Saturday, October 24, 2009

Games - A Happy Ending!

I am reminded of an 8th grade student, named Tony. One day before school in the gymnasium, a student reported to me that Tony had picked up a smaller child named Steve and body slammed him to the hard gym floor. As the Principal, I should have immediately high-tailed it to the gym. But, considering the source of the report (it was from a less-than-reputable student) and the difficult-to-believe nature of the story, I intensively questioned the student for a few more seconds.

When I decided that there might be some credence to his story, (although I still imagined that it was just a rumor), I quickly went to the gym, whereupon I saw Steve on the floor, holding his neck. After we attended to Steve (fortunately, he was not severely injured), I asked Tony what had happened.

To my disbelief, he indicated that he had picked up Steve and body-slammed him to the gym floor. He had been practicing that move for a few weeks after he had studied it on one of his video games. He also noticed that the victim on the game always got right back up and continued fighting. He wanted to see if it happened that way in real life, too! Well, Tony, in real life – people don’t get right back up and sometimes they don’t get back up at all after being body-slammed to the gym floor!

Tony was not a fool or a child with severe learning disabilities. He was an above-average student who, under ordinary circumstances, would have never tried that move in real life. However, due to video game addiction, Tony’s judgment became clouded enough that he actually began to believe that a child in real life might react in similar fashion to a video game person after becoming a victim of violence. Yes, Tony actually believed that Steve would just hop right up!

Unfortunately, Tony’s parents (separated pending an upcoming divorce) were nothing like Ben’s parents (I wrote about Ben and his parents in a previous post) who had quickly interceded on their son’s behalf. No, Tony’s parents scolded him for hurting another child and then they let him continue with his video game playing despite numerous pleas from me. To the surprise of nobody, Tony was later often suspended from high school and he became a dropout at age sixteen. Does this scenario sound familiar amongst your child's circle of friends? I hope not, but it occurs more often than you might think.

The happy ending is that we gathered a team of experts, Psychologist, Social Worker, and a Clinical Counselor, as well as some of Tony’s friends, his parents and I, and we performed an intervention. We confronted Tony about his violent behavior and his path to destruction and his journey to “loser-dom”. After nearly an hour of people telling Tony how much they cared about him, Tough-Guy Tony broke down and cried and admitted that he did not know how to deal with people, including his friends, without getting violent.

After about 6 months of intensive therapy, Tony and his Therapist concluded that his addiction to the violence on the video games had clouded his judgment and, yes, Tony had come to believe that there was no difference between the violence in video games and the violence in real life. Ouch!

Fast forwarding a few years, Tony went back to high school and graduated before venturing off to college to become a ..... yes, a Therapist! Today, he maintains a successful practice which is geared toward helping children with addictions, including the ever-growing actions to video games! Finally, a happy ending to a troubled youth!

Paul W. Reeves

No comments: