17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Monday, May 19, 2008

CRIB NOTES: Playstation Nation--protect your child from video game addiction


This book is meant to inform parents about video game addiction. The authors tell their own story of their sons who were on the road to addiction and how they pulled them out.


*According to their research, playing video games increases the activity of dopamine in the brain--so it is actually physiologically like a drug. "Dopamine is one of the most important neurotransmitters in the brain, controlling movement, attention, and learning. It is also associated with reinforcement--triggered by events that produce pleasure--and with the reinforcing effects of addictive drugs like cocaine and amphetamines."

*Get this: A study proved that children allowed to play gameboy prior to surgery were more relaxed than those on tranquilizers or had held a parent's hand to keep them calm. They were happy--forgot where they were. Also, seriously ill children in a hospital who played Nintendo required HALF the pain meds as those who didn't. TV had no effect on meds. "Good news? Possibly. But if these 'comfort' games replace the use of drugs when children undergo surgery, what does that suggest about their influence on a child's brain and emotions the rest of the time? Do we really want our children 'sedated' on a daily basis?" Wow. That was the kicker for me.

*It is also hard to walk away from video games because their structures are built to keep players hooked: Beating the game (beating the computer, also isolating as kids play alone for long periods), competition (against friends, adds complexity and many possibilities), mastery (the more you play the better you get, so keep playing...), exploration (the mystery of finding secret and hidden levels), beating the high score (even one's own score), story-driven role play (finding out how the story ends by winning), relationships (Internet games where players rely on each other, also false/anonymous relationships).

*Game ratings: Video games all have ratings like movies, tv, and music. However, when the National Institute on Media and the family checked on them, they were given a few grades:

in 2004
ratings education to the public C-
ratings accuracy B-
retailers enforcement of policies B-

in 2005 they received, in the same order a C+, F, and D-

So, if your kids play, you can't rely on anyone but you to determine which games are appropriate--be there when they play.

*Parents--try to avoid these mistakes: 1) Starting your kids into games young. Children should develop "natural" play, not "virtual" play at such young ages. They will become accustomed to video play if they start young. 2) Easy access--owning a system, putting it in a bedroom or isolating place. 3) Using your system as a reward. Chores, homework, etc. become necessary evils to get to more game time. 4) One more level--kids always want to play one more level. Know if you can deal with the begging every time. 5) Ignoring your gut. Instead, trust your instincts and intervene or do what you think is right, not what is necessarily easy.

*In this book you'll find a lot of helpful info: Names of particularly disturbing/addictive video and internet games, lists of symptoms of those addicted, ratings explanations, suggestions to help someone addicted, list of addictive game elements, lists of many various alternative activities to get kids interested in to pull them out of the gaming world (for all ages). Also, they have suggestions of how to have a gaming system in your home and not let it get abused. My favorite suggestion was to treat it like a board game--keep it in a box and get it down occasionally to play with friends and/or family. Then put it back up.

*I have not described them here, but much of the book contains really sad stories of lives just wasted. College students failing, marital relationships suffering, and other tragedies. Aside from any research and analysis, those stories alone are probably enough to keep people very aware of video game trouble.

*Although they don't come out and say "don't ever buy a gaming system" it's clear that that is the surest way to keep children from game addiction. They describe the pain of limiting game time from children who push and push for more time almost unbearable, and definitely harder than not owning a system.

*The authors have a website for further info and support.

My take:
I've never wanted a gaming system. I don't see any real value in them. This book just cemented that decision and will give me backbone when my kids start begging sometime in the next 3-5 years. Also, it has helped me understand how to deal with computer games since, well, we will always own a computer.

And by the way, they do not suggest that children's educational games are in any way addictive.

What are your experiences with video games? Do you see them abused? What are your impressions of this perspective on video game addiction?

What are Crib Notes?


  • My husband and I agreed a long time ago that we wouldn't have video games, mostly because my brothers and his both seemed addicted. They wasted thousands of hours on video games.

    I let my kids play Wii when they are at their cousin's house, but that's about it.

    I don't have a strong moral objection to it (although this post certainly makes me think), but I just think there are plenty of other ways to waste time without adding video games to the mix.
    posted by Blogger Sue at 5/19/2008 02:15:00 PM  

  • For the most part, I strongly agree with this and I am very worried about kids who are addicted to video games. I do have two points of disagreement, however:

    (1) Chores *are* necessary evils, and so I see no problem with using TV or video game time as rewards.

    (2) While I don't want to say that every family must have games, I think the big risk of not having any is that you will not give your child a chance to learn moderation--a chance to practice walking away from the game every single day. One day, your child will be in a dorm room with no mama there--will they be more likely to become addicted? I don't know. But I think it is possible because not only will they not have practiced walking away, but there is almost certainly to be the lure of forbidden fruit, too.
    posted by Blogger Julie M. Smith at 5/19/2008 03:56:00 PM  

  • Thanks for sharing this review - I'm glad I followed my gut when 2 moths after Christmas I got rid of the game system we gave the boys.

    I got rid of it because it was the cause of much contention in our home. There was a huge rise in hitting, kicking, screaming and fighting after playtime. That is why I was surprised about the reported affect of video games on children under going medical treatment.

    I did not even think of the long term addiction factor when I got rid of our game system -

    We did however find my husband's old super Ninetendo from 15 years ago and sometimes pull it out and we all enjoy playing the original Super Mario Bros.
    posted by Blogger alibop at 5/19/2008 04:17:00 PM  

  • I want to raise children who live lives free of video games too! I had the first nintendo games as a kid and I thought it was fun but nothing near addictive. It has changed so much since then.

    I have a younger brother who is really "into" them- I don't know if he is addicted but I know my mom worries that he is. Thanks for this post- I am forwarding it to her!

    I don't see any redeeming value in them, and I much prefer children/teens playing outside and staying busy doing other things rather than obsessed with the games.
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 5/19/2008 04:23:00 PM  

  • My husband and I have a PS2 and an Xbox... and we hardly ever play. There are some games we have because we love them. I highly recommend "Knights of the Old Republic" to anyone who loves "Star Wars." We've had some great times bonding over these games. In some ways, they're like novels or movies. (Then again, we do tend to play the 60+ hour RPGs.)

    Basically, I don't think video games are so dangerous you ought never to have them in your house. I think you just need to use discretion in what kind of games ("Grand Theft Auto" and its ilk will NEVER be allowed in my house, end of story) and how much time is spent on them. Treat them like TV time, something the kids have to earn. Tell them they can watch their show or play their game but not both.
    posted by Anonymous Proud Daughter of Eve at 5/19/2008 04:52:00 PM  

  • I think that this could probably also apply to computer games also, and that adults too, not just kids, can become addicted. Really though, all things in moderation, right, I mean, you can become addicted to just about anything, video games, tv, computer etc. We recently borrowed Rock Band from family for Hubby and I to play, I could see the possibility of why people become obsessed, but I can also soo that it strengthens