Monday, November 29, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
A question that I often get is how young should my children start to use the Internet. Or, how young should my child be before he or she should start gaming online? Mainly, this is due to the violent content contained in many games that are available. Parents are increasingly worried about how these games impact childhood development. One consistent factor in developing compulsive or addictive habits related to gaming addiction among children is that the younger they start online makes them more at risk to develop an addiction to online gaming. For example, a recent client of mine who was already 21 started gaming by age 12. In his younger days, Dan was drawn to Gameboy, Sony Play Station, and Nintendo with his friends, and gradually progressed to X-Box. He was able to manage how much time he spent gaming until he went on X-Box live. “It was like a whole other world opened up to me,” he explains. Suddenly, he was able to interact with fellow players inside of sit beside friends while playing the game.
Gaming had already become a large part of his personal identity, and despite having Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) he was able to sit in front of the computer for hours. His parents became concerned when his gaming habit turned into an obsession. “He went into a trance-like state every time he went online but unlike other hobbies, he never lost interest in this,” his mother explained. “When he quit the track team, which he loved, we knew he had a serious problem and the game took over his entire life.”
What tends to happen is that parents initially see gaming as a healthy recreational activity among children but then it becomes more apparent that there is a problem as the child gets older. Say when the child goes to college and fails freshman year due to gaming. Say the child is put on probation or academically is expelled from college and loses a scholarship only to move back in with the parents. This is usually when parents see the ramifications of gaming in full bloom. They see how a son or daughter has let other important areas of life go by the wayside just to spend time gaming. One mother said that her son had three computer screens in front of me going from one game to the next. He was 22, kicked out of college, and living in her basement. She had no idea where to turn as he had no other goal except to play the games.
In general, there is not an ideal age to introduce online gaming to children. It is more important that clear time limits are used from the very beginning. This is important! Otherwise, without time limits, a child can play games for hours. With time limits, children then should be encouraged to engage in other offline activities - social clubs at school, learning to play a sport, learning to play an instrument, spending time with family, whatever the activities, these should be social and engaging for the child. The fear is if children start gaming so young, they will not to engage in social activities at school or at home, and the result is that gaming will always be their only focus.