It’s a rehashing of stupid parent tricks 101 repackaged for the 21st century; in other words, a convenient scapegoat for age old complaints since there have been kids or parents in the modern era.
I’ve said it before, about the time now famed organizer Peter Walsh was becoming a household name doing the rounds on Oprah and subsequent talk shows teaching us to respect our space and telling us how stuff, things, clutter was interfering with our personal relationships, family usually hiding much deeper issues people don’t want to face. We are as connected as we want to be and don’t want to be nearly as connected as idyllic, iconic 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, yesteryear nostalgia would have us believe. How that correlates to the latest round of scientific, anecdotal evidence, family stories on videogame and technology addiction in young people is representative not only of our increasingly slang, blasé use of the term, concept, word ‘addiction’ to mean intense like of a thing, person, activity, food but older persons’, medical experts, commentators on addiction, technology, social trends tendency to believe that intense like, preference for X activity, food, exc. is indeed an addiction. It isn’t that gambling, sex, food, and yes videogames, social media/phone usage can’t become an addiction similar to drugs and alcohol, that there isn’t such a thing as an addictive personality; it’s society’s medical experts and no shortage of novices over application of the word, notion of addiction to behavior decidedly older people don’t like, find infuriating, above all don’t understand, endeavor to or want to understand. The destructive consequences of perpetually fearing what we don’t understand regardless how much new information, perspectives we are presented with, what one analyst called social panic over videogames like Doom, Mortal Combat seeming downright tame compared to Call of Duty whichever double digit edition they’ve come up with, Grand Theft Auto 6. Hardly recollected anymore, they used to say the identical things about TV’s addictive potential, content wars had from its inception and we as a culture, a society survived; ironically at the Bevis and Butthead MTV reboot a news anchor announcing it remarked how tame shows like them, Ren and Stimpy, decried for its grossness use of snot and farts, were compared to evolving grown up cartoons South Park, Family Guy, American Dad. They never did, and certainly no longer would, hold rehabs and survivalist camps for TV addiction; lending credence to independent media’s Kyle Kulinski of The Young Turks off shoot show Secular Talk broached relevant aspect in his segment on why bashing millennials was dumb, that if vocal older people downing the current generation, railing on distractions, social media, Facebook, Twitter, videogames had grown up with those things, were they available in 1915, 1955, 1960 they too would be ‘addicted’ to the internet, constantly checking their Facebook. Incidentally mentioning older people are just as ‘addicted’ to social media, driving home his point comparing it to music; again saying had they grown up in our era they would like the same music we do and vice versa, if we grew up in their era, we would like the same music they do. Continuing, the endless rounds of MRI results trotted out to lend scientific weight and purported evidence to claims asserted either backing up how ‘shut down’ a kid is possessing less lit up brain regions, areas than ‘normal’ kids unaffected by technology, untouched by the beginnings of addiction, when they aren’t defaulting to their old standby video games light up the same pleasure centers in the brains as drugs, sugary, fatty foods leading to the findings of actual ‘food addiction;’ should we all panic at the Salon link below saying music functions much the same as sex and drugs producing a natural endorphin, high the feel good response known for staving off depression, generally improving mood, increasing energy? Also one of the positives of exercise, why it comes so highly recommended to people for more than just physical health, exercise can become an obsessive addiction demonstrated by a Biggest Loser contestant; does that mean we should all abandon working out, commit someone training for a marathon, triathlon or the Olympics to a treatment facility targeting their ‘addiction’ to physical activity? It’s that to society’s unfortunate detriment, we’ve let the ‘no screen time for children under 2,’ screen time leads to ADHD and behavioral problems, TV and tech being used as babysitters mantras fill our heads, bolstered by parents who’ve removed video/computer games from their children’s lives at any age, possibly TV too, determined to raise ‘better’ kids; ignored are documented positive aspects of videogames, the software utilization they learn, familiarity with social media platforms spelling a job in the long run, improved eye hand coordination. Fact surgeons who regularly play videogames commit less medical errors in the operating room; fact players acquire complex problem-solving to meet the challenges found in a 21st century world, 21st century workforce, developing 21st century innovations. The latest research information suggesting videogames can make us more empathetic, one aimed at preventing violence in Chicago falls in line with their being used to train soldiers, law enforcement, the Lawlis Peavey neurological center uses videogames regularly for brain retraining as patients use their minds to control the game, make it do what they want simultaneously creating normal function from abnormal. Interactive games for consoles like Nintendo Wii/Wii fit where you have to move your arm and simulate the action of throwing a bowling ball, manipulate a tennis racket have been proliferated to nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities as both enjoyment and low impact physical activity, physical therapy for the elderly, veterans; Wii specifically designed to incorporate more physical activity, answer growing concerns about sedentary lifestyles. Fact i-pads and/or laptops are loaned to students beginning in the 5th grade not only to teach technology skills, they are slowly as district finances allow replacing bulky, clunky, heavy textbooks in middle, junior high and high schools, removing strain of over weighted backpacks on still grown spines, can ultimately save a small fortune in college texts; teachers calling i-pads, tablets game changers for blind/visually impaired students because it allows them to have the latest books, learning materials in real time, not forced to wait for them to be translated, rendered in Braille, was permitting one legally blind student the opportunity to reach his goal of making movies, but technology in the hands of kids is largely bad. Another teen with a progressive neurological disease was able to stay in his high school band replacing the lightest drumsticks he could no longer handle with an i-pad music app; apps like Autismate help those with autism who are non-verbal, limited verbal unlock a world of previous silence, have basic control over their world, returning their human dignity, independence, but we should restrict children’s use of technology, especially if they use it to solve a problem they see in the world. Like the kid who used his love of science and his facility with technology to develop an app telling disabled people where accessible restaurants were; others who’ve used it to combat bullying, connect teens to job openings, you were supposed to pick up the sarcasm of the last sentence. Even the experts behind screen time guidelines for parents and tips for getting kids off their screens admit all screen time is not created equal; there is a distinct difference between using your computer, app to create something, social interaction, communication, multi-player live gaming, conversations about games, game stats between players in real time one of the newest features on PS4 and X box-one, reading versus endless gamming for gaming’s sake, educational games versus standard videogames. And psychologists have just about completely debunked the link between violent video games and attacks on real people; electronic usage carrying a lot more social aspects than originally thought beyond ‘social media’ Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat using the newest consoles to turn gaming into a social activity, fanfiction where teens, tweens, young adults write original stories revolving around their favorite book, TV, movie characters, popular celebrities, Anime, Magma cartoons, stables like Marvel comics, categories for plays, musicals, whatever you, your teen/tween adolescent is into, receiving feedback comments, connecting with beta readers (fanfiction volunteer editors). It’s that despite this being seen as an industrialized, first world global problem including countries like South Korea, Australia and elsewhere there were consistent comment thread exclamations of white people’s problems, implying weak, soft parenting on the part of our perceived majority, Caucasian society; forgetting the reason we at least think we see no, less so called video game and electronics addiction in communities of color, African Americans, Latinos, even Asian variations isn’t superior, tougher parenting, rather lack of access for decidedly poorer Americans who can’t afford computers, tablets, have mobile but not smartphone at home. Not to mention said communities are notorious for hiding both family problems and mental health issues, which gaming addiction is being placed under that big umbrella, oops. It’s despite anti-violence and children’s health advocates fought and won battles for videogame rating systems paralleling TV ratings, giving parents a guideline to what their kids want and should they have it, despite documented reality the average regular player, video gamer isn’t roughly 5 to 18, college age instead median age 35, games marketed accordingly, only 1 of the 5 families profiled concerned an adult with the problem. True these parents are to blame for their parenting style, approach, choices but not in the decision to let them play videogames, introduce them to phones, tablets they are just the shiny new coating on generational parent ineptitude kids have been stuck with for decades. And, all the beatings, ass whoppings, if I ever did that’s my dad would… or my mom would… has never fixed, won’t fix the underlying problems, core reasons behind teen drug, alcohol experimentation, skipping school, all the things today’s parents used to get up to their parents never knew about, or the subject of the news exposé, perceived electronics addiction; to the news anchor/reporter’s credit she acknowledges deeper issues on the mental health spectrum are part of, if not the entire cause of this complex, society wide issue.
