Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sue Scheff: Video Game Addition

Does any of this sound familiar? Great Parenting Article!!!

Connect with Kids

“When kids don’t have access to the computer, they feel unhappy, disphoric, bored, lonely. They need the computer and the computer game again to gain their sense of control, mastery and feel happy again.”

– Ashraf Attalla, M.D., Child Psychiatrist

For years Kristen Blosser has loved video games. She plays every single day.

“Four hours a day. Um you know if I don’t have anything to do that day I will try and play all day long,” says Blosser, 19.

Her current favorite? “World of Warcraft. It’s been a game that I’ve recently gotten addicted to.”

Kristen may joke about being ‘addicted’, but according to researchers at Iowa State University, nearly 10 percent of kids are video game addicts.

“Video games are very addictive,” says Dr. Attalla, “And some adolescents, children, become addicted to games. They play enormous amount of time on games.”

Experts say spending more than 14 hours a week playing is one indicator. “Consistent preoccupation with the game is another thing. Feeling euphoric and happy,” says Dr. Attalla, “Depressed and lonely when you’re not playing the game and the constant urge and need to keep playing the game to feel happy again. Those kids can’t finish their homework anymore on time. They’re socially withdrawn from their circle of friends. They’re not as interested in other things.”

Both Zachary Moore and his dad love video games, but they play no more than an hour per day.

“My mom or dad stops me when I get too much,” says Zachary.

“I mean it’s not something that they just turn off. I mean you have to basically manage and tell them to stop playing,” points out his father, Charles.

Dr. Attalla says it’s simple: “Access to the computer, the kind of games that they play, the amount of time that they spend should be tightly controlled by the parents.”

Tips for Parents

For many parents, video games are likely to be low on the list of addiction risks for their children. But as the video industry continues to grow, video game addiction is a problem being faced by more and more parents. This is especially true as the landscape of the video-game industry continues to change. Gone are the days of Super Mario and Donkey Kong. In their places are dark, adult-themed games like Grand Theft Auto and Mortal Kombat.

While video games in and of themselves are not bad, excessive and unobserved game playing can lead to problems. According to experts at the National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF), there are steps you can take to lessen the likelihood of your child getting addicted to video games. Consider the following:

Limit game playing time. (Recommended: No more than one hour per day.)
Play with your child to become familiar with the games.
Provide alternative ways for your child to spend time.

Require that homework and jobs be done first; use video game playing as a reward.
Do not put video game set in a child’s room where he/she can shut the door and isolate himself/herself.

Talk about the content of the games.

Ask your video store to require parental approval before a violently rated video game can be rented by children.

When buying video games for your child, it is important to purchase games targeted at his/her audience. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rates every video and computer game for age appropriateness (located on the front of the packaging) and, when appropriate, labels games with content descriptions. The ESRB’s current rating standard is as follows:

EC – Early Childhood (3 and older)
E – Everyone (6 and older)
E10+ – Everyone (10 and older)
T – Teens (13 and older)
M – Mature audiences (17 and older)
AO – Adults Only
RP – Ratings Pending

There are also other considerations besides the rating to take into account when deciding whether to purchase a video game for your child. Children Now, a research and action organization, offers these additional tips for helping you to choose the right video games for your child:

Know your child. Different children handle situations differently. Regardless of age, if your child becomes aggressive or unsettled after playing violent video games, don’t buy games with violence in them. Likewise, if your child likes playing games with characters that look like him/her, purchase games with characters that fit the bill.

Read more than the ratings. While the ESRB ratings can be helpful, they do not tell the whole story. Some features that you may consider violent or sexual may not be labeled as such by the ESRB. In addition, the ESRB does not rate games for the positive inclusion of females. The language on the packaging may give you a better idea of the amount and significance of violence and sexuality and the presence of gender and racial diversity or stereotypes in the game.
Go online. The ESRB website provides game ratings as well as definitions of the rating system. In addition, you can visit game maker and distributor websites to learn more about the contents of a game. Some have reviews that will provide even more information about the game.
Rent before you buy. Many video rental stores also rent video games and consoles. Take a trial run before you purchase a game.

Talk to other parents. Find out which games other parents like and dislike, as well as which games they let your child play when he/she visits their house. This is a good way to learn about the games that your child enjoys and those that other parents approve of, and to let other parents know which games you do not want your child playing.

Play the games with your child. Know what your child is being exposed to and how he/she reacts to different features in the games.

Talk about what you see. If your child discovers material that he/she finds disturbing or that you find inappropriate, talk about it. This is a great opportunity to let your child know what your values are as well as to help him/her deal with images that may be troubling.

Set limits. If you are worried that your child spends too much time playing video games, limit the amount of time or specify the times of day that video games can be played.

Put the games in a public space. Just as with the Internet, keep your game consoles and computers in public family space so that you can be aware of the material your child is viewing.
Contact the game makers. If you find material that you think is offensive or inappropriate, let the people who make and sell the games know about it. Likewise, let game makers know if you think that a game provides healthy messages or images. They do care what you think!

Children Now
Entertainment Software Association
Entertainment Software Rating Board
Federal Trade Commission
Iowa State University
National Institute on Media and the Family