Five hours and seventeen minutes later, I felt like I was just getting started. It was minimum day from school, and I took full advantage of the extra two hours I was spared from K-12 agony. Without food or water, I sat at my desk, alone yet satisfied from the brain food that I knew only as CS, commonly referred to by parents and noobs alike as Counter-Strike. This was my heaven, all five hours and seventeen minutes of it, and when I heard my dad come home, it was time to look busy with homework.
This was in 2003, when Internet was still a child. Yet, my autobiographical account can be echoed in almost every high school boy’s life today: 7 hours of sleep, followed by 7 hours of boredom, and then whatever gaming one can fit in before homework starts. According to my students, Counter-Strike is still thee game to play right now, neck and neck in popularity with League of Legends (League for short, parents). After an entire decade, the epidemic of video game addiction still wreaks havoc on students, and as someone who was a gamer and now works with students, I have to break the silence.
Parents, you must act now.
If you think I mean disconnecting your son’s Internet, think again. Chances are you’ve probably tried that already anyway, and it didn’t work. How about the old “you’re grounded” threat? If you know teenagers like I do, it doesn’t work anymore. Your son will simply resort to YouTubing, Facebooking, Instagramming, or whatever social-media-ing they want on his phone. So you think you have him cornered now? Take away his phone, and I can guarantee you all hell will break loose.
If this sounds familiar to you, then I’m going to let you in on a secret. Your son is addicted to video games because of two reasons. First, video games provide instant gratification, excitement at the touch of a click, and relief from an extremely boring school day. Teenagers are the perfect consumers of video games because their brains actually reward short-term thinking. Seriously. In fact, it is scientifically proven that teenagers’ frontal lobes, which are responsible for reasoning and consequential thinking, aren’t even connected yet. So when your son plays that “one last game” five more times, there is a part of him that simply can’t help it.
But there’s another reason why your son spends too much time gaming — and this one’s going to be harder to swallow. You have not done your job as a parent. While most parents work really hard at their jobs, those same parents often neglect fostering close relationships with their students beyond the dinner table and the occasional vacation. As a result, parents forget that their students are still looking for direction, which can only be found through a variety of exposures. Sure, your son might have the opportunity to explore his interests, but what if he doesn’t know which opportunities exist in the first place?
As parents, you must take the time to get to know your child, to help them explore their interests — not push upon them your own. Discouraging our children from painting because it won’t pay in the future; stopping a student from playing sports because it is inconvenient; or forcing your student to take an all-day SAT bootcamp over the summer (when they should be exploring instead) are all examples of the same problem. And whenever you ask your son what his passion is and there is a blank response, that’s just a symptom of his sheer lack of exposure, not passion.
The truth is all students have natural interests. Through their collective experiences, students develop a liking towards certain activities, and if various interests are left unexplored, students resort the easiest interest to access: information and entertainment through their digital devices. At home, alone, and for hours.
Contact us for advice on how to end your child’s addiction to video games.