Take example one Josh, yes his videogame obsession and playing at 1:00 am is annoying, a problem primarily for his parents, yet if he were doing yoga at 1:00 in the morning no one would be complaining and certainly wouldn’t be bandying about the word addiction. His having dropped out of school is unquestionably a big deal, nothing to be shrugged off, but should not have produced the panic it elicited from his parents; behavior that warranted action, a plan but minus the chicken little ism. His hitting walls purportedly when his parents took his game away from him will send up alarm bells to readers/watchers of accompanying video; however, we have all heard plenty of stories detailing raising boys where holes got punched or kicked into walls, doors and it had nothing to do with addiction, videogames or violence toward one’s parents. You ground him, hand him the supplies to fix the wall, oversee it’s repair, if he gets an allowance take the cost of materials out of that, if not, give him extra household chores to cover the cost of materials, if old enough demand he look for a job to pay you back for materials and move on. Dovetailing into the next set of description dynamics on Josh, he has a point whether we are comfortable with it or not, will admit it or not, he is not responsible for his mother’s honestly exaggerated fear of him; A- because isn’t that the lesson we readily regurgitate to people, others aren’t responsible for your feelings? B- because he has never hit his mother, almost hit his mother, made gestures to indicate he might ever hit his mother; C- he even went on to explain to producers his swatting her hands away from touching him, his game she deemed hitting, descriptions she did not deny or counter, clearly not inductive of the fear they both displayed, anyone’s idea of hitting in the sense he needs a rehab, scared straight program or an ass whopping. Here’s a thought, whatever happened to the kindergarten advice we all got: keep your hands to yourself, one problem solved before it begins? Ratcheting up tensions exponentially in their house, Josh’s unusual attachment and reaction to its removal is that this computer is not something bought for him, given to him by his parents rather a computer he built and put in his room, unknown is whether he used allowance to do so, dumpster dived behind computer stores, worked odd jobs to obtain the needed parts, if he did adding even more ownership to the equation. Either way, by snatching it up so unceremoniously not only have you taken it away for doing nothing wrong, you have sent him the subconscious message his work, his effort is worthless; something, perhaps the only thing he’s good at, shows talent in is meaningless to you, his parents. Then wonder why he came home one day announcing he was dropping out of school to be a game tester, which also sheds new light on his ‘sudden desire to drop out;’ he didn’t just up and quit school, uncaring if he was a wastrel, degenerate with no high school diploma, he up and quit school with a plan, underdeveloped but a plan nonetheless. Equally important, why when he relayed that was your response ooh this isn’t good instead of doing your own research toward an intelligent conversation about how hard it is to become a game tester; enticing him if he sticks with it, graduates high school, gets his GED he can get a degree, tech school certificate credentialing his computer building, build optimum gaming computers, start his own business, sell them? When all else failed, physically taking him to school, walking him into the building, walking with him to class to make sure he didn’t use lunch or another opportunity to sneak out; a good opportunity for parents to enlighten themselves about both difficulty of work and challenges of the school day, spot problems, get a glimpse of teachers then discuss with them and/or your child. Commenters readily saying his punching walls is about neither videogames or addiction but other problems, borderline criminally negligent disconnection, that the ‘barely lit up, here is a child in serious trouble’ MRI findings from the study his parents forced him into were a result of addiction as opposed to unto that point unknown about depression, anxiety, the ADHD diagnosis they seemed to have previously received but acted little upon. Wilderness tough love camps, despite their popularity among the ‘teach my kid a lesson’ crowd, ‘make my kid a man’ crowd, ‘cause my kids to get his priorities straight’ crowd doesn’t address serious issues; his ADHD, depression, serious issues better handled in a totally different setting. Speaking of which, where were you, his parents, during much younger ages asking about his school day, knowing his favorite subject, his least favorite, helping with homework, checking on his grades, knowing his academic strengths and weaknesses, seeing him struggle to focus, learn considering having him tested for a learning disability in addition to his ADHD? Advocating for their son, working with his school to ensure they were doing everything they could, were supposed to, to help him succeed, evaluations for an IEP (individual education plan), therapeutic tools to help him manage his disorder if not medication; in light of his announcement to drop out, pushing reevaluation to see if medication was right for him at this juncture in his life. They mentioned early on a complete communication breakdown when they took his computer away, yet they never had functional communication to begin with; why, what’s the evidence you ask, they never asked a fundamental, rudimentary question why he hates school so much, zero referenced conversations with his teachers ascertaining what they saw in Josh, their opinions on learning difficulties, double checking to rule out teacher bullying. Taking into account documented personality bias starting in kindergarten, continued dislike for boys by teachers due to fidgetiness, headline cases of kids told they could write anything lectured for writing from the perspective of a Nazi solider in WWII, police body slamming another high school student for mentioning buying a gun to shoot a dinosaur in a writing assignment, suspended for a week, advocating for a better educational experience for boys America wide than boys being who they are, doing what they’ve always done getting them in trouble as we try to socialize the ‘violence’ out of them. Easily guessed is Josh’s parents, upon initially hearing his ADHD diagnosis, was it was just another alphabet soup, trumped up excuse for bad behavior, my son will be perfectly normal he just needs discipline, to put his nose to the grindstone, think things through; mimicking their thinking on school, regular school was good enough for me, I survived, I didn’t need extra help a fancy plan to get me through the day, dismissing all other options, him given none eventually chooses to drop out. Answer honestly readers, who wouldn’t want to test videogames versus report to their boring job every day, soporific teachers etched in movie history culled from real educators who should’ve never gotten into the classroom? It isn’t that what Josh said about pushing yourself physically can translate to pushing yourself mentally i.e. school work, catching up on missed work since his decision to drop out, doesn’t ring true, is impossible; it’s that sending him off to the wilderness via an expensive treatment camp waving its fee in order to raise awareness to the problem, gee I wonder why and how much it will ultimately also raise their profit margins, to make fire, pitch tents, where peanut butter and a small backpack are luxuries won’t give, teach lasting skills unless the long theorized apocalypse lands in the next 5 years. Because, he needed to be short term removed from technology not civilization, replace negative, unhealthy repetitions/habits with positive/healthy, don’t forget [cough] socially acceptable ones, to paraphrase the addition treatment handbook. Similarly his post treatment almost miraculous turn around, described exuberance by testers could very well be gratitude related to going home away from the counselors who worked with him, returning to a warm bed, 4 solid walls and actual food, ceasing the peanut butter is a luxury stent in what had to feel like prison, maybe it’s because he knows it’s what they want to see and gives it to them so he can go home, subtracting the constant stress and nagging of home, fights with his parents did wonders for his mood. Maybe it’s because while the facility doesn’t appear to have the means to test for learning disabilities they were given access to his records and thus schooled his parents on what ADHD means for their son; dido the effects of untreated anxiety, depression on teens in general and their son more specifically, how it can shrink your world, how those concepts relate to the behavior they were seeing in him, things they can do to make communicating and their relationship better, things they need to stop doing that were making every interaction worse. Maybe it’s because he believes he’s going back to a more understanding home with parents who finally get it, though viewers are probably as skeptical as this writer. Mirroring all kids who emerge from treatment programs regardless form or for what specific youth centered problem he parrots counselors, facility organizers and operators in saying videogames were destroying his life displaying no real insight into his issue apart from saying videogames were extremely relaxing to him, hints the yoga at 1:00 am comment above; pointing to society’s glaring hypocrisy, funny adults routinely have a beer after work to relax, watch TV, no one says anything about that, but when it’s videogames oh you could be addicted and you need a treatment program ASAP. Worth talking about adjacent to the relaxation he got from playing is commentary on the devastating effects of parent nagging; entirely possible is that every time they fought about his game usage, his mother/father told him to get off they added another 5, 10, 15, 30 minutes hour or more to the time he spent seeking stress relief, fun, enjoyment he could access as emotional/mental reserves to do homework, chores exc. or the idea that ‘non-addicted’ fellow human beings are any different, we adults wouldn’t react identically if we came home from work to watch TV, woodwork, read and our spouse sounded like Josh’s mom—hmm. Chief reason we see him yell at her to get out when she pokes her head in his room (and oh how watchers were certainly up in arms seeing that how they gave him life, it’s there house not his, how dare he speak to his mother that way) is because he knows she’s not there to engage with him, play the game with him, show any interest in what he cares about, she is there to nag him, order him off the game, break his concentration, his relaxation; we would react any differently, bologna. Counter to the ticker tape running in their heads during that scene it bears reminding parents everywhere and all, purveyors of the attitude we’re witnessing the wussification of America, being too soft on today’s kids he/they didn’t asked to be here, be born, be part of your family and they are muddling through, doing the best they can as much as you are. Finally it, the wilderness camp, isolation approach preaches exclusion, avoidance instead of integration and management, after the 10 week program Josh was home, with his computer firmly hidden away, was catching up on school work he missed and all information said they had a plan to reintroduce Josh to his computer he will need to use for school, to the smartphone he will probably require in his life, as a college student, adult, if not before. Positives aside there is no guarantee when he again has access to a computer, gets his first smartphone he won’t be right back where he started, and not singularly because that’s the nature of addiction, rehab for known addictions drugs, alcohol rarely take on the first try, they failed in teaching him the management skills they thought they had once out of the treatment facility itself, but if his parents’ understanding of who he is falters, his ADHD, the anxiety and depression, despite impressions given by the piece, surely haven’t just up and disappeared, weren’t caused by his ‘addition’ the reverse closer to the truth; his perceived dependence on video games sparked by the insidious combination of all 3 virtually untreated conditions. If once he is caught up with missed schooling, his success doing so undermining assumptions his aversion was academic, they insist on throwing him back in the same school environment, same public education regiment sans the support of an IEP, refuse to try a GED program, online options like k-12, their school districts alternative option remaining within the public school system; they won’t see lasting change. Him still saying regular school isn’t for him is something he just can’t do, commenters quickly alighting that sounds an awful lot like a learning problem, learning disability; maybe he isn’t ADHD rather on the autism spectrum, has a processing disorder, depending on when, what age he was given his diagnosis he could have been mistakenly diagnosed ADHD in actuality possessing mild developmental delay, what we used to know as mental retardation. His tendency toward self-direction in home schooling could mean he’s gifted or needs things presented in a unique format to absorb and understand them; whatever the case, if they stop listening to their son, accepting his diagnosis means he is not ‘normal’ and can’t per say do everything normally including school, that the goal should be he get his diploma/GED, is ready to go off to college, trade school when the time comes, less fuss about exactly how they believe he must do it to ‘be a man’ ‘be their son,’ all his purported progress will evaporate. Not necessarily because he is still addicted, has fallen back into bad habits, the throes of addiction, but because the core dysfunction of this family haven’t been dealt with forget ceased, he is again left powerless to make them understand, empathy impossible.
