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Helping Teens Avoid and Quit Digital Addiction

TBG and Oxford Academy Bring International Expert on Video Game Addiction to Westbrook

Imagine being a teenager who plays video games for up to 16 hours daily. Imagine letting your parents drop you off to work at jobs that you do not actually have and then sneaking back home to game. This is the story of Cam Adair, founder of gamequitters.com, which offers tools, resources, and peer support for those struggling to quit video games.

Drawing on his own experience, Adair has translated his personal perspective into actionable information and become an international speaker on this topic. The Bertram Group is collaborating with Oxford Academy, a boys’ boarding school in Connecticut, to bring Adair to Westbrook, CT in May 2019.

“It is critical for families to become aware of digital addiction,” says TBG founder Cammie Bertram. “Technology evolves so quickly that it is put into use without a thorough understanding of impact. Research is now catching up to reveal how some technologies are affecting children’s brain development and mental health.”   

The American Time Use Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows that the amount of time Americans spend playing games rose 50% between 2003 and 2016. Although the survey does not distinguish between video games and board and card games, the revenue difference between those industries suggests that most time spent gaming is digital. Other studies have shown that up to 10 percent of gamers struggle with compulsive issues and may be vulnerable to addiction.

“The algorithms of video games and social media are intentionally designed to keep you constantly engaged,” explains Phil Cocchiola, Head of School at Oxford Academy. “Video games continuously offer new plateaus so that you never really finish them. At the same time, the more you play, the more you are rewarded.

For individuals who feel isolated, video games offer an escape. Because games present a challenge, and gamers can see measurable progress toward those goals, video games can also generate a feedback loop of success. The American Psychological Association has identified “internet gaming disorder” as being a topic for further research, although it is not yet an official diagnosis. The World Health Organization recognized “gaming disorder” in its 2018 edition of the International Classification of Diseases.

Gaming is only a problem when it interferes with other arenas of life. Like other schools, Oxford Academy has established policies that have evolved over the years as digital devices have proliferated in daily life. “Ultimately, our goal is to teach students responsible use of technology,” explains Helen Waldron, Director of Admissions at Oxford Academy. “Educators and parents must understand what attracts teens to these platforms so that we can help students define a healthy life balance.”

Kristen J. Naspo is a senior associate with The Bertram Group, based in Connecticut. She provides services for domestic and international boarding school candidates and those seeking therapeutic school placements. She can be reached at krissy@thebertramgroup.com