Parenting in an Age of Technology: Video Game Addiction
Julie Jargon is a reporter with the Wall Street Journal. Heretofore, she has written about food companies like Starbucks and McDonalds. As of April 2, however, Ms. Jargon is writing a WSJ column titled “Family and Tech,” described as dealing with “the impact of technology on family life.”
In her inaugural column (April 2, 2019), which could have been written by public relations folks at Sony and the American Psychological Association, Ms. Jargon strives to convince her audience that simply because a child has difficulty putting down the game controller and finding creative, productive things to do does not mean he’s a videogame addict.
Given that addiction is defined as being obsessed with and having great difficulty ceasing the use of a harmful substance or involvement in a non-productive or pathological activity, I fail to see anything but contradiction in Ms. Jargon’s thesis. We’re talking about kids who will not stop playing videogames unless a parent or the imminence of a bodily function forces them to stop. How’s that not an addiction?
The manager of a large west coast convention hotel once told me that when his property hosted a “gamers” convention, his staff had to threaten attendees with pulling the plug on their devices to get them to drink water or eat even a cracker. Many of the attendees wore adult diapers so they wouldn’t have to stop playing. That, by any other name, is addiction. It’s also sick. It’s also where a child or teen’s obsession with videogames may lead if parents don’t pull the plug before some hotel manager has no choice…that or risk a lawsuit from a gamer who becomes dehydrated and suffers a cardiac episode.
Ms. Jargon seems loathe to call a spade a spade. After relating two horror stories that clearly describe addiction, she refers to psychologists who advise parents to stop worrying about whether their kids are addicted and figure out instead if they’re using videogames to cope with depression, anxiety or stress. She cites a study finding that teens who played videogames four or more hours a day on average showed more signs of depression than kids who played less than four hours a day.
Note that the psychologists in question (unidentified) posit that depression and other mental health issues cause obsession with/addiction to videogames as opposed to the other way around. That’s a clever means of covering ineptitude while at the same time claiming rights to treatment (keep in mind, dear reader, I am a psychologist). Besides, it’s so much easier to tell parents their child needs a daily dose of a drug than it is to get them to do something that will cause their child to hate them and act deranged until cured, not to mention something that may cause them to never make another appointment.
I once persuaded parents to “disappear” their 15-year-old son’s console while he was at school. He was so “into” videogames he would not come down to dinner or participate in any family activity and was usually up well past midnight every night. When he discovered that his supply of videopioid had been terminated, he went nuts. He all-but destroyed his room, for example. Two weeks of silence and self-imposed seclusion later, he admitted to his parents that he felt much, much better and was going to try and help other boys conquer their addictions.
To prevent an addiction from developing, Ms. Jargon passes along such hackneyed tips as creating rules around playing and following them consistently. Okay, but that assumes parents who have no difficulty establishing limits that cause their kids distress. The problem is that all too many of today’s parents have an abundance of said difficulty, meaning Jargon’s advice is moot out of the gate.
Thankfully, there are still parents who will stand up to child-rearing challenges and face them head-on; parents who are not trying to be their kids’ friends; parents who understand that children, including most teens, know only what they want, which is precisely why they require adults in their lives who know what they need.