Brooke is a standard case of the negatives that can happen to teens using social media especially with her naive parents who have no clue the dangers lurking there, thus in addition to not doling out time limits for media consumption, gave her no rules, guidelines on what to do if- how to handle pressures to do risky things, conversations about what she might be asked to do, when to tell them, contact police, how to combat online bullying. Simultaneously unprepared for her to delete, change and constantly create new social media accounts, use blocking mechanisms on said sites to keep out her parents, develop secret hidden accounts or buy and trade phones from friends once her parents had taken the one they gave her away, take a computer to an establishment with free Wi-Fi i.e. McDonald’s achieving access. Why boiling it down to ‘taking her phone away is overly simplistic, removing her money source too would only mean she was borrowing friends phones, sneaking out to use public computers or calculating her penchant for darker behavior resorted to selling her body to get money to buy a phone on the suggestion of ‘friends’ online. However her situation has nothing to do with addiction; what looks like addictive tendencies to the untrained eye exacerbated by her parents’ strategy toward curbing her phone use creating that classic power tug of war between parent and teen, the more they clamp down, the more she acts out, the more they try to take her phone the more tightly she hangs onto it, fights for it. Approaching redundancy and broadening it to America’s kids not singularly their kid, there are remedies to her problems and theirs that don’t include hospitalization for contemplating suicide, as if teen contemplation of the act were widely uncommon, unheard of when the opposite is true, and aren’t things to lose your head over, rather calmly and rationally deal with; starting by properly identifying the problem for her and her parents is the only workable solution. From the very beginning despite Brooke’s later revealed significant problems, it’s unimaginable to perfect, white, suburbia parents the reason she’s missing family gatherings is not her unhealthy attachment to her phone, quite bluntly a total disinterest in it (the gathering) or you being she is a teen, displaying typical teen/tween behavior separating herself from her parents, her friends carrying more influence over her at such a time in her life. Inconceivable that it’s your very behavior, for whatever reason, in whatever facet, recurring theme utter cluelessness driving her into the arms of her friends and away from you; these are the same group people who will want their teen glued to their hip, fawning over them want a relationship with their child a-la Gilmore Girls (fictional TV let’s keep in mind) then kvetch they don’t move out at 18 presenting an interesting twist on an old dichotomy. Isn’t that the stand out complaint about millennials that they are too attached to mommy’s apron strings; we want them to be motivated to move out, forge their own lives? Understanding social media, instant connection of smartphones is to kids today what the standard telephone, popular town hangout, eatery to arcade, place to complain about teachers, talk about being grossed out by biology, boys, girls was to us, previous generations. Interviewed experts succinctly detailed teens have a fear of missing out, fear that’s always been there, part of the teen development experience, mushroomed with the coming, prevalence of social media, singular intelligent thing said by self-appointed expert. Injecting expanded normalcy of the teenage, raising a teen experience into at least parts of what happened regarding Brooke, they describe possessing no relationship with her, they existed, from their point of view, in her head to provide her food, shelter, money and of course the contested phone; ask most parents and they feel this way during a period of getting their teen to adulthood. Confronting her unique malfunctions, diverging from public assessment of her family’s problem, remember her reported drugs and alcohol usage culminating in suicide note that popped up on her and her parents shared account was no more than that, not to be confused with an unsuccessful suicide attempt, stemmed from social media shaming about her nude, semi-nude photos, the attention she was getting via older guys, not merely ‘having to go without her phone;’ neither did they hospitalize her simply to remove her phone as implied in the flippant comment about parents being too soft on their kids, too weak themselves or white people’s problems. Moreover once she was evaluated she was subsequently treated for mental health issues unspecified other than attachment issues, ADD, substance abuse and lastly excessive use of her phone, this reader at minimum thinking it was no accident which order her issues were placed in, probable order of severity; translation, nearly anyone would have a look of utter betrayal on their face after, hate their parents in the short term being dumped in such a facility. Never mind because of their phone, because when she could no longer take being relentlessly bullied she tried to say, goodbye cruel world to quote the cliché, totally wrong message to send. Her fear of missing out also becoming a large looming reality heaped atop what you put her through, fighting for the only resonating social connection she has at a crucially developmental time it’s normal to need it, not haphazardly want it, what the negative people on social media put her through wondering why she cracked. That they were completely in the dark about their daughter’s mental state, malfunction exceeding her phone ‘addiction’ adds an element of her side being: first you don’t understand anything about me, you tried to cut me off from the few people online who were nice to me, who were there for me when you weren’t, then you throw me in here with unequivocal strangers who will definitely cut me off from the only support I’ve got; which had to feel all too much like being absolutely thrown away by everything and everyone. Yet you still think the dirty look, ‘the almost pathological response’ was about phone addiction; who is it again who needs self-awareness, some basic human behavior awareness, certainly doesn’t seem to be Brooke or just Brooke. Her telling the show’s interviewer she was drawn to, felt really good thanks to the attention given to her by strange men after her sexting inappropriate pictures to them leads to several should be burning questions; starting with, where was dad, who is physically there, Brooke isn’t living in a broken home, processing her parents’ divorce, giving her positive male attention every girl needs from her father to avoid exactly what transpired online? 20/20 able to interview her precisely because she was on one of her periodic home visits from the residential treatment center she’d been receiving extensive help to assess her progress, where access to her parents old devices is doled out at their discretion like bread and water rations at the Gulag or regimented medication doses at a mental health facility; which strangely doesn’t teach anything about what skill she needs to master over others in her peer group, self-management of time and technology. In that same vein why did she need the treatment facility to bring her back to her childhood love of horses, where did it go, why was it dropped from her life; did you think she was too old for it, have to move away from it for work, did she misinterpreted messages from you indicating she was too old for it, not good enough at competition or whatever she was doing with them? Discussing her treatment, the path her parents chose, they would say was chosen for them the night they intercepted her suicide note, fair enough, she’s been there 20 months, no projected permanent going home date (was highly publicized Paris Jackson and her issues institutionalized for that long; well chronicled downward spiral prone Amanda Bynes) how could you not know there was something significantly wrong with your daughter long before the phone entered the picture, and after 20 months why are you not seriously evaluating the effectiveness of this program at least for Brooke? Now she is truly missing out, not only on what’s happening to her social media friends, a few of whom probably did try to see her through her darkest hours, but on school friends, extended family and lastly the normal, typical teen experiences, experiences she won’t get back; lingering question is it worth it, is it working will it give you not the outcome you want but balance, happiness and hope from Brooke or was it a colossal waste of time because once they treat, manage, statistically employ medications to the actual problems, the phone is inconsequential. Usually discovered is the dysfunction isn’t with the kids instead their parents, not in the too strict, too permissive overly dumbed down binary regularly used to debate parenting, challenges thereof, as much as poor communication, no comprehension of what their child’s day, life is like, having forgotten what it feels like to be X age, to at least feel like you have no friends, constantly be called names. Feel like you don’t fit in anywhere, surprisingly why some typically lower income students end up dropping out of college for lack of emotional support, people like them on campus, why women vacated tech jobs; shattering stereotypes such calculations, thoughts only apply to kids, teens and adolescents and only in social situations. Shocked at the energy their day and activities take out of them, how stressed and how much in need of decompression, their kids are when they get home that no one was giving them; found out when parents agree to shadow their kids for a day, think the Freaky Friday remake sans commentary on the fall of Lindsay Lohan. There is likewise an argument to be made if you want it to look less like addiction, that being the easily jumped to diagnosis to treat, help curb addictive behaviors in young people using technology, older persons using it for the first time then it’s time for technology manufacturers, social media developers to close obvious gaps in their creations; all ISP provided e-mail needs to henceforth include an option to have popup alerts in the bottom or chosen portion of screen for laptops, desk tops, tablets alerting you to new e-mail complete with sender and subject line to avoid continuously checking your e-mail for a response from your