Have you ever heard of an addict who was cured of his or her addiction because someone limited, but did not eliminate, his or her access to the substance or behavior in question? The answer, of course, is No. Is an addiction to gambling less harmful if the addict is allowed to gamble only five hours a week? No, it is not. These propositions are absurd.
Before I continue, a digression: I am allowed by law to call myself a psychologist; therefore, I am a psychologist. However, I am increasingly aware that I do not have much in common with most people in my profession. In this regard, I’m of the experienced opinion (38 years so far) that today’s clinical psychology is more ideology than science and more fad driven than fact driven, and that the real facts about modern psychology aren’t very impressive.
My digression underscores a story recently passed along to me by a highly reliable witness. A psychologist, speaking to a group of North Carolina parents, recommended against taking video games away from preteen and teen boys who are obsessed with video games—for the very reason, he said, that they are obsessed. To be clear: because playing video games is, according to said psychologist, supposedly harmless and “so very important” to these boys, and gaming is their main social activity to boot, the video games should not be taken away. Again, the proposition is absurd.
In the early 1980s, I publicly asserted on the basis of observation alone that video games were addictive. I was generally dismissed, even ridiculed. The ridicule came primarily from—you may have guessed it—other psychologists. But a growing body of research now confirms my theory. Over the years, hundreds of parents have sought my advice concerning teenage boys (never a girl, by the way) who want to do nothing but play video games. Their grades have plummeted; their personal hygiene has collapsed; they are sullen and do not want to participate in family activities, even at mealtimes; they get up in the middle of the night to “game”; and they become threatening toward parents who even suggests that enough is enough.
My advice is always the same: while the boy is in school, confiscate the video game console, smash it, and toss the pieces in a dumpster located at least ten miles from home—and do not ever, under any circumstances, allow one of these nefarious devices back in said household. Without exception, children who’ve experienced this kind of discipline have either gone stark-raving insane or locked themselves in their rooms and refused to come out, sometimes for days, which proves that they are indeed addicted.
It generally takes several weeks for the withdrawal to run its demonic course, after which a video game–addicted child begins to act like, well, a child again. One teen boy, upon discovering that his video game console was gone, destroyed his room and would not speak to or interact with his family for two weeks. Eventually, though, he thanked his parents, telling them that he felt much, much better and was now aware of the damage he’d been doing to himself. I’ve heard many similar stories of recovery.
Video games are doing many children great harm. The many children in question constitute a significant number of boys in the up-and-coming generation. For these boys to become authentic men, they need to be rescued. They are not going to rescue themselves.
Family psychologist John Rosemond is the director of the Center for Affirmative Parenting in Gastonia, North Carolina. For information about his talks and workshops, contact Tracy Owens-Jahn at firstname.lastname@example.org or (817) 295-1751.