Video Game Addict

Unwavering boundaries seem to be the only method to contain the beast.

Addiction. We all know it and at times have been forced to overcome it. I certainly know I have. I remember being addicted to a daily 2 p.m. Diet Coke as a working gal after college. I overcame a nail-biting addiction that spanned most of my childhood and high school career. I had to curb my “social” smoking before kids, and I have yet to curb my morning coffee addiction.  Addiction is real, active and apparent in every person.

But my kids? Sure, they’re addicted to talking back and to making messes; addicted to candy, cartoons and cuddles. But this Christmas I watched a child virtually free of addiction become completely and utterly infatuated with video games – and it was becoming an addiction – an ugly one at that.

Since Christmas morning when Santa brought our eldest son his iPod Touch, I have been at odds with Santa. I approved of the present, as it was the only thing on my nearly 8-year-old’s list. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, my son and I had many talks about the rules that would be imposed should Santa grant his Christmas wish.

During the days following Christmas, Connor spent endless hours playing with his new toy. He would play a few games and then become fanatical about purchasing new apps. He couldn’t stop talking about the next game he wanted to get, never appreciating the ones he already had on his device. He would play his “iTouch” until his eyes were bloodshot and he looked sullen, sucked dry of all stimulation.  It was like the little guy was on crack. He couldn’t tear himself away from it. And when he wasn’t playing it, he was talking about it, over and over and over.

We took a road trip – nine hours in the car – and only heard a peep out of Connor when he was hungry, had to make a pit stop or worse yet, when the battery in his iTouch was out of juice.

It was then that the fixation continued. Connor would beg for us to charge the iTouch in the car and was rather irritable during the hour or more it took to have the handheld charged. He would tell us he was bored, snap at his siblings and wasn’t able to relax his restless body. The child whose imagination made him capable of playing independently for hours at any age, had zapped his brain of patience, rational, reasoning and satisfaction.

What had Santa done?

In just two days, the iTouch had quickly become an extension of my son, his main source of happiness and calm. The books and toys that just days before had ignited his intellectual curiosity had been replaced and it became apparent that my technology “rules” were far too lenient.

My boy had become a video game junkie. Compulsive video gaming is actually a modern-day psychological disorder that experts describe as extreme use of video games that interfere with someone’s daily life. 

According to Common Sense Media, a national nonprofit dedicated to helping parents improve kids’ experiences with media and technology, among 5- to 8-year-olds, 17 percent play console video games at least once a day. More than a quarter of all parents, (29 percent) have downloaded apps on their mobile devices for their kids to play; 52 percent of 5- to 8-year-olds have used a mobile device.

What’s more shocking in their statistics is that in a typical day, 11 percent of all 0- to 8-year olds use a cell phone, iPod, iPad, or similar device for media consumption, and those who do spend an average of 43 minutes doing so.

Research also finds that nearly one in 10 youth gamers age 8-18 can be classified as pathological gamers or addicted to video-gaming; boys being more likely than girls.

These statistics are startling. So I got to work on figuring out how Connor could co-exist with his iTouch. I mean, he was old enough to “deserve” one, so how could we foster a relationship with technology that would help Connor continue to thrive in all other areas of his childhood? This predicament proved trying for me.

I got to work on a technology agreement that could be a benefit to Connor. Knowing the password, having designated gaming times, using the iTouch as a tool to guide Connor to better his behavior, having him earn his time after school work. It was working fine until the timer beeped one evening before dinner and the reaction I received after voicing that Connor’s time was up was simply put: Unacceptable.

His punishment? Two weeks without his iTouch. Blasphemous if you ask Connor. But we’re four days into it and he knows I mean business. He is once again cognizant of something he seemed to forget with every swift stroke of his finger on his iTouch: That a privilege can be revoked.

I must admit, I am hesitant to re-instate Connor’s iTouch privilege. It’s only been a few days, but my life has returned to simple and my battles seem a little easier to fight.

Our generation of parents will continue to struggle to teach our children to co-exist with technology. We must teach them when it’s appropriate to turn it on and turn it off and more importantly, we must set appropriate boundaries to avoid the negative effects of the technological addict.

I bid us all good luck.



Michael Williams January 16, 2013 at 11:24 PM
All kids need to find ways to gain control. Whining and tantrums are ways all young kids try. Adolescent boys, in particular, are strongly attracted to ways to feel powerful - and an electronic game gives them that illusion with instant feedback of "killing" virtual enemies and fake "explosions" - all of which become more dramatic with each new game release. The "feeling of power" and emotional rush are powerfully attractive and become powerfully addictive. That not only affects young children... our entire society has become addicted to the "rush" of graphic violence. It is absolutely overt and pervasive in our sports, our films and our TV programs. Ultimately, it's reflected in our national politics and our foreign policy. While there has been no conclusive link between exposure to media violence and homicides in the US, it well to remember that before the Sandy Hook killer slaughtered 26 children and teachers, he killed his mother.
Jon Freeman January 18, 2013 at 02:20 AM
As a note, it is called "iPod Touch" not an "iTouch." It sounds to me like you allowed this "problem" to develop rather than he became addicted. Who allows their child to play a game for that long without a break or some oversight? If you had monitored and controlled your childs usage in the first place there wouldn't have been a problem. It is called "PARENTING." How about providing him with other things to do in the back of the car? Take a break from driving and switch out the items he has to change up his activities. Stop allowing the iPod to babysit your child, no matter how much you seem to enjoy the peace and quiet. Your final paragraphs indicate to me that you might have learned from this experience. Instead of writing editorial pieces that don't really have useful info, maybe go to parenting sites and share you ideas. It would be more useful. On the topic of "video game violence" (Michael) you should watch this editorial piece, WITHOUT your child in the room. (It is VERY graphic, but makes a very good point.) http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/jimquisition/6692-Desensitized-to-Violence
Michael Williams January 19, 2013 at 04:05 AM
Jon, your attack on this mother is unjustified... and is blatantly arrogant bullying. You have no idea what this parent's situation is and what other stresses and problems she's managing... nor her child's. She is legitimately sharing her experiences in managing an all-too-common parenting problem with the other concerned parents in our community via The Patch, which judged them relevant enough to publish. I did review Jim's video, "Desensitized to Violence." Which, not incidentally, has nothing to do with addiction to video games, the topic of Aimee's article. The one and only point of Jim's extended rant, which he clearly and explicitly stated, is that he himself is deeply addicted to violent video games... and has not yet shot up school or movie theater. And neither have his crowd of equally addicted video game players. Ergo, proof positive that violent video games don't cause violence according to Jim. In my view, Jim is the perfect poster child for the dangers of video game addiction. He clearly would benefit, physically and emotionally, from putting down his game controller and taking up some Real World physical activities.... and perhaps some new friends with more diverse interests. Which is what Aimee is trying to do with her child... and all parents should be thinking about. Best of luck to you both, Aimee and Conner. And to you both, Jon and Jim. And thanks to you, Joan Dentler, for Aimee's piece.
Jon Freeman January 19, 2013 at 04:59 AM
MIchael, You just made my point... it is all too common for parents to allow electronic devices to babysit their children. I didn't attack her, I agreed with the fact that she had messed up and needed to pay more attention to her child. Also, you don't think that Jim has friends or is socially experienced? How is he successful in business then? And yes, you are right, he does point out that millions of other gamers have yet to take any violent actions. You and I do agree on one point, Aimee should certainly start taking care of her child rather than letting the iPod Touch do it for her. To be clear, Aimee has every right to express her opinion, as do I, which is what I did. Feel free to disagree all you want.
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