boss about, coworker regarding…, ability to set up alerts from singular addresses, containing desired subject lines, phrases, key words. On your phone the opposite, the ability to turn off alerts to Facebook likes, new messages exc. so you can put it down easier and sleep, ways to inform those you are communicating with your going without just an abrupt log off; redefining social media etiquette alongside mass civilization expectation in dealing with phones, tablets, e-mail, instant messages, social media to A- sign off with people you’re talking to, let friends/followers you’re on a computer that, have chosen the site option to stay logged in, are currently busy, not responding to messages right now. B-curtailing society’s expectation for instant communication even using modern methods when perhaps they haven’t been on Facebook for days, were on and don’t comeback for days, so that kids like Brook aren’t waiting with bated breath for a friend’s response that isn’t coming; because, repeating relentless research, while we know likes on social media, seeing you have new messages can trigger endorphin releases in the brain, lead to euphoria or a high, what’s missing from our understanding of youth such as Brooke’s behavior is they wait hours, lose sleep seeking that message less due to addition instead adherence to social media mores, it’s expected the way we used to wait by a phone, run to the mailbox for a letter. And kids aren’t the only ones prone to the need for instant communication, instant responses, mind wandering off into what’s wrong disaster scenarios about ruined friendships, physical injuries; teens questioned about texting and driving say they do so to update their parents, believe their parents expect an answer within 5 minutes, though most don’t have any expectation according to 2015 survey results. Time to correct the disconnect, time to remember that next time you’re tempted to freak out when your kid doesn’t answer and time to build in apps that send a message to the person awaiting an answer the owner/user is driving and will get back to you when not driving; pieces and parts of society’s technology problem ignored, swept under the rug for the love of calling it an addition, eliciting shock value. Concluding 20/20’s investigation reporting on Brooke and the other families hers said they didn’t quite feel like they had their old daughter back but things were better, her communication with them was better; once again there was no communication in the first place, worse setting up for disappointment on their parts she’s never going to be the old Brooke, her experiences in the program, her foray into that dark internet world will have changed her, all your information suggesting the former is a good thing, a very good thing, why would you want the old ‘little girl’ back when you should be wanting her to grow up into a maturing young woman? Arriving back where we started above, Brook is also a person who is going to need a phone to function in the world, in a job, is going to need to handle constant communication from a boss, fellow employees, is going to have to battle the never being off feeling many workers do today; because, it will be roughly another 20 years before bosses come around to shedding the 40 hour week must be lapdog paradigm, must be on and answer my calls at all hours because the technology exists that you can, setting her up for a bigger failure in the adult world after she’s overcome her other issues plus her ‘addiction.’
Noah intertwines with paragraph 2’s Josh less in his ‘addiction’ to gaming and more the negative results of parent nagging first video clip we see is a parent saying you’re still playing his response: I said I was going to watch this then go outside and play with Josh (his twin brother). She seems to accept this answer sans contradicting him that he is playing a game not watching a video or other film type media, without looking at the video at any time to see how long it is, how many minutes are remaining, then come back to him after that time to either tell him to quit or see if he’s finished, providing no opportunity for him to demonstrate he is willing to follow through on what he said, will keep his word, confront him if he restarted the game/video to have more time on the device. Thinking it’s so hard to get him off his computer game because he might be addicted, not her wrong approach to getting her son to do what she wants (hint it’s not an iron fist and you will do what I say NOW!), dawning comprehension there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it if you want it to be effective, do without the shouting, meltdowns and parent smack downs suggested in the opening. Influenced in no small part by technology bias overwhelming attitude emerging, screens = bad anything else not blatantly physically dangerous = good. Oblivious to adults don’t like being interrupted when they are in the middle of something, put the shoe on the other foot if your child came to you and said daddy/mommy play with me and you say I will son when I finish work I bought home, fold the laundry, do the dishes and every 5 minutes they come back asking the same thing; you’re going to tell them to knock it off or not only won’t you play with them, they will be spanked, grounded, lose a privilege, be punished somehow, Noah doesn’t have that power, so he becomes increasingly loud, upset and almost shrieking at his mother. Neither do adults tolerate very well being bombarded with honey do lists and endless requests when they come in the door from work, being pestered about how their day was, teased to berated about being anti-social, mean due to needing time to decompress relax; interesting is why we developed this misconception kids are any different, go back and re-watch the segment on how to talk to your kids about their school day, take the suggestions That we’ve learned so much about how children are not like adults, can’t be treated like them, handed the same expectations mentally/emotionally apart from the, staring us in the face physical; we’re prone to thinking children are little minis from mars not smaller humans who share key characteristics with their larger counterparts. We’ve forgotten that they are like us in as much as things that inherently annoy us will annoy them also, it’s like that classic scene of Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets where Melvin Udall, established, acclaimed writer is writing literally the last lines of his latest book only to lose his train of thought, the perfect summary words when his neighbor begins banging on his door, he tries to ignore it, continue writing, but he loses the ideal string of words, gone probably forever; chewing his neighbor out respectively, though it is attributed to a combination of Udall’s success status producing profound arrogance and OCD. Not thought through, if he like Josh 2 paragraphs above, was using gaming to de-stress, chill out the same way slightly younger children play with toys in the floor; his mother too is creating a dynamic that makes him cling that much tighter to his game instead of being able to let it go. Part of the problem is 2 desktops are used by both Josh Noah yet no one had suggested saving the games exactly where they stopped to continue playing later, parents unware of that as an option, the fact you can delete past versions of saved games to free up space when needed, letting your kids show you how to do that and accepting it as the compromise, give and take in preparation for the coming turbulent teen years; such compromise and negotiation dismissed by parents as relinquishing their rightful authority rather than teaching/modeling compromise and negotiation skills everyone needs at some stage in their life. Rudimentary basics like pausing a game long enough to complete a task for mom or dad, then return to playing; during the pre VCR, DVR days it was standard practice for parents to allow kids to do chores during the commercials of a favorite TV program, still applicable in households sans DVR, parents who won’t DVR things for their kids believing it a bad habit, households who had to choose between a rented DVR (the only kind available post cable’s takeover of the market) cable package and the extended versatility of the internet to save money and went with internet. Finding research on how to avoid kids getting too attached to their games and implementing foundational principles laid out in the article below; had his mom done 1 step ‘encouraging natural breaks at the end of a game or level’ she could have sidestepped the whole scene and most of her worries about his videogame fixation. A parent’s job in general is to open their kids age appropriately to new horizons, expanding their knowledge and experience showing them music apps like the i-pad piano, we all saw the commercial of the little girl who was disinterested with tangible paints, offered drawing supplies but took to a drawing program on one of the tablet computer combos advertised that can be connected to a printer, printed out and placed on the refrigerator like their messier counterparts, saving money cycling through musical instruments at minimum until they’ve chosen one to stick with, there’s a stylus on the Microsoft Surface Pro models one user uses to write answers into the New York Times famed crossword puzzle translating into creativity via screen time that doesn’t fit the usual negative parameters, keeping those features in mind when buying a device your whole family will be using. Never contemplated either our misreading of MRI results in his case too related to say his nervousness, the alterations we know happen to the brains of those in the current generation as digital natives, having grown up, been exposed to modern technology that aren’t bad just visible, irritation at his parents for dragging him there, lasting effect of fighting with his parents, boredom induced from repetitive activities at home, end of the year review of concepts at school he’d already mastered; boys particularly susceptible to educational venues, opportunities either too difficult or not challenging enough, questions that should have been explored when explaining his results. Drastic turn around after summer camp (wait this kid was on summer vacation, knew he was on his own time and addiction is your first go to explanation!!!) then attributed to new activities he was offered to participate in, shadowing Josh in paragraph 2 for a 3rd time maybe it was extracting him from