Many of today’s children have been interacting with digital devices since before they were old enough to talk.

For many children, this can be a harmless interest in experiencing virtual worlds. But for some kids, especially boys, that simple interest can develop into a gaming addiction. This can have a serious impact on their emotional development. “Boys will be boys,” but boys and video games aren’t always the best connection.

Boys can be drawn into video games that contain disturbing sexual and violent content. Although these games are marketed to teens, even young boys are drawn into the slick graphics. Studies have shown that when children are exposed to media violence, their own behavior can subsequently become more aggressive. Gaming addictions have also been shown to lead to dependence on other technology, and even pornography addictions. Addiction to social media is also a very real concern.

A child’s gaming addiction can wreak havoc on their school performance and their personal relationships. Research has shown that video game overuse can lead to withdrawal-like symptoms when the player is separated from their games. According to these studies, this dependence and preoccupation is seen most clearly in children who start playing video games at a young age.

Fortunately, there is professional help for gaming addiction. You don’t have to face this challenge on your own. Wilderness therapy is a proven way to reduce dependency on technology and foster positive emotional development. Outside in nature, boys can grow a connection to the “real world” outside of a screen and plotted storyline.

Boys can have a warped sense of self and others due to overuse of video games. At the push of a button, they can dive into a virtual world where violence is celebrated and women are treated like pawns.

Being in nature requires constant self-evaluation and patience: a hike to the summit of a mountain may take a longer time than may feel comfortable. This is a space for self-reflection, where boys can forge more realistic sexual expectations, and improve their interpersonal relationships. After all, being in nature is also a group effort: everyone needs to work together to reach the top. Boys are led by a team of experienced clinical therapists in an experience that requires them to talk about the challenges they’re facing.

During a STAR Guides wilderness program, boys can build an authentic, rather than digital, self. The relationship between boys and video games doesn’t need to be a permanent one. Being in nature, away from modern conveniences, builds boys’ problem-solving abilities and creates positive self-esteem, skills that can become weak from video game overuse. They will come home changed and improved.

There is help for gaming addiction. You’re not out of options. Caring professionals are ready to help and heal your child.