Flickr/Renata Vaz

I recently conducted a parenting night at Trinity Grammar School in Kew, Melbourne about Boys and Gaming. More than 450 parents turned up to find answers to the challenge of getting their boys off their devices. A parent shared with me the following:

“My son is actually scaring me. I can’t even talk to him about his gaming, or his school work or friends or anything, without him yelling. He’s so reactive and aggressive. I don’t know how to handle him.”

Rhyan had become angry, even violent, towards his parents whenever they suggested he switch off his computer games. He had begun playing Minecraft and, as he and his friends matured, he had progressed to WOW, and on to COD and GTAV. His parents did not approve but they gave in to his pleading and purchased each new game based on his promises that he would “keep the rules”. The promises were always short-lived. Conflict ensued. Rhyan would storm out of the house and go to his friends’ homes where he would play more games. His parents grounded him, so he lied about who he was with and where he was going. They tried to take his screens out of his room and he erupted.

Over the past decade our families have been swept up by a screen tsunami. Children and adults are walking around with screens in our bags and backpacks, our pockets, and our palms. We are always turned on, and neuroscientists are discovering that it is rewiring our brains – and the new neural connections are not functioning as well as the old ones.

One group that is particularly affected by the internet invasion is our sons. Games are overtaking many boys’ lives, impacting their health, their relationships, their academic experiences, their sleep, and more.

Games are designed to create a compulsive habit. That’s the intent. Developers and marketers have known how compelling their games can be for a very long time.

As one simple example; the Nintendo Gameboy Colour was released with colour graphics in 2000. This was the advert that appeared in magazines at the same time.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 4.31.40 PMIt says “Don’t forget to eat” with skeletal hands holding the Gameboy. The marketing is giving a clear message to parents: This game will take your child away from everything that matters in life. Everything!

But they still bought them. Here’s the fineprint:

“Want to lose a lot of weight? Pick up a Gameboy Colour and watch what happens. But you can’t live on fun alone, so remember to have a cheeseburger once in a while. Get into it.”

Is my son addicted?

Internet and gaming addiction is not a recognised psychological problem in the bible for psychologists – the DSM 5. It is on the list of things to watch for in the future, but I am concerned that the body responsible for this book is behind the curve. Nonetheless, if a person were to be “addicted”, this is their criteria for consideration:

Repetitive use of Internet-based games, often with other players, that leads to significant issues with functioning. Five of the following criteria must be met within one year:

Preoccupation or obsession with Internet games.

Withdrawal symptoms when not playin