the toxic environment of fighting with his parents, their destructive way of separating him from gaming; if boredom, repetitive tasks was the underlying issue, what do readers bet they could have achieved the same coveted MRI results from a week at Disney World and giving him summer camp options, an interest camp like space, science, theater? Interesting inconsistency paragraph 2’s Josh got a treatment facility so moved by his story interested in getting the word out, seeing exactly the extent of ‘urgent’ help he needed decided to wave their sizable fee, whereas Noah just got summer camp; provoking the standard response, you waited until you thought your kid was addicted to video games, had him enrolled in a study, subjected him to an MRI and get ‘alarming’ results before considering spending the money on summer camp, finding a free option, exposing him to multiple new, fun activities??? Belying all haled MRI results further, Noah is a triplet his brother and sister according to scans were wholly unaffected with implied equal time on devices; on its face aforementioned outcome might not seem surprising identical multiples while possessing indistinguishable DNA can be noticeable different weights, come down with diseases when the other doesn’t, twins and triplets often told apart by personality not physical features, but 2 out of 3 unaffected raised in the same house, given the same things, born at the same time, all the same age, having had too virtually identical childhood experiences screams we’re missing something. Striking pathetic in all 3 cases deconstructed throughout the piece are the parents’ abysmal connections with their children, the total absence of attempts to connect on their level, show interest in what they do, ask questions about the videogames they so enjoy, research, educate themselves, read a gaming magazine in order to start a conversation their kid will have with them, strategy plainly neglected over their early life where they should have talked about baseball, neighborhood friends, cartoons, beloved toys, dolls, princesses, kiddie dress up/makeup building foundations for bigger conversations about drugs, booze, boys/girls respectively, sexuality, sex, sexual orientation, bullying online or off, social media, explaining the news to younger kids old enough to watch, hear, be afraid or have questions, not old enough to digest it all alone. Giving your kids the feeling, sense you love them, care about them, a sense they can come to you about anything, so that they will come to you about the important things. Absolutely jaw dropping is how little these parents know about their kids simple things like favorite food, favorite color, cherished possessions beyond phones and games; had Josh’s parents known him slightly better they would have seen his anxiety and depression and at least entertained getting him mental health help sans sending him to the wilderness, would have seen his struggles to learn, his self-direction, they would have sought out help from his school, his teachers, researched, tried homeschooling before all of what transpired unfolded. Known how to entice, motivate him to stay in school either via middle school electives or parks and rec, local library computer learning options, career center choices, computer camp giving him a fun challenging outlet for what he does and likes best, building computers. Had Brooke’s parents had the slightest insight into their daughter they would have known she wasn’t ready for a smart, social media capable phone, they would have noticed her immaturity incongruent with her tween age and at minimum kept a very close watch on what she was doing; recalling her risky behaviors escalated based on what she was seeing online. Too they would have seen signs that pointed to something was wrong, whether they understood it as mental illness or not, and broached the subject with her pediatrician, been persistent until she was evaluated, her mental health problems exposed sans the side trip into ‘phone addiction.’ Harkening back to a piece PBS did profiling the South Korean ‘public health crisis’ of ‘gaming addiction’ in kids there, the subsequent story I did 7/8 years ago, particularly watching one mother’s interactions with her son, whom she was concerned exhibited signs of videogame dependence; except click the links below. She is dull, boring, soporific, coma inducing waiting expectantly for her son to talk, elaborate on the on life support conversation they’re having genuinely perplexed why it’s not working; sending them to a camp where a wide range of other activities and other kids are available, situations not always feasible there, fall apart at home with no other kids close by, no transportation to interact with friends. For parents, if you can get them to talk about nothing else get them talking about the game, talk to them about how their device works, ask them to show you something new, use the trust and relationship built there to move on to other things; unfortunately parents in the next paragraph on par to make the same mistakes.
8 year old Jackson and 5 year old Taylor are the classic poster children for public refrain: what is your kid doing with a YouTube, channel/page, why are you allowing your kids not just screen time but device time. Still observing their mother, it’s inconceivable to watchers or herself her complaints about both kids’ behavior aren’t byproducts of addiction, at minimum too much technology, even kids given too much control that should belong to parents; rather her tantruming, meltdown prone 5 year old is exactly that 5, as in a year ago considered a toddler, and were she engaged in any other activity, say playing a game with her brother, playing outside, coloring you would give them a 5 minute warning before they had to come in for dinner or clean up. Not so regarding technology, when you are sick of seeing her with her head in her device you shout het off that now, upset that a ‘tantrum’, ‘meltdown’ follows instead of employing the 5 minute countdown you would any other time. Note the 8 year old is having no such tantrums though believed to be just as addicted as his sister according to their parents, supporting further the idea her response is age related not addiction related. Or that the fit in the car had by said 8 year old was less about the device and more about being in the car, doing something/going somewhere he had no interest in and she was, key here, suddenly depriving him of the thing allowing him to sit still, quit whining exc.; then exacerbated her own woes, did it absent giving him something else to do sing car songs, put on the radio, an impromptu game of eye spy, basic conversation about their school day, an activity they were looking forward to. Dido the 5 year old hounding her mother for her phone to check social media, again they’re walking somewhere probably running one of mom’s errands she has zero interest in, keeping in mind this is the younger of the 2, and wants something to do while mom is doing whatever once more sans telling her anything but no; not even reviving the parent favorite so what be bored, offering her alternatives, giving her age appropriate indications how long this is going to take, placating her with once finished we’re going…to place X she does like, anything. Back in the day 1950’s to 80’s parents didn’t drag their kids on all, a good portion of their errands; now thanks to single parent homes, 2 working parents it has, not negatively per say become the norm, except when 2 parent households forget 1 person can go do errand X, run to the store and the other stay with the kids, forgo giving their kids something to do, limiting outing time to what they child can handle if they insist on them coming along. Again, you waited until you thought your kids were ‘addicted to devices,’ having brought in an expert to enroll them in an after school activity, entice them to try something, expose them to something new, really? On the other side there is an economic aspect to technology’s prevalence in middle class homes the exact way it’s manifesting currently; there are a plethora of things you can do with an internet connection, people increasingly need it for work/while looking for work, facts not changing just because you became parents, it is virtually impossible today to book a plane ticket think wedding, funeral, family emergency, sans doing so online, dido renting a car, getting directions either there or on your phone. Individuals, families are encouraged to file for social security Medicaid, food stamps online, shopping open up vastly expanded choices for only what you want at usually cheaper prices, internet means you can cut the cord on television/cable bills saving money, paying bills online better ensures payment receipt, is faster for persons living paycheck to paycheck and coming up with light money on a bimonthly pay schedule, permits checking the weather sans being tethered to evening local news, say if you want to read your kids a story before bed, eat dinner with the TV off, to name a few things Americans need the internet for, not merely want it; the technology, software operation skills her kids are getting that will makes school easier for them down the road, spell actually having a job. Conversely there are practicality warnings to be had with her new routine for her children, especially if this is to be a wakeup call to all American parents nationwide, you can almost hear commenters shout watching her kids playing outside call me when they’re kidnapped from their own front yard; in the southwest you must be aware of scorpions, rattle snakes and tarantulas plus other venomous species, Florida is notorious for alligators landing in swimming pools, has a growing problem with invasive species of snakes large enough to eat small pets or small children, large lizards like the Tegu. Relatedly Lyme disease from ticks is projected to be particularly bad this year, children have suffered all kinds of ill effects from the parasitic bite including paralysis; you have to be able to afford and regularly reapply sun screens and bug spray if your kids are outdoors a lot keeping an eye on heat index and sun projections congruent with your child’s skin tone understanding one sunburn in your child’s lifetime can multiply chances of skin cancer. Where it plays into internet connections and devices with a home computer, printer you can print free word finds, color pages, math practice, pages for them to do when bored, using apps, tools on