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N4T Investigators: How much is too much when it comes to kids and video games?

In our everyday lives, technology surrounds us – from personal computers – to tablets and smartphones.

But, how much is too much, especially when it comes to kids and video games?

New reports show some of those games like the popular Fortnite can be as addictive as heroin.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators looked into the problems these games can cause.

“Some children are playing five, six, seven hours of video games a day, which in my opinion, is far too much time spent,” said Kathleen Parrish, Director of Clinical Services at Cottonwood de Tucson.

Parrish told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, in recent years Cottonwood de Tucson has seen an increase in young adults seeking treatment for their addiction to video games.

In fact, earlier this year, the World Health Organization recognized gaming disorder as a diagnosable condition.

“Video game addiction is what we call a ‘process addiction’, and it results in an excess amount of dopamine hits to the brain, and dopamine really affects our reward center – our pleasure center in the brain,” Parrish told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

Parrish also told the News 4 Tucson investigators, kids or young adults who spend too much time in the virtual world may end up suffering very real world consequences.

“They’re not doing the things they need to be doing developmentally – spending time with their friends outside of video games, exercising, healthy eating, self-care, sleeping well, then we know that there’s a problem,” Parrish said.

For 14-year-old Luke Braeden, the popular game Fortnite takes up a lot of his time.

“When I get home, I play about like six, seven hours. But, on weekends, I can play up to like, 16 hours,” Braeden told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

Despite all the time he spends playing Fortnite, Luke’s mom, Kelly Priestly, told the News 4 Tucson investigators, she works hard to make sure the game is not the only activity in her son’s life.

“I think it’s got to be a balance, you have to be able to do physical activity. I mean, we enrolled him in boxing, in weight training, and he does ride his bike with his friends, and goes to the park, to the basketball court,” Kelly told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

Balance is exactly what the experts say is needed when it comes to kids and technology, especially given the fact that video game addicts can actually suffer withdrawal-like symptoms when they’re forced to stop playing the game.

“You’ve got to break away from the video games, and spend time with the family. Even if it’s watching a movie in front of the big-screen, right? Or, going to the mall, or something,” Priestly said.

For more information about video game addiction and the potential warning signs, check out this link to the World Health Organization.

If you have something you would like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com, or call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip-line at (520) 955-4444.

Paul Birmingham

Paul Birmingham

Paul Birmingham is an Edward R. Murrow Award winning broadcast journalist and Investigative Producer with the News 4 Tucson Investigators. Paul is a Tucson native, UA graduate, and licensed private investigator.
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