Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I know if someone is a cyber addict?
A: Click here to take the quiz.
Q: What is the difference between excessive play and addiction?
A: There is no easy answer to this question, but the extent to which cyber behaviors disrupts other activities and relationships is the extent to which an addiction is present. Click here to take the quiz.
Q: Why is the Internet so addictive?
A: Many video games and offerings of the Internet rely on tapping into the brain’s reward system. When a player reaches a higher level, or acquires a desirable attribute in the game, or a social networker gets more friends, certain pleasure-oriented chemicals in the brain are released. For some people, this neuro-chemical release is so pleasing that they crave it. Some individuals are genetically predisposed to this sort of craving response and are, therefore, more prone to become addicted.
Q: What are the most addictive games?
A: The MMORPG’s (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) have certainly received a great deal of media attention. It is true that games in this category, like World of Warcraft and Everquest, can exact a heavy toll on those who excessively play. But, for an addictively-prone person, any video game can be dangerous. I know of a college professor who played computer solitaire for five hours every day. It is very common for teenagers to play games like Call of Duty and Halo for 20 hours over the course of the weekend. Games are not the problem. It is how we relate to them.
Q: Is video gaming only a problem if the person is truly addicted?
A: I think we have to get past the debate of whether or not video gaming is an addiction. Gaming is a problem if it negatively impacts a person’s social life, carrying out responsibilities, career or school. An excessive gamer is not always an addict. The great misfortune is that people who excessively game are often creative and highly intelligent. They throw away their potential in front of a computer screen. That is a tragedy whether or not the behavior reaches the level of a bona fide addiction.
Q: Are there any positives to video gaming and the cyber world?
A: The truth is that video gaming has many positive attributes. Gaming develops visual-spatial acuity, eye-hand coordination and some online games help people develop leadership and conflict resolution skills. Surgeons who game outperform their non-gaming colleagues in certain surgical procedures. The army uses video games to train soldiers and military recruiters around the country tell me that video game adepts have an edge in certain jobs within the armed forces. I am certainly not an advocate of eliminating video games. I advocate using them responsibly and consciously.
The cyber world in general is facilitating communication, connection and networking. In many cases, artists who could not get noticed by traditional means have used the Internet successfully to reach large audiences.
Q: What can I do to help the cyber addict in my life?
A: First of all, stop enabling. If any of your actions prevent the addicted person from experiencing the consequences of the addiction, you have to stop. If, for example, you have a 23-year-old son living in your basement who ‘can’t find a job’ but manages to game 10-12 hours a day, kick him out of the house. If your teenager does poorly in school but spends four to five hours a day on Facebook and MySpace, take the computer away until grades improve.