Saturday, November 29, 2008

Video Game Addiction - Part 3

(Continued from November 22, 2008) ....... According to the fine folks at the National Institute on Media and the Family, “For the video game addicted person, a fantasy world in a game has replaced his or her real world. The virtual reality of the game is more inviting than the every day world of family, school or work. With the increased access to pornography in games, this fantasy world may be highly sexual. The first step to healing is to recognize the symptoms. Help from a professional is often needed”.

I am reminded of a terrific middle school student of mine from several years ago named Ben. Ben was the perfect child/student in every way. He was handsome with movie star good looks and jet blond hair, a gifted percussionist, sought by all of the girls for courting, and sought by all of the boys because their personal stock rose when they were in the company of Ben!

In addition, Ben always got an “A” in every single class. On top of all of that, Ben was just about the nicest child in the entire school. In fact, during the years that Ben was my student, even though he was 12-14 years old and my daughter was pre-birth through nine months old, I was sometimes wished that Ben would wait for my precious daughter to grow up, so that he could marry her!

Yes, he was so perfect that he was good enough for my own daughter (as many boys in our town can attest, my daughter’s father has a very high scale for her potential suitors!).

With all of his attributes and gifts, you might think that some middle school students would become jealous of Ben. But, no, he was revered and loved by all!

One day in the 7th grade, I noticed that Ben had an inordinately high number of students crowded around him (even for Ben!) before school in my classroom. When I inquired as to the extra interest in Ben, one of the students told me that Ben’s parents had just bought him a video game system (this was in 1987 and he was the first child in our school to get one of these) and he was explaining the various games to the students.

I don’t remember the cost of the gaming system, but I do recall that Ben had indicated that the individual games were $50.00 each (in 1987 prices)!!! While this was my first experience with one of these devilish toys, and while I couldn’t believe that anything that cost that much money for one game could be good for a child, I was willing to wait and see the effects. Over the next few weeks, I did notice that Ben and his friends could speak of little else, other than the latest video game that he had obtained and conquered, sometimes with the help of his friends. Before-school and lunchtime stories were filled with killing, annihilating, and the severing of limbs that had occurred on the previous night’s game.

Well, it was only a few weeks until I noticed that Mr. Perfect Ben had become angry and insolent with his friends, unfocused and disinterested in class, tired on most days, and, even though he had been able to previously speak intelligently on a variety of subjects, he was now solely wired to speak of his video games, sometimes even during class! Other teachers began to notice the change, as well.

To make a long story short, I spoke to Ben’s parents, who were both highly-paid and well-respected professionals, about the substantial changes in Ben’s behavior and schoolwork. After several conversations, they agreed to limit Ben’s video game activity. In fact, they told me that they had punished Ben for his improper behavior in the home by taking away his game system for the weekend. They indicated that his behavior that weekend was similar to person who is in the detox unit of the hospital (no kidding!).

Apparently, that weekend was the final straw in Ben’s household, as his parents began to wean him of the gaming system a little at a time, until Ben no longer much cared about his video games.

YES!! However, how many times has a similar scenario played out in many other homes and the parents did not act to intervene as did Ben’s parents? In my experience, very few parents have taken the necessary steps to intervene, because they have been led to believe that the video games are not dangerous or injurious to a child. WRONG! How about your house?

So, watch the games that your kids are playing, monitor the number of hours that they log with the games, and take the necessary steps to protect your child!

Now that you've been sufficiently motivated, we'll take a break from the video games for a little while. Hang in there and take care of your kids!

Paul W. Reeves

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