Is VR a gateway to next level addiction

Posted at 11:35 PM, Dec 07, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-07 23:35:57-05

They’re some of the hottest items on Christmas lists this year: virtual reality headsets.

It’s the ability to fully submerge yourself in a different world, sometimes altering our perception of reality.

We’ve seen how addicted adults and children can get to 2D technology. As we’re on the brink of a 3D explosion, doctors and addiction specialists say it’s important to learn the risks before placing the new technology onto our kid’s heads.

“There is that immersion aspect and that instantaneous reward that instant gratification - there is no separation, you’re in there,” Addiction Specialist Shawn Rumble of Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare said.

Virtual Reality headsets are the latest must haves from companies like Mattel, Google and Samsung. But Rumble says he’s seen the dark side of the other world.

“A lot of individuals will defer eating, sleeping and their biological needs in order to continue gameplay,” he said.

Pediatricians warn the risk of addiction with headsets geared toward children.

“These kids are having a hard time separating real life with what’s going on in the games that they’re playing,” Beaumont Pediatrician Sarah Langiness said.

Parents know it’s a battle getting technology away from kids and Dr. Langiness says as VR headsets make their way into your homes this holiday season it’s important to establish boundaries from the beginning.

“Really strict guidelines, you can only use it from this time to this time, when I say turn it off and that’s the bottom line,” she said.

She recommends limiting technology free time to one hour on school nights.

“This generation today is the first generation of children that can be addicted to digital drugs, we haven’t had that in previous generations,” Rumble said.

Gone are the days of looking over your kids shoulders to monitor internet usage. Both experts warn parents to be vigilant of exactly what their children are engaging in, with the amount of adult sites and violent videogames.

“The extreme violence, I wouldn’t be surprised if some kids start having PTSD from having watched such violent things happening on these video games,” Laginess said.

“It is the tip of the iceberg, these products are coming onto the shelf for the holiday season and I’m quite sure or quite confident that in the year 2016, I will have a number of individuals to treat their VR dependency,” Rumble said. 

He leads both inpatient and outpatient technology dependence rehab at Hotel-Dieu Grace.

The technology is a huge educational opportunity but it’s important to be vigilant of the warning signs of addiction.

“Some people become so separated that they actually start to feel isolated, they can have bouts of depression,” Rumble says.

He says it’s important to understand the reasons adults and children can get sucked in.

“The individuals are choosing the respective games of choice as a solution to the problems, the problems of feeling insecure, dealing with different emotions: anger, resentment, guilt, shame etc.”

There are resources for parents who are worried about the effects of technology and their children through Hotel-Dieu Grace.

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