Anger and gaming

Anger and Gaming

This post was written in June 2012 but for those of you with children that game it is still relevant.

The British Association of Anger Management (BAAM) released details of a small but significant survey we carried out with some of our clients.

We found that 46 percent of respondents found that their children had become less cooperative since they started playing video games. 36 percent reported an increase in aggressive behaviour.

These next statistics are smaller numbers but the factors are more worrying to me – 29 percent reported mood swings and 26 percent said their children had become more reclusive

So what? You may ask. Stay with me while I look at the implications in a rough order of seriousness with the most serious first.

Gaming addiction

We conducted this survey with our clients because we were noticing a small but significant number of children and young adults coming to us who were showing signs of addiction to their game stations. Addiction has many issues associated with it. The main one I wish to pick up on is that, like anger, addiction can often be a symptom of other serious underlying issues. The addiction is being used to mask the issue. As humans we move towards addiction as a way of distracting our minds away from the painful thoughts and memories that will surface if we don’t keep ourselves occupied another way. Of course whether the addiction is alcohol, cigarettes, drug or games when you try to take it away from me or limit my exposure to it, I am likely to get angry and aggressive. So if your child is getting angry and aggressive when you seek to limit game time its worth asking yourself –

·         How much time is he/she spending on this game?

·         Could it be masking other issues such as bullying, abuse, and trauma?

So what other issues come up with gaming?

Who rules the house?

I quite often encounter parents who are at their wits end with their children. Hey will bring them to see me and say “the only thing that keeps him quite is playing on the video game.” Otherwise he/she is aggressive, surly, uncooperative and plain difficult.

Are you guilty of having used the game as an in house child minder?

Something that keeps them quiet so that you can get on with other things? Do you find that when you do want to do something else they act out? Have you ever found yourself giving in and letting them have the game for an easy life?

Ask yourself, is this game a reward or an entitlement. Then ask yourself how does your child view it?

If the answer is that your child thinks it is an entitlement then there is a power issue in the house and your child thinks they have more power than they either should have or do have.  You have boundaries issues and your child needs help with them. I suspect that you may also have issues getting them to bed on time, to do school work and tidy their rooms. These are all boundary issues and by enforcing healthy boundaries you make your child feel safe and they know you love them. Conversely the more they get away with the less they think you love them  and the more they play up, push boundaries and try your patience in order to test your love. Be firm. Be loving.

Sleep and stress

Some games, the more violent ones, stimulate a huge amount of adrenaline activity in your child. If you allow them to play them within half an hour of bed time then they will have difficulty getting to sleep. That will be a fact. They will be over stimulated. You may notice they have difficulty performing at school because of this tiredness. In addition adrenaline is the drug of stress. It’s what the body produces when under stress. Recent studies have shown that stress impacts the brain development in children. So they aren’t just underperforming due to lack of sleep it’s because their brain is under developed due to stress.

Age limits are there for a reason

The people who regulate games know why they regulate them and they are not simply after running a nanny state. That said, you are the one who is responsible. Just bear in mind that your child’s behaviour will be a direct result of your parenting decisions.  Please do not allow it to go to the extreme that I will describe now.

A mother came to me worried that her son was always angry, aggressive and badly behaved when he came back from his father’s each week. When we talked the environment she described at home was one where her son experienced unconditional love, clear boundaries and was not over indulged. We chatted more about what could be going on and she went away to investigate. A week later she came back and told me what she had found out. Her son, aged 6, played video games at his fathers. To add to that he played an 18 rated game that involved shooting people while playing on line and talking to the other players. He was exposed to violence, adrenalin, foul language from other competitors and when his father lost at this game he got angry. His son was learning his behaviour off him. Now you may not take it to that extreme but do you allow your child to play games that are outside their age range?

Their ability to interact with other children is limited

If I spent most of my formative years interacting with a machine I would find it difficult to interact with humans. I may become reclusive, shy and be unable to understand and react to all the natural human signals I get when I am out in the world. If all I interact with is a violent game where the only humans I encounter through the headphones are trying to “kill” me and their language is the language of violence I am being conditioned. If their tone of voice is always aggressive I am  being conditioned.  My conditioning will be such that when I interact with normal people in a normal environment I will only know the language and behaviours of violence and aggression, and I become the isolated, stigmatised child no one wants at their party.


If you recognise any of this and would like a confidential chat call Calm People East Midlands  07850614042 and ask for Julian or Calm People West Midlands 07950344658 and ask for Paula. If you want to know more about the anger management, stress management, and emotional resilience courses run in Derby & Birmingham call the above numbers or click here


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