Are Kids Addicted to Video Games?

Nov 08

An autopsy on Friday confirmed that the body found in a field north of Barrie was, indeed, 15-year-old missing boy, Brandon Crisp. Parents across North America commiserate with the tragic loss of his parents and sisters, particularly because this story of video game addiction resonates with the personal experiences of so many. Removing privileges, such as video games, is a common, and often effective, means of teaching life lessons and has been practiced by generations of parents. Unfortunately, in Brandon’s case, what had seemed a normal course of action for concerned parents led to a tragically irrational response from a boy with an addiction.

Addiction has traditionally been relegated to vices – alcohol, drugs, smoking.

The concept of addiction has long been relegated to traditional vices – alcohol, drugs, smoking. But this incident has forced many to realize that the seemingly benign pastime of video game playing may need to be added to the list. Last Christmas, my husband and I decided to give each of our boys a DS Nintendo. Their ecstatic whoops of elation warmed my heart – that day. But, the battles that ensued for months afterward over how long and how often they could play had, on many occasions, tempted me to throw the beeping metallic boxes in the garbage (or better yet, hammer them to pieces.) The boys (6 and 8 years old) even woke late in the night sometimes to creep downstairs and play their games gleefully. Fortunately, they would guiltily confess their trespasses each morning. And I would have to find new hiding places for their DS’s.

Clearly, my husband and I realized, these little screens of animations were highly addictive and we were concerned. Now, almost a year later, we have come to a mutual understanding that the video games come out only every other day, and are timed for 30 to 40 minutes (with some exceptions.) My kids are lucky, however (or unlucky, depending on whose point of view), because I’m a fighter. They can whine and tell me I’m a mean mom until they’re red in the face (which they do) – I stand by my convictions. And it is exhausting. Just ask any parent of a video game console.

According to the National Institute on Media and the Family four out of ten parents whose kids play video games argue sometimes or very often with their children about the amount of time they spend playing. They also discovered, in a study on grade 8 and grade 9 students, that addicted video game players were involved in more physical fights, more arguments with friends and teachers than their non-addicted peers. It’s easy to sympathize with a parent who is tired of the constant battles and thinks, ‘what’s the big deal… It’s just a video game?’ After all, everyone plays video games these days. They’re right, almost.

Today, 92% of American children aged 2 – 17 play regularly. Market research firm, NPD, counts 174 million people as “gamers”, that is, those who play computer or video games. Of these, 22% of them are categorized as “young heavy gamers” and they comprise one-third of the population of console owners, with a particular preference for portable systems (DS Nintendo and PSP.) No surprise, then, that they are a marketing target for the big video game producers – Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. According to NPD’s Kids & Gaming Report, “When kids get to the 6 to 8 year-old age range is when we see them turn into more serious gamers. Not only does the amount of time they spend playing games increase the most dramatically, but they migrate from using ‘kid’ systems to using more portable and console systems as well” says Anita Frazier, an industry analyst, “This appears to be a critical age at which to capture the future gamers of the world.”

Microsoft spent $500 million to launch their Xbox 360

Microsoft hauled in a huge catch in 2000, when they spent $500 million to launch their Xbox 360 – the most they’d ever spent on a new project launch. In 2008, Microsoft was the most awarded advertiser, according to creativity-online.com, for their successful marketing of video game, Halo 3. This Christmas, they plan to invest more money than ever to woo a wider audience for their Xbox 360.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSdSnYGL7YA

It’s the quintessential David versus Goliath parable. Parents have little hope of defeating the forces of Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo with a measley sling shot. But, all is not lost. They can arm themselves with knowledge and awareness about the very real possibility of addiction for video game players and keep a vigil eye on the types of games kids play, and for how long. Kudos to Microsoft for recently creating the to help parents limit their children’s video game content and usage. Perhaps it will help improve the grade ‘C’ that NIMF’s 2007 Video Game Report Card gave parents for their level of involvement in their children’s gaming habits as a result of their failure to use the ESRB ratings system, and their continual complacency in allowing children to purchase and play Mature rated games. Call of Duty 4 is among the top ten games NIMF recommends parents avoid for their children and teens – the very same game Brandon Crisp, tragically, lost his life for.
Do you suspect your child may have an addiction? Try this Quiz for .

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One comment

  1. Brian /

    Yo, I know grown men who are addicted to video games. And what’s the deal with video game commercials? Can they make the future of society look any more apocalyptic? Pac-Man would never survive against the likes of Halo and other machine gun toting characters of today’s gloomy graphics…

    Atari ruled…you know it did. Hunt the Wumpus – you know you did.

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