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We all know the stories. The Korean couple who left their new baby to starve nearly to death while they “fed” and cared for their online baby. The warfare gaming addiction of autistic Newtown mass murderer Adam Lanza. No one wants to imagine the horror.
An article by Jack Flanagan that was published in The Week, classifying obsessive video game playing as an addiction. Flanagan outlines the potential warning signs of addiction, from losing jobs and loved ones to physical health problems and even death, and notes that obsessive gaming merits “little more than a footnote in the latest DSM.” He then poses the critical question of why video gaming is not seen as legitimate as so many other addictions? It’s an important question, and it means that the best, and possibly only, safeguard protecting your kids from over-gaming is, yes, you.
I am really interested in this. My kids love to play video games, especially my son. If left to it, he would play without stopping for an entire Saturday. I won’t let him play war games, but he always finds a way around this rule. After all, in some form or another, let’s face it: most games involve shooting, decimating, conquering, smashing, slicing, exploding or otherwise obliterating some type of enemy.
The rules get blurred in other ways at home. When I am burnt out, cooking or otherwise engaged, I often let the gaming time limit slide, which I am certain reinforces the flexibility of my gaming rules system, making it semi-obsolete. I need a better way to monitor use at home, but I don’t have enough reliable information. Is gaming really bad for my son?
Of course I don’t want my son to become a social misfit, seeking the solace and escapism of video games over real social relationships. But he has an iPad at school. I would be kidding myself if I tried to make a rule that we will never, ever play video games. And what about our home Wii system? I allow that because it seems more “sporty” and active. But really, it’s just video games. Isn’t it?
The most important point brought up in Flanagan’s article is the pull and lure of gaming and how it fosters addictive behavior, a potential downward spiral of avoidance of real-life conflict management and responsibility. The core of every addiction touches on this spiral. Maybe just knowing the warning signs is enough to protect our kids from more of the “too-muchness” of their modern lives? For now, I am banking on it.
Read the article. Be aware. Most parents are pretty in touch with how much their kids are gaming. Or so they think. My nine year old has come home from school many times with requests for a new game, or to let him use the computer to find a game he played at school. It’s the culture. And maybe it’s a good thing to think of gaming as addiction, to treat it as an ever-present threat, and to educate our kids of its dangers accordingly. That’s the best that good parenting can do. And of course, stay informed.
Flanagan, Jack. (February 6, 2014.) The psychology of video game addiction: What turns a hobby into a sickness?