Dear Advice Candy:
I have son who is in high school, and I am afraid he spends too much time playing video games. He doesn’t seem to have any friends that we know of, and wouldn’t even eat, shower or study if we didn’t make him. His online life seems more important than his real one. We tried limiting his time on the computer, but when we do that, he sulks and has even resorted to getting up in the middle of the night to log in. Please tell me this is just a phase.
Worried Mom in Miramichi
Dear Worried Mom in Miramichi,
I sympathize with your worry but I want you to know you are not alone. This is something I hear often about teenage kids who seem to get lost in the gaming world. First of all, the important part of this issue is a deeper understanding of what could possibly be going on your son. Online gaming and the online world in general often times offers teens a safe and non-judgemental place to form an identity and fit in in ways that they may be unable to do in the social world. To sit behind a computer and partake in the gaming world where there is often online chatting with other gamer’s and the interest and challenge of the game itself offers great perceived awards to the gamer. They are forming a sense of connection with others while being stimulated and entertained. The trick of drawing them to the “real” world would be to offer this same stimulation offline. Are their activities you could encourage him to join? Does he feel like he’s a part of a larger community he values, like a sports team, school club, and other extracurricular activity?
Hold off on punitive measures as this often only strengths the behavior and an increased desire for the one thing you’re trying to obliterate. i.e him getting up in the middle of the night to log in would be an example of this. My advice to you would be to be patient, try and draw his attention elsewhere and of course put healthy guidelines in as you have been doing. By getting to the root of the issue you can develop a greater sense of understanding of him and from there illicit some change.
One extra thing I will note is to watch the level of violence in these games. Most of them, even the ones rated T for teen are so extremely derogatory and violent they are not good for ANYONE to watch let alone teenagers. They process information differently than adults and being continually exposed to violent and gory material has been shown in studies to illicit change in brain activity.
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