Q: A father of three asked a question on JustAsk about his youngest child, who is 14 and addicted to video games. He explained that his son used to be involved in athletics but now plays video games 4 hours a day, studies only 2 hours a day, goes to bed around midnight, and falls asleep in class. When confronted about these issues, his son gets very angry and threatens violence with a stick or a knife. The father wants to know what he should do.
-Carlo on www.education.com/answers
A: Dear Carlo,
The situation you describe is very serious and concerning. If your son physically threatens you, others, or himself with a stick or a knife or anything else that can be used as a weapon, then he needs immediate professional care. I would advise you to reach out to his physician right away and discuss the situation. The doctor will likely recommend and refer your son to psychiatric treatment. If you’re not sure where to go, a school psychiatrist or school counselor can provide guidance as well.
It does sound like your son’s behavior with regard to video games is addictive, and that would be concerning even without the aggression he is threatening you with. Signs of addictive behavior include excessive use, choosing games over all other activities, and withdrawal—in this case, getting very angry when you ask him to stop. On top of that, your son is willing to accept all kinds of other negative consequences in order to continue playing these games, from doing poorly in school to not getting enough sleep. You'll want to mention these things when you talk to his doctor.
Video games aren’t inherently harmful—in fact, they are incredibly powerful teaching tools. Research suggests that playing certain kinds of games for limited amounts of time can help improve skills, like hand-eye coordination and arithmetic. But there is also evidence that violent content teaches a set of attitudes that may be harmful. And even the most positive games can become problematic when played for too many hours.
Therefore, to use video games in ways that are healthy for your children's development, pay attention to what the games they play are teaching, who they’re geared toward, and how long they are using them. In the case of your son, you will likely want to talk with his physician to determine whether your son should continue playing the games at all and, if so, how to establish a healthy, safe balance of gaming with other activities in his life.
Enjoy your media and use them wisely,