Helping kids with gaming issues move away from video games: Part 9

The director of the Clinic for Interactive Media and Internet Disorders at Boston Children's Hospital, says he tells parents he believes their kids' gaming issues are "something they can control."
8:15 | 05/04/19

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Transcript for Helping kids with gaming issues move away from video games: Part 9
special, continues. This is the site of 11,000 cheering fans in a new York City arena. And these are their heroes. The overwatch league grand finals. These are 20-year-old video game superstars. Last July, the overwatch championship team won $1 million as a grand prize. While tonight, some high schools around the country are training teams of their own. For a lot of teenagers, it's an outlet and it's how they express themselves, especially for me, people with anxiety, which is a lot in this generation. The coach is excited some colleges are now offering scholarships. If you would've told me a year ago when we first started our students would be offered scholarships a year later, I wouldn't have believed it. So more than 150 million Americans are playing video games, and studies show for the vast majority, it's just fun recreation. But we wondered what to tell parents who say their kids are in trouble because of these games. This is an 8-year-old boy, the video sent to us by his mom, who says he's funny, a good student. And though she says he's always had a temper problem, she says she was stunned what happened after he started playing some games and she asked him to step away from the Xbox. When time comes to tell him to stop, most of the time, he throws a fit. Across the country, we also heard from the parents of this young man, Raj. I played sports. I was an academic. When I was 8 years old, my parents bought me a Wii. After that, I wanted more and more and more and more. His earrings E symbols of his ongoing fight to get better. He says, at one point, he was on games up to 18 hours a day. By the way, his dad used to work at Google. We would take a computer away from him, we would hide them in the drawers. I even hid them up, up in the attic. He would find them everywhere. His dad tried putting the devices in the safe. There's his phone. Here's his laptop. Just lock it up. There was this sense of nothing else. The struggles. The peer pressure from school. None of it mattered when I just played. It was just the game. How long is your waiting list? Unfortunately, too long. This is Dr. Michael rich, director of the clinic for interactive media and internet disorders at Boston children's hospital, who wants these parents to know their kids may have an underlying vulnerability. Other things that they come to games with like? Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It's huge in the kids who have gaming issues. We have yet to see a young person who does not also have a condition such as anxiety, mood disorders that are driving these behaviors. And he encourages parents and all of us not to use the word "Addiction." While it looks and feels to your mom like an addiction, it's not actually an addiction so much as it's sort of behavioral manipulation. This is the mother of 13-year-old Leo and she's asking about her son's love of fortnite. This game was just -- the draw to it was unbelievable. Dr. Rich tells them a lot of kids feel that way. They make their money not only by getting you to play, but keeping you playing, right, and it's very carefully designed to do that. Dr. Rich also tells parents to sit down with their kids, go through the techniques and demystify the game. I say, sit down next to your son and play the game wi him and help him understand what is happening. They will really recognize how they are being manipulated. And here in his office, 17-year-old Felix, whose parents tell Dr. Rich about the time he spends on screens. The hours and hours on the video game counter-strike. If I were to ask you what brought you in here today, what would you say? My parents. Yeah, I know. Exactly. Is that the most common answer you get? Of course, it is. Clearly, for many months, there's been zero homework done, literally zero. The problem is it's way more fun to figure out games than it is to figure out calculus. So we set out on another question tonight. What does science really know about the behavior that concerns these parents? Especially since we know, in kids, the brain is still developing. So we consulted dozens of experts, neuroscientists, psychologists, psychiatrists. This is Dr. Marc Potenza, a professor of psychiatry, child study and neuroscience who came in from Yale. The question is, why is it that some people develop problems with a certain behavior? Dr. Potenza has reviewed dozens of brain studies. Some of the subjects had no problems with games. Some did. And he believes there are interesting questions about what's happening in some parts of the brain. Some areas that have also raised questions in brain studies about gamblers with problems. But when it comes to gaming, he says a lot more studies need to be done. This is intriguing, raising some questions, but we don't have the answer to this. We don't have the full answers. Nyu child and adolescent psychologist Dr. Yamalis Diaz sat down with us, too. These brain studies are really useful for us to begin to look and see whether or not there is some sort of potential long term effect. But we don't know yet. And so really what this tells us is we need to be mindful. Whether we're calling it addiction, a disorder, it's a problem. Dr. Rich hopes parents will catch any problems early, noticing a lapse in homework, physical activity, or sleep and get help. So you think we're going to get Absolutely. And he says, he hopes the gaming companies are ready to step in, too. So we reached out to the industrytrade group. You should know they have age and content ratings for games. And they got back to us with this statement. "Video game consoles have parental controls that help parents limit how long video games are played. Those controls help ensure that video games, like any other leisure activity, are part of a well-rounded lifestyle. Anything done to excess runs counter to achieving that balance." I don't want to ascribe malevolence to their intent. I want them to work with clinicians and work together toward Kinder, smarter, and stronger kids. Which brings us back to some of the young men you met tonight, like these two in Boston. Their parents told us they are making big strides. Felix's parents say his schoolwork is better now that he is now being treated for ADHD. Raj is going to intensive therapy, playing sports again. And what about the little boy so enraged at the top of this story? His mother says he's was able to find pleasure in mastering something else. Not a video game, but the good old fashioned piano. My friend's daughter taught him how to play a little piece of a song and I think that's what kind of sparked his interest in it. And he realized that no, this is something I can do. This is something that comes easy to me. This is something I'm good at. He stills plays games, but she says much less and his rages are rare. I feel like every day he's learning a new song and I'll hear it from the other room and I'll just walk over and, like, I can't believe how good you are. I'm very proud of him. I'm very proud.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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