. Even today, finding a therapist who is familiar with the causes of and treatment options for internet and video game addiction can be extremely challenging (unless one happens to live in a very large city his/her search will probably be very difficult). To partially fill this need, TechAddiction was born.
What are the goals of TechAddiction?
TechAddiction has several primary goals:
1) To provide useful, professional, and nonbiased information on the issue of excessive video game and internet use.
The TechAddiction philosophy is that for the vast majority of users, video games and the internet are enjoyable activities that can be part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Most people can and do play video games responsibly. For example, similar to going to a movie, video games can be an enjoyable temporary getaway from "real life". As such, research and surveys about the potential benefits of moderate play / use will not be suppressed.
However, it is also believed that for some people, the virtual world becomes more important than the real world - and that this can significantly detract from one's psychological health and functioning. As such, the signs of problematic habits, the dangers of excessive use, and research on the negative impact of too much time devoted to the virtual world will also be discussed.
See The TechAddiction Blog for the latest news and commentaries regarding life online and TechAddiction Videos for a collection of interesting / informative / motivational videos on internet and video game addiction.
2) To provide useful recovery resources and information for those who are unable to find or afford local treatment services. This includes the downloadable Computer, Internet and Video Game Addiction Treatment Workbook, How to Help Children Addicted to Video Games, the TechAddiction Support Forum, the Tip of the Month, and links to other reputable sources for information and recovery.
3) To provide professional one-to-one therapy for those who wish to develop a healthier balance between life online and offline.
4) To provide education and consultation to those who work with internet and video game addictions. For example, on the topic of video game addiction Dr. Conrad has served as a consultant to Kids Help Phone (a free phone counselling service for children).
What is TechAddiction's view on the role of parents and the video game / online habits of children?
1) Ultimately, parents (not the game industry) have to be responsible for making sure that their children have healthy gaming and online habits. Children and teens cannot be expected to set reasonable limits for themselves.
2) Online and gaming time should occur only after other responsibilities have been attended to (e.g., homework, chores).
3) For most children, gaming and recreational computer use should be limited to one or two hours per day (max) during the school year.
4) Parents should be very knowledgeable of ESRB ratings and should always have final approval of game purchases.
5) Before any game purchase, parents should research the game. Dozens of "traditional" reviews for almost any game are available at websites such as MetaCritic, and family-oriented game reviews are provided by websites such as Common Sense Media. Parents need to base their buying decisions on more than just ESRB ratings - there is just no reason not to be informed about potential purchases.
6) Whenever possible, parents should play the game with their child. Not only can this be a positive bonding experience, it also allows for a much better assessment of the actual content and potential for excessive use.
7) Video games and computers should not be used as babysitters.
8) Many games have parental control settings to adjust content and set limits for gaming time. Become familiar with these settings and use them.
9) Computers and game consoles should be in open family rooms - not in a child's bedroom. This not only reduces the online safety risk but also makes excessive use less likely.
10) Gaming and recreational computer use can be seen as a privilege for responsible behavior, not a natural right.
11) MMORPGs, regardless of the ESRB rating, should probably not be purchased for children. If you are a parent with a child who plays video games, I suggest avoiding this genre altogether - mostly because the greater likelihood for excessive use with this type of game (see the reasons why MMORPGs are addictive). Not sure what a MMORPG is or if a potential game is one? Do some research and start educating yourself now before the next game enters your home.
12) If you have the resources to do so, keep one computer just for work/homework (i.e., no game installed, blocked access to social network sites, blocked access to gaming and entertainment sites, etc.), and one computer for recreational use. When your child is at the "work" computer you can now be more confident that his/her time is actually being used for this purpose.
13) Set administrator privileges for all household computers. Parents can then decide which applications can be installed, which sites can be visited, and which games can be played. Try to be as tech-savvy as your child.
Does TechAddiction follow an "abstinence" or "moderation" model of treatment and recovery?
In almost all cases, healthy moderation of use is the goal. Notable exceptions include online pornography addiction, online gambling, and "hardcore" MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft. In these cases working towards abstinence is generally considered to be best practice.
Does TechAddiction believe that video game addiction and the internet addiction are "true" addictions?
Officially, the DSM-IV (the primary manual of psychiatric diagnosis) does not recognize internet and video game addiction. However, this manual was last published in 1994 - a time when video games and computers were very different from how they are today. Personal computers at home were relatively rare, internet access was even rarer, high speed access at home was virtually unheard of, and the SuperNintendo and Sega Genesis were the main choices for home consoles. Needless to say, the ideas of video game addiction and internet addiction did not receive much (if any) serious consideration or study.
Today, things have changed considerably in the world of home technology and entertainment. Computers and internet access are almost considered a necessity, many families have multiple PCs, broadband internet is now the standard, 68% of households play video games, and virtually all children play video games. To say that the potential for video game addiction and internet addiction is greater today than in 1994 is an understatement to say the least.
TechAddiction believes that excessive video game and internet use will be mentioned in the next version of the DSM, but that they will not obtain official diagnostic status until DSM-VI. Because research on video game and internet addiction is in its infancy period compared to other psychological difficulties (e.g., mood and anxiety disorders), TechAddiction believes that a conservative approach regarding official diagnose is advisable.
Stated clearly, TechAddiction (somewhat ironically) does not believe that excessive video game and internet use should be considered official disorders…yet. More research is necessary before these diagnoses become official.
However, TechAddiction absolutely believes for some people, excessive video game and online habits can result in unwanted behaviors, symptoms, and significantly impaired functioning in multiple settings (work, school, interpersonal) - and that this can look very much like an addiction. The particular label that we attach to this difficulty is not as important as recognizing that it exists and developing strategies for healthier use.
Is video game addiction as "serious" as alcohol or drug addiction?
Even if video game and internet addictions are one day classified as official disorders, the short answer (at least in the view of TechAddiction), is "No."
However, just because one addiction is not as destructive as another, does not mean that it ceases to be a problem.
Most people probably view alcohol addiction as more damaging overall than gambling addiction. Nevertheless, gambling addiction can be a very serious problem and can lead to lost relationships, careers, and of course, significant financial difficulties. In this sense, the negative impact of excessive video game and internet use is probably more similar to gambling addition than to drug or alcohol addiction.
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