One fateful evening at Columbo’s Pizza Parlor in Bozeman, Montana, I gained serious “street cred” with my teenage boys. Despite being in retirement for over 25 years, I was able to get back on the Ms. Pac-Man horse and totally destroy Andrew and Chandler at what was a mainstay at the video arcade when I was a teenager. I was able to not only beat them but humiliate them. I more than doubled their score every game we played. A moment of glory I will not soon forget.
While playing video games was a once in a while treat when I grew up, today’s kids are falling into what experts are calling a compulsive psychological disorder when it comes to video games. As crazy as it may seem, addiction to video games is a real problem all over the world. In a WebMD feature on the definition of addiction, psychiatrist Michael Brody, MD, set forth the following criteria:
- The person needs more and more of a substance or behavior to keep him going.
- If the person does not get more of the substance or behavior, he becomes irritable and miserable.
If your teenager cannot get enough of a video game and becomes irritable and miserable if it is taken away, he or she may be more than just a little cranky. Video game addiction is very real.
My wife Heather and I each grew up in homes largely without video games. (In the Foust house, we purchased Pong sometime in the 1970s and an Atari in 1983. They collected a lot of dust). Games today can become an all-consuming way of life for some kids. Heather and I made a decision early on that our home would not have video games. Like our decision to hold off on cell phones, we were in the minority. I had no idea just how outside of the norm we were until I read a few articles on the subject.
I was amazed to discover that two-thirds of American families regularly play video games, and a staggering 80% of households own video game consoles. Although I now know I am a nerd, I would not change this for anything.
Our house is on a very tight routine. Andrew and Chandler are at school until 6 or 6:30 p.m. We have dinner, they do their homework, we maybe watch a little television and end the day. As busy as Andrew and Chandler are I have no idea where they would find time to play video games. Like most rules, Heather has stuck to her guns and we have not purchased a gaming system. I tend to think our world is a little bit better because of it.