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On video games: three moms, a kid, a therapist

Different voices, but similar attitudes

Opinions on video games

When I was twelve, a friend and I found two $20 bills in a phone booth. That was more money than either of us had ever held in our hands. We immediately took the bus to the arcade, and within a couple hours that seemed like a few minutes, we’d spent all of it on video games – Pac Man, Donkey Kong, various pinball machines, Galaga, to name but a few.

Reading Emma Singer’s article for PureWow about how a selection of moms, a kid, and a mental health professional feel about the modern versions of these addictive, pervasive amusements, I am reminded of that day, and how entranced my friend and I were, and how we could have gone to see about ten movies for that money, bought new wardrobes, or fed ourselves – and others – for weeks. I also recall how empty we felt afterwards.

Home video games were just beginning then – a ping pong-like game called Pong was the most popular. (Gratitude to my mom for not buying one.) The ensuing decades have seen breathtaking quantum leaps in the evolution of the medium. I know parents of kids of various ages – toddlerhood to late teens – for whom it is the number one issue with their kids, an obsession, even an addiction. Some of my own students will talk most passionately about their games, the way I once talked about bands or movies.

READ MORE: Co-learner, not gatekeeper

Singer’s interviewees are actually agreed on the addiction aspect. The moms all employ varying degrees of limits, from a remote “kill switch” on a smartphone, to a visual timer, to old-fashioned trust. One remarks how her son is irritable and impatient after playing for a long time. They also limit the type of games their kids play, and whether or not their children play games online with friends or strangers.

Therapist Dr. Bethany Cook breaks down the physiology of what video games are doing to the player’s developing brain. That is sobering. She reminds us how a gamer’s brain will be flooded with significantly increased levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine – also what happens with various narcotics – and the brain will naturally crave that same level afterwards. She adds that there are positive aspects, and skills and knowledge to be gained. But overall, parental guidance is urged.

Finally, the fourteen-year-old interviewee unequivocally concurs that games are addictive. He is quick to point out how they’ve enriched his life and knowledge of history, he says kids over fourteen should have “only” three hours of game time. (Under fourteen, only an hour.) Noted.

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