Video Games: The “Next Level” Could Be Dangerous

According to David Walsh, PhD, spokesman for the American Medical Association’s media violence campaign, one out of five kids were addicted to computer and video games in 2002. The National Institute on Media and the family warns parents to beware when children seem to be creating a fantasy world that is more appealing to them than their real world of school, work, or family. With the increased access to pornography, these worlds are often very sexual realms. Withdrawal and isolation are common warning signs that a fantasy world may be replacing reality for a child. Video games, like many other sensational stimuli affect the flow of adrenaline and stimulate the brain’s production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to addiction.

Dr. Mark Griffith, an expert on video game addiction, has put in lots of time and study on the subject at Nottingham Trent University. Here is his list of questions concerned parents should ask. If the answer to more than four of these questions is “yes,” Dr. Griffith believes there is cause for parental concern.

1. Does your child play almost every day?
2. Does your child often play for long periods (over three to four hours at the time)?
3. Does your child play for excitement?
4. Does your child get restless and irritable if he or she can’t play?
5. Does your child sacrifice social and sporting activities to play?
6. Does your child play instead of doing homework?
7. Does your child try to cut down his or her playing, but can’t?

Many experts are in agreement that a gaming addiction can be very similar to a drug addiction as far as the way the brain is affected. It is a difficult addiction to break, because, like eating disorders, the source of the addiction (computers, in this case) is so much a part of everyday life.

Of course, for Christian parents, there are lots of motivators besides the medical evidence to encourage us to get a handle on the gaming time and content permitted in our households. We want our children to be good stewards of the time God has given them (Eph. 5:16). We want them to completely avoid sexual or profane material (I Thess. 5:22), and we want to be spending massive amounts of time with them, as their parents (Deut.6:4-7). Simply put, this addiction, like so many others, is blockaded from our lives if we are diligently seeking first the kingdom. It’s when we become ‘tired” of the all-consuming, sacrificial parenting routine. It’s when we want to “back off” for a while and not be so “paranoid” about the directions our kids may be taking. It’s when we want to “ease up, “ as some parents state it, and maybe even “get the kids out of our hair for a while,” that we begin to see the negative signs that Satan may be creeping into various isolated spaces in our homes. He loves to lure and entrap. It’s the “diligence” factor of Deuteronomy six that keeps kids from his amazing technological bait today. He loves nothing more than to get our kids hooked—on porn, sex, drugs, games, eating disorders, mutilation, gaming, etc…—before we, the parents were aware of the danger. So we have to step up the awareness. We simply can’t afford to be tired, laid back or permissive in the face of his tactics.

If you are wondering if your child might be at risk, or if you just want an education to avoid future problems, may I recommend the book “Playstation Nation,” by Olivia and Kurt Bruner? It’s the source of the information given in the opening paragraphs of this post and it was an eye-opening resource for me. It contains true confessions of gaming addicts as well as some very useful advice on diagnosing behavioral problems associated with too much time in front of the screen. Most importantly, it speaks frankly to parents about the importance of being just that—parents—when it comes to reclaiming children who are dangerously moving toward patterns of addiction.

My thanks to Caleb Colley for the gift of this informative book.

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