tablets built in software such as Microsoft paint you can pair musical instrument apps with headphones let them explore music on the go, at home sans disturbing anyone else, extremely space saving over clunky drum sets, huge keyboards, that tuba; they can draw sans making a mess, having to cart color pages, crayons out and about, ruining your dinner table, being upset they can’t paint. There’s an endless supply of free apps and games always providing something fresh and new, not true of the board game they were seen playing in footage, cost for new games when old ones have been played umpteen times and are worn out or no longer interesting. Facts not mattering to parents or show producers since post the 4 week parent/expert imposed ‘digital diet’ analysis was the 5 year old was tantruming less, focus increased dramatically and the 8 year old was reading more; begging the question, focus improved, and so remarkably it might be added, according to who, concrete elements missing for their supposed predicament to be of the utmost urgency, there are no relayed comments from their school about problems, threats to hold either child back a grade due to either behavior problems or academic performance, repeated disciplinary reports on brother or sister meaning issues were manifest largely at home with their parents and their mother’s glaring ineptitude supported the pattern asserted all along. Chalking then her much improved focus up to better understanding of the school routine, finding a subject she liked, natural growth and development, moving farther away from toddler tantrums as she matures, increases vocabulary, patients; regarding the 8 year old, hold it, if you wanted him to read more all you had to do was load desired (his choice) reading materials onto the device, to avoid eyestrain adjust the screen brightness or use a tablet specifically designed for kids with those safeguards built in, and let him read it there. Plus at 8 he is at least in first grade if not second, common practice is reading logs requiring parent initial indicating they read X book, Y long or were read to under those circumstances, no mention they had to fight the device, his desire for the device to get him to do his homework; him, probably wanting to read for himself did so, meaning he got weekly if not nightly reading time in, making the comment utterly misleading. Removing technology removing mom’s tendency to bark at her children to get off of it, be irritated when she sees them using it, to shout, older generations will remember this one ‘when I call your name you answer, you come see what I want,’ consequences to follow if the child doesn’t move fast enough, be more understanding in letting them finish the board game they were playing doling out warnings about 5 minutes of playtime left, look over and see one of them coloring/drawing understanding they didn’t immediately answer because you interrupted them. The same parents desperate to see their kids off technology who in 1950, 1980, right up to 2017 would have a screaming fit to see their kids building a fort out of couch cushions, blankets and chairs in the living room, demanding they put it back this instant, shocked they had done so, with a good side of questioning why did you do that; who would look over at their child saying see what I drew, painted, did nearly having a heart attack when they observe their child, the kitchen table and paper covered in paint, you about to serve dinner, equally reactive when they’ve taken scissors to sister, even dolly’s hair. Contrasted to parents today who believe their kids need to be bored want people to stop entertaining them, 21st century remake of the ‘stop using TV as a babysitter’ crowd upset when doctors’ offices put on DVD’s or there’s a min-TV in the checkout line asking if we’ve become so accustomed to parents who don’t teach their kids manners and appropriate behavior society now thinks we have to control for them. Actually no, 1 take her dentist appointment example, if there are multiple kids in that waiting room the phenomenon of running around, climbing on furniture will happen despite expectation talks, parents controlling their offspring; because, there is more than one child present especially if they are different ages toddlers usually given some degree of roaming freedom when possible. She also has one child and hasn’t experienced controlling multiple kids who fight, run, misbehave on an outing obviously; from the perspective of the office, the store, wherever, they’ve found a method that works and use it, saving them a noisy, nerve-racking waiting room no one wants to come to, creates large staff turnover particularly handling sick kids and unpredictable schedules regardless appointments. They’ve learned that DVD’s work for across the board kids better than crayons, puzzles and fish tanks; because, the former 2 are easily broken, pieces go missing where DVD’s if well-kept last longer, fish tanks require both electricity and maintenance to keep and can too get broken with much more damage and cleanup involved. Another reason stores use them to prevent destruction of merchandise, independent of billing the parent; perfectly aware there are some children that no matter how many expectation talks you have, times you pluck them out of a place for bad behavior, punish them once home, ‘whoop their ass’ if you don’t give them something like that to do they will be the kids in the restaurant running around the table. Establishments are also responding to societal backlash by childless adults against children in public places, turning up their noses, doling out dirty looks and complaining relentlessly on social media, in blogs about everything from simply having to see kids in public to in specific places, usually not 5 star restaurants; before they’ve even had a chance to misbehave, incredulous parents with children seem to have the societal right of way, adults, across varying ages upset a baby or toddler is crying on a bus, wiggling in a seat too much anywhere, to the point parents feel they can’t take their child anywhere regardless behavior. And that says more about what we society values than it says about ‘luddite’ parents, ill-mannered children, technology period, or when children’s natural tendency to be themselves, ignore the social mores of personal space, politeness parents are obligated to instill leads to the betterment of both parties, like the 4 year old who said “hi old person” to a man in a store insisted on hugging him and a beautiful friendship was born. Just watch the bond between a preschooler and his neighbor before thinking it has to be all one way in life when raising kids, when defining social parameters. Closing this section, we think we want our kids to be bored so that they find creative, self-reliant things to do with themselves castles out of boxes, sock puppet play is what we have in mind, yet not what they get up to; my childhood is filled with sitting at the feet of family gatherings listening to the, surprised they are still here in one piece, shenanigans my mother and her 4 siblings got up to in the days before TV. Including her 5 sent out to the barn to get a baby pig to play with narrowly escaping mauling by mamma pig, the fishing lure that got caught in my uncle’s eyelid, falling asleep on a well top lucky not to fall, the glass shard landing in my aunts head because she was sitting under a window her oldest brother was trying to clean and accidentally broke it, pulling sassafras tea onto self. Similarly my best friend has 5 kids precisely because doctors refuse to tie her tubes, part of our hang-ups over birth control procedures discussed in the next paragraph and she uses ‘TV as a babysitter,’ incidentally the only screen time they get per day, while making dinner on nights dad is at work, running to the store for dinner ingredients because if she didn’t someone would be flushing action figures down the toilet, someone else would be opening and yelling out the upstairs window lucky not to fall out of the 2 story space post loosening the screen, 2 would be fighting, possibly injuring each other, playing on the stairs to a potential broken neck, her 3 year old running out the door since they rent and do not control height, placement of locks, someone throwing things at the baby; versus putting TV on for an hour or so local PBS channel with educational cartoons, Paw Patrol videos borrowed from the library, everyone sitting still, not under her feet, injuring themselves in the kitchen. Returning to Jackson and Taylor, another glaring problem with this family is 2 fold perhaps 3, A- had to laugh at the scene where she says ‘I told you only 10 minutes of device time’ because it reminded me of a scene my friend encountered with her second son’s (3rd grade) teacher; he was given i-pad time as a reward for good behavior (he is on an IEP for ADHD behavioral complications: *note he would be ADHD, showed signs at 2 regardless of ‘screen time,’ is diagnosed severe in his medical file) with 5 minutes before he was to get on his bus going home. Except when the 5 minutes were up and he wasn’t finished with what he was doing it turned into a meltdown, mom called to retrieve him from school; however her response when she got there was modern practical parenting gold, once explained what happened, she rounded on the teacher saying that’s on you because you knew how little time he would have, knew he wouldn’t be able to complete a game or puzzle yet gave it to him anyway. Over a word find (what he was doing when she game in attempting to calm down) part of his behavior plan involves keeping him busy to avoid getting into trouble; relating it back to parental imposed device times for Jackson and Taylor, mom hasn’t clocked how long it takes them to play games, average times of cute videos they watch, whatever it is they do to know how long is reasonable to allow them proportionate to task. B- correlating to where the previous paragraph left off, she like parents above, dad too, makes no attempt to engage with them on their device, watch the funny video, watch them play the game, see their vocabulary, math skills expand with the educational tool they are playing. Mom mentioned also they were endeavoring to spend more time together as a family, going back to the Peter Walsh example in the introduction and a question he would surely ask, what was hindering you from doing that before; certainly not the device, perhaps a lack of your kids annoying you to interact with them?
