Monday, January 14, 2008

Gamer Teen

With a 14 year old son in residence, we've been up, down and sideways on this video gaming subject in our house. We tried to resist as long as possible (though what exactly that means is that we're as weak as jellyfish), and we've denied certain games (with ritual torture, women and authority bashing like Halo), but we've allowed others (like Solid Gear Metal Honor, or something like that).

We've tried to impose daily limits -- an hour and a half on weekdays, and 3 hours on weekends -- but no one had the ability to monitor this closely. We tried no screen on weekdays, and unlimited on weekends, but that fell by the wayside, because both of us work from home and we're still at our computers when sunny-boy comes home. And since I don't have much replacement activity, I can't very well say he can't plop down in front of the tube and watch.

When he saved up his own money and purchased the PS3 last summer, just as school was winding down, he sat tethered to it for two solid weeks. At first, Teenboy seemed a little quiet, and certainly kept to himself. Then he seemed isolated. And by the second week, he was rude, angry, impatient, obsessed with the game, and completely cut off from us and his friends. He didn't step foot outside, and we had fight after fight over the thing.

Then a magic and wonderful thing happened -- he went to Pioneer Camp for two weeks, which was just long enough to break the addiction, and to return him home in a semi-normal, semi-pleasant state. Then the cycle started again.

I've talked to him about addictions, and he admits it is one. I've given him stats: teens need 9 hours of sleep and for every lost hour the IQ goes down by 8 points; for every 15 hours of screentime, your IQ goes down 10-15 points (not sure if you could quote me on those numbers, tho); after six hours of video games, the academic ability is negatively affected, but it's not the same for TV. Because with the teen brain developments, and the brain adapting to what it's learning, what they are doing is developing very good brains for playing video games but not other, higher function things. I've told him all this, and the best he could do was promise to keep video games to six hours a week, and then unlimited TV time.

And his father thought this was a good plan! No wonder I'm fighting a losing battle. I agreed to try it for a week or two, and then revisit the plan.