Family

Control the controller to defeat the addiction

John Rosemond says video games are doing many children great harm.
John Rosemond says video games are doing many children great harm. TNS

Have you ever heard of an addict who was cured of his addiction because someone limited, but did not eliminate, his access to the substance or behavior in question? Of course not. Is an addiction to gambling less harmful if the addict is only allowed to gamble five hours a week? Of course not. The proposition is absurd.

Before I continue, a digression: I am allowed, by law, to call myself a psychologist; therefore, I am a psychologist. However, I am increasingly aware that I do not have much in common with most people in my profession. I am of the experienced opinion (38 years) that clinical psychology is more ideology than science, more fad-driven than fact-driven, and that the facts are not impressive. Does several years of graduate school make one a better advice-giver? Is any form of psychological therapy reliably effective? These questions remain unanswered to a satisfying degree.

My digression underscores a story recently passed to me. A psychologist, speaking to North Carolina parents, recommended against taking video game controllers away from boys who are obsessed with video games for the very reason that they are obsessed. Because playing video games is, according to the psychologist, supposedly harmless and “so very important” to these boys, and gaming is their main social activity, the controllers should not be taken away. Again, the proposition is absurd.

In the early 1980s, I asserted that video games are addictive. I was dismissed, even ridiculed. The ridicule came primarily from other psychologists. A growing body of research now confirms my theory. Over the years, hundreds of parents have sought my advice concerning teenage boys (never a girl) who want to do nothing but play video games. Their grades have plummeted, their personal hygiene has collapsed, they are sullen and do not want to participate in family activities, they get up in the middle of the night to “game,” and they become threatening toward parents who suggest that enough is enough.

My advice is always the same: While the boy is in school, smash the controller and toss the pieces in a dumpster at least 10 miles from home — and never allow one of these nefarious devices back in the house. Without exception, the child either goes insane or locks himself in his room and won’t come out, sometimes for days, proving that he is addicted.

It generally takes several weeks for withdrawal to run its course, after which the child begins to act like, well, a child again. One boy, upon discovering that his controller was gone, destroyed his room and would not speak to his family for two weeks. Finally, he thanked his parents, telling them that he felt much better and was now aware of the damage he’d been doing to himself. I’ve heard many similar stories of recovery.

Video games are doing many children great harm. These children constitute a significant number of boys in the up-and-coming generation. For these boys to become authentic men, they need to be rescued. They are not going to rescue themselves.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his website, Rosemond.com.

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