Nor is it difficult to pin down why the included father of 4, grown adult man fits the given addiction profile ‘chooses video games over his family;’ it would never occur to viewers, even the news anchor putting together her chosen journalist segment, choosing him as a counter to the kids, highlighting in a small way the phenomenon’s impact on adults that he never really wanted to be a father, never mind to 4 kids. Or that despite his wife’s complaints about how much he plays videogames he still reports to work and makes damn good money in the thing he does well, surprise, surprise IT; they don’t fight about money needed for the kids, the house, groceries, he doesn’t blow his money on games the same way some blow it on booze, cigarettes, gambling, lottery tickets, Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes postage, and he’s coping the best he can with a life he never imagined. Yet we never follow that thread to debates on birth control, flimsy republican political arguments, religious freedom assertions it’s against nature and god arguments to use aforementioned control; their rarely science based excuses for restricting birth control, all but outlawing abortion, action 1 perpetuating more abortions due to people who can’t emotionally, mentally, financially provide for another child, effecting even middle class families, like the one housing this strung out dad. We rarely truly listen, take seriously reproductive and social advocates who don’t stop at insisting women be granted unfettered access to the full range of reproductive options, pushing also to advance male reproductive control options past the condom; too busy as a public shouting there are condoms use them, if it breaks you know it and you put another one on, mood killer aside you’re an adult, exercise some self-control. Oh no, none of that is weighting on this dad’s mind, stressing him out, driving him to videogames; add in no shortage of his wife’s relentless nagging to get off of the videogames, to help with watching 4 blurs of energy, rants about what he’s missing, how alone she feels (valid or not), the demonstrated consequences and you have the mess presented before you. In between talking about what a deadbeat he is, terrible husband, father, what a not man he is we would never trace his story back to cultural, family pressure we put on people to get married, create their own families, fulfill constant requests for grandchildren when that isn’t really what they want, mistakenly thinking said pressure died in the 1950’s. The still to this day prevailing idea you are not a whole man or woman unless you are at least partnered up, if not married, and have minimum one child; childless and uninterested in childbearing, rearing, non-family oriented people are viewed as alien freaks, sexual orientation notwithstanding you have less and less of a place in society unless you are a ‘breeder’, someone who has children, wants children, lives for their children. Scrutinizing video poignantly clear is a series of questions, was his unwillingness to join them at the park stemming from being glued to his game or the rarity of having the house to himself; do you know he continued playing after you left, maybe he ran around in his underwear listening to his favorite CD, MP3 file relished the quiet. If he did continue his game, it’s predictable he got more out of it sans repeated interruptions and nagging. Was his ‘refusal’ to go to the family’s thanksgiving celebration really gamming addiction’s hold on him or a desire to do what many want to at holiday’s: avoid the in-laws, weird cousins, acquired boyfriends and guests you don’t know, annoying habits you can’t stand? Devastatingly critical mothers/fathers in-law who, forget the videogames, rag you about how you were never good enough for their son/daughter, you don’t make enough money, dole out endless advice on raising your children unhelpful, unasked for and making things a whole new level of contentious or awkward; sound familiar? To top it off maybe he embodies everything we stereotype about geeky, nerd types who specialize and work in IT meaning he doesn’t want to go play tag football covered in bruises of guys who insist on constantly slapping him on the back, making fun of his non-physical prowess, constantly reminding him of what he’s not in the physicality department loudly and embarrassingly in front of others? Maybe he doesn’t want to sit around after dinner and listen to them all shout at the TV playing one of the zillion football games he could care less about, eventually sandwiched between 2 uncles succumbed to their holiday food coma one drooling on each shoulder; come on we’ve seen it enough in movies to grasp why he would want to avoid that. How about does he know he will be beseeched with requests to fix the family’s IT problems, peppered with questions about what computer they should get, bizarre novice descriptions of what their computer is doing he’s supposed to decipher between turkey and dessert; we’ve all been there in one facet or another. More indicators are unearthed in the portion of video diary where his wife chronicles they have a house full of people and he’s in the basement; could it be again he isn’t interested in interacting with extended family, neighborhood dinner party stuff more than it is he’s fixated on the game? Could it be he doesn’t do well with crowds, lots of people in a confined setting AKA your house, no matter how big you think it is, it seems sans guests; it is now suddenly a crime to be claustrophobic, agoraphobic? But no one ever addressed it from that point of view despite what was in the video diary pre his agreement to go a whole month without his games and the professional, expert, psychologist type person they sent to his home for a house call. The wife deserves a round of questions by now too beyond why she stayed with a man appearing more wedded, engaged to his gaming than the woman he married, the children he fathered; such as, you did marry him, didn’t you know his love of videogames before you said I do? Usually tech geek types pair up with those who share identical interest in all things titled tech or geeky; she seems to possess none of that, fine then what was it brining the 2 of you together not singularly to date, hang out, become friends but take the huge step of getting married, having kids? Or yesteryear redux, was it an unplanned pregnancy and her demonstrated religious beliefs that put a ring on her finger, an explanation for his detached demeanor. What was he like before the kids came along, was he as engrossed as he is now; if not, progressive use corresponding with the additions to the family would support the earlier given theory he’s coping with the stresses and responsibilities of more kids. All due respect to opposites attract, it’s hard for watchers to picture how these 2 people got together having nothing noticeably in common, unless yet another common couple phenomenon is taking place; children, the birth of even a first child is known to disrupt couple dynamics, pull couples apart to where they barely recognize themselves, have next to nothing in common except raising their kid(s) a recurring why to divorces happening after all the children have left home. Premise established, could his aloof nature, the gulf-like distance between him and his family be accounted for by couple drift brought on by their first child, worsening with the birth of each one? We don’t know because, as usual with narrow focus research studies, news reports on hugely broad issues, no one bothered to ask, move past anything other than him giving up videogames for the prescribed time, chronical your results, book closed; and because doing that produced the positive results both desired and expected who cares? Again seen is the marginal, lackluster attempt to connect with the person who is so absorbed by their game they are tuning the rest of the world out; she never tries to play with them, find games they can enjoy together and make it their thing as a couple, never tries to ask him anything other than why he plays so much if he’s worried about work , stressed about money, mad at her, feeling depressed, just like the parents and their kids she doesn’t know how to talk to, be there for her husband so he will open up, share with her, connect with her, turn to her not his game. Now because we’re talking about a husband and wife 1,001 reasons will be applied to why this is, why she is justified, well within her rights to take the described approach where parents wouldn’t be; it’s 2:00 AM in the footage she’s seen to homework, meals, baths, prayers and bedtime for the kids, probably done the dishes, folded the laundry, packed tomorrow’s lunches with no help wandering autocratically down the stairs for one last chore before falling into bed depressed she will do the same tomorrow again all alone. She feel like she only exists to provide him with sex, he only pays attention to her when he wants that and he’s disinterested in physical intimacy now too perhaps. They are married, they are supposed to love and support each other, show care for each other, she’s reached out numerous times only to be rebuffed and ignored in favor of a game and doesn’t have the emotional energy to keep doing it; hurt and bitter she keeps putting forth an effort when he remains so indifferent. None of which fixes her problem, the underlying problem(s) causing him to retreat into videogames, facilitates him being more present in his children’s lives; his quick turn around and equally sudden ‘killing it in the kitchen,’ being sweet, remembering her birthday, surprising her with a present counter any addiction documented to date. Could discovering what exactly he was missing in his kids’ lives, one final time the ceasing of his wife’s nagging have made change possible, or more true to reality not TV-movie endings things aren’t as fixed as they appear with this couple and will enviably creep back up later videogames having been replace with another hurdle?
