Liv­ing with Chil­dren: Gam­ing ob­ses­sion can lead to ad­dic­tion.

Santa Fe New Mexican - - LOCAL & REGION - Visit fam­ily psy­chol­o­gist John Rose­mond’s web­site at www.john­rose­mond.com; read­ers may send him email at ques­tions@rose­mond.com; due to the vol­ume of mail, not ev­ery ques­tion will be an­swered.

Re­spond­ing to my re­cent col­umns on video games and smart­phones, a reader asks what the prob­lem is, thus prov­ing that th­ese de­vices can and do cause se­ri­ous harm to one’s cog­ni­tive hard­ware. He, the fa­ther of two boys and a gamer him­self, in ef­fect claims that par­ents are imag­in­ing things and re­searchers are not find­ing what they are find­ing.

He pro­poses that video games and smart­phones do not make people play them or stare at them ob­ses­sively; rather, that some par­ents are sim­ply not pro­vid­ing proper su­per­vi­sion. That’s true, as far as it goes. He then of­fers that noth­ing is bad in mod­er­a­tion, which is one of the stu­pid­est adages ever con­ceived. The list of things that are bad or evil in mod­er­a­tion in­clude pornog­ra­phy, heroin, co­caine, arsenic, assault, mur­der, rape, armed rob­bery, ly­ing, cheat­ing, child abuse and cru­elty to an­i­mals. Need I go on?

Fur­ther­more, if an ad­dic­tion is de­fined as a self-de­struc­tive ob­ses­sion over which an in­di­vid­ual seems to lack con­trol, then video games and smart­phones do in­deed “make” some people play them and stare at them as if their very lives de­pended upon it. Fur­ther­more, the force of that ef­fect ap­pears to be in­versely pro­por­tional to the age of the in­di­vid­ual in ques­tion. As such, what a 40-year-old may be able to do — that is, fit play­ing video games into an other­wise re­spon­si­ble and richly var­ied life — a 13-year-old boy may not be able to do.

One of my grand­sons is a case in point. After I ex­pressed con­cern to his par­ents that his ob­ses­sion with play­ing video games bor­dered on un­healthy, they took his game con­troller away. A year later, at age 14, he told me that he re­al­ized in ret­ro­spect that he had in­deed been ad­dicted. If his par­ents had not stepped in, he said, his ado­les­cence would have been a dis­as­ter.

I’ve lost count of the num­ber of par­ents who have asked me what to do about un­em­ployed 20-some­thing male chil­dren who live at home, se­questered in the slums that are their rooms, play­ing on­line video games day and night. Most of said adult chil­dren do not en­gage in mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tions with their par­ents, par­tic­i­pate in fam­ily meals or even leave the house un­less there is no op­tion but to do so.

A few years ago, a con­ven­tion cen­ter man­ager told me that many of the young males who par­tic­i­pated in a gam­ing con­ven­tion at his fa­cil­ity wore adult di­a­pers so they would not have to get up from their con­soles to use the bath­room. To get them to eat and drink, he had to threaten to un­plug them.

The mother of a 25-year-old man-child who fits the above de­scrip­tion re­cently asked if there are “re­sources for par­ents” who are deal­ing with adult video game ad­dicts. I have fig­ured out that in this con­text the word “re­sources” is a eu­phemism for “stuff we can read or meet­ings we can at­tend to con­vince our­selves that we’re do­ing some­thing when we have no real in­ten­tion of do­ing any­thing but com­plain­ing end­lessly to any­one who will lis­ten.” When I sug­gest the “re­source” of in­vol­un­tary eman­ci­pa­tion, th­ese par­ents come up with one ex­cuse after an­other, demon­strat­ing that where there is an ad­dict, there is of­ten an en­abler or en­ablers.

Would that th­ese par­ents had em­ployed the very re­source­ful word “no” when th­ese males first asked for a video game con­sole. What Amer­ica is dis­cov­er­ing, and most painfully so, is that a lost ado­les­cence of­ten pre­cedes a lost life.

John Rose­mond Liv­ing With Chil­dren

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