In short 20/20’s real highlights are communication, connection challenges had by parents and kids since there have been parents and kids, the generational tug of war between the 2 going back equally as far, the hardly new generational clashes well chronicled throughout American and other countries’ histories; straight laced 1950’s people and the 1960’s hippie counter culture, the psychedelic 70’s, feminist movement, civil rights. Vitriol exchanged between millennials, gen Y and baby boomers misconceptions on work ethic, laziness and the very opportunities they had current generations just don’t. One of the things to be said about the era 1950’s to the 1980’s at least is for the most part, perhaps they can be forgiven their parenting, select societal faux pas whether it was stranger danger and letting kids wander too much, dunce caps in schools placed on children who didn’t learn as well, even corporal punishment that was just corporal punishment not crossing the line to abuse, because they didn’t know any better, didn’t have access to the news and research studies we do now, there weren’t droves of parenting books, studies on parenting styles and childhood developmental stages past toddlerhood hadn’t been done yet. We know better now, have information a plenty now, classes, support groups and so on to aid new parents who didn’t expect to be parents, young parents grappling with a mistake; it’s time, long past time we act like it. Which means above all else in the climate created by fearful naysayers, having a frank, realistic national discussion, if need be, on what is and isn’t reasonable device time for persons considering all the things you can do with them and end up forced to do with them in your daily life, to save time, gas money, vehicle wear and tear, actually get the sought after rental car, plane ticket, completed benefit application, tax form. Skype, Facetiming with grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, bother, sister, using Facebook to keep tabs on out of town/state family members; social media rendering support to persons with rare diseases to know they aren’t alone, social media instrumental in the Arab spring, critical as an average person on in larger events. Myself I spend a minimum 2 hours a day online 7 days a week collecting news articles, YouTube videos of news segments, possible future story topics, because I’m a writer; maybe it would take less time if I were a digital native not a digital immigrant, if I could pay for higher internet speed, but this is work I do as a volunteer not getting paid in a crappy gig economy the field of journalism eating itself. Time not accounting for the hours I spend listening to music via YouTube, while I work, fanfiction I read, shopping I do for friends their kids birthdays, Christmas; following commenters on Josh’s story from gamers who call the ‘ungodly’, pointing to addiction hours lack luster compared to themselves, others they know, more who said they play as much as he did keeping good grades and a solid social life. Can I go without my computer, sure; do I want to, no, why because when I do my computer is in for repairs, the lag time between old and new machine set ups, switching internet providers and I spend the time thinking of the thousand things I wish I could look up using google, site I wanted to visit to find out… story ideas I want to type but can’t without the actual computer in my possession, if I choose to hand write in then means double the work, fanfictions and original words I would like to continue but can’t sans the computer. People using home internet access have long traded the paper phonebook for Google’s versatility, apps for hotels, restaurants, transportation all on their PC’s/phones, I’ve regularly Googled a business for its phone number, to stop repeated calls to my house picked up by my answering machine seeking debt collection, to inform of legal claims that weren’t for me instead the previous occupants of my apartment, me having to track down a number for them to say you’ve got the wrong number; Google has virtually replaced Microsoft Word’s declining spell check, grammar websites answer more complicated questions and Merriam-Webster, popular makers of paper dictionaries, not only run the obligatory website offering same in the digital world but do YouTube videos on common grammar mistakes, prevailing grammar myths. Getting parenting close to right in any era past, present, future equals recognizing how we talk to our kids is just as important as talking to them, limiting their time on technology, discussing what happens on social media, things they see on the news, your family’s technology expectations; things we commonly say to our kids and teens when we ourselves are stressed out about work, relationships, bills, harried by deadlines greatly impact both their willingness to talk to us, whether they listen, really listen to us and who they are as human beings illustrated powerfully in the viral Facebook sketch then shared via Good Morning America. Worth challenging parents, let your kids talk to you the way you talk to them for a week, not only would be see how disrespectful and belittling we can be but see how often we interrupt them during what they are doing because while we believe our project for work, paying bills, doing dishes is important, the tendency is to think theirs is trivial because it’s play, though play is often described by child development trackers as a child’s work. Extrapolating a little farther, imagine how you would feel if your spouse treated your wish to volunteer, return to work or what you did at work today with the same antagonistic approach as these parents do with videogames, phones and devices—oh. Personally I know way more than I’d like to about the cratering effect of nagging, I was pleasantly surprised when I moved into my own place and how much I could get done without someone always hounding me to do something, forcing me into time constraints convenient and comfortable for them; I know way too much about what it does to you to have your dreams, aspirations, talents belittled by people who are supposed to love and support you, believe in you if not probability of your success. I’ve also had too many Melvin Udall experiences losing as many lines of poetry, trails of fiction, solid arguments of commentary for want of paper, word processor or recorder to put them on, as I’ve committed to some sort of documentation. Lost as much as I’ve kept in memory or elsewhere to untimely interruptions not of natural disasters even the daily annoyances of a ringing phone, but to a parent who wanted X done NOW!, chose that precise moment to holler up the stairs asking what I was doing, did I want to…or have I seen item Y, did you feed the dog, when was the last time he was let out, where’s your report card? Doing better by your kids, by society means ditching automatic assumptions that a kid ‘binge watching’ Star Trek: The Next Generation over summer break is inherently bad when calculating all the innovation science fiction has brought to science, ideas tried or fostering an imagination; binge watching anything, a better term might be marathon watching binge too closely associated with eating disorders and/or obesity, is wrong because it involves a screen why we need house rules about them. Not marathon, binge watching is another off shoot of on demand service consumers refuse to live without, what made streaming so popular in the first place, divesting us from being tethered to a big clunky TV at a specific time; denying organic learning that can happen in a child, person whether they are playing a game, reading a book, messing with computers in terms of taking them apart, trying to put them back together or exploring different software programs to the determent of our kids and the creativity, problem solving we want them to have, or say we do anyway. I grew my vocabulary to a much greater extent reading fiction, reading things of interest than I ever truly did with spelling tests and English class in school; maybe it has something to do with being a writer, my natural inclination toward both the written word and creativity, but TV always fueled my imagination, not stunted it as is presumed. Because, while books are more detailed and descriptive the saying a picture is worth a thousand words became a saying because it’s so true, one of the reasons I love movie adaptations of books; said adaptations give you as visual representation, reference to what was described in the book, more fantastical than imagined. Above all else, using education, research skills to know which studies are meaningful and which ones are B.S. not being afraid to discard things that don’t work for you and your family based less on biases you create better kids sans screens, TV or videogames, things you didn’t have when you were a kid and turned out ok, resurgence of extreme negatives i.e. corporal punishment and the revived insistence it cultivates better behaved, more respectful kids who bloom into increasingly productive citizens and more on tried and true trial and error, a deep understanding of who your children are coupled with some rudimentary fundamental basics of child, adolescent development. Comprehending no it wasn’t that Josh ‘could barely bring himself to put a few words together,’ it’s that at the beginning when interviewed he plainly didn’t want to talk, talk about his conflict with his family and videogames; he thought, and rightly so, ‘rehab’ for such a thing was profoundly stupid. Long held beliefs in the developmental community who study these things and once understood instinctively by parents, a better strategy for getting boys to open up is while engaged in an activity; common ones used to be wood working, car repair, even helping dad fix the sink or today, bite your tongue, those dreaded videogames. Unknown, certainly by his parents, emerging studies on when adolescents begin to demonstrate empathy the marked dip seen in tween early teen boys versus girls, levels that do not rebound until roughly 16 combined with his depression and anxiety may better completely explain how ‘shut down’ Josh was; his 180 change in attitude, perspective was also thanks to program operators’ indoctrination, funny we only like to use that word in association with religion, ‘liberal ideologies,’ fears about president Obama’s speech to school children attempting to engage them in their own educations, and the logically implied fact they wouldn’t have let him leave there until her started talking that way. Further considering she was 14 at 20/20’s interview, how much self-awareness was she supposed to have at just turned 12 being institutionalized nearly 2 years; again it’s not that using horses to try and teach her that, translate human emotion into something she can better understand is a bad idea, far from it, it’s that her not having it was developmentally normal. Going back to the same study chronicling the dip in empathy for tween and early teen boys, empathy for girls doesn’t occur until age 13 which enhances understanding of human emotions, what others, animals might be feeling indicating things she was going to pick up anyway or would if not in a treatment center where they have to orchestrate it because their patients are isolated from the real world, society. Perplexingly forgotten adults are ‘so good at empathy,’ in theory at least so understanding of, insert situation here, because they’ve flatly experienced more life than kids have generally; somewhere along the line they’ve lost a parent, a pet, dealt with the stress of moving, leaving behind friends, navigating a new city, survived the awkwardness of adolescence where these kids haven’t. Our job as parent, community member, youth mentor is to teach them how to do that in a well-adjusted way not marginalize and humiliate them for not knowing how, the intensity of their feelings. And no, contrary to the overwhelming commentary, public opinion best summed up in these 2 quotes, “The lesson seems to be obvious: don’t give your tween/young teen access to these apps. Why would you let your 12 yo download apps like these without constant monitoring? And I’m not talking about parental controls. I think the kids can work around those with no issue. And I sure wouldn’t let my tween spend hours on the phone” [Sic], or “I wish parents would understand that smartphones aren’t toys for children; they are powerful tools that must be used responsibly. One wrong photo or video uploaded and a life can be ruined or even ended,” total exclusion is not the answer. The message, functional strategy involves, transcending cultural noise, know your child and informing yourself so you can prepare and protect your kids using technology; keeping track of both the positives and negatives of social media, knowing the latest internet challenges out there tried by teens so you can talk to them about it, get there take on it, discuss why it’s bad, dangerous. Yes they are powerful tools that children must learn to ‘use responsibly’ at different stages as they grow into adults, not have it thrust upon them as adults sans a frame of reference or any guidance. Suggesting a separate ‘kiddie’ internet laughable based on 2 things: its utter impossibility both considering the vastness of what people think of as the internet and children’s uncanny ability to bypass parental controls, safeguards, the increase in coding and hacking among young people. Lastly even if a PG, PG 13 version of the internet could be sectioned off it would merely make problems we see now worse only in older people who never learned the management skills we’re so unfathomably reluctant to teach. Inconceivable is parents who have tweens and teens on social media, privy to internet everything and don’t do research on teen trends, don’t endeavor in the slightest to do that or teach distraction, time management; then blame technology, the popularity and proliferation of smartphones, social media before blaming themselves, larger society for inaction crafting teaching methods the same way they did for child safety 30 odd years ago stranger danger, good touches bad touches, when to dial 9-1-1, stop drop and roll, drug abuse prevention, underage drinking, evolving sex ed. before that, because we thought it so important kids get this information we didn’t leave it solely up to parents to provide it. Imagine if we did that regarding the internet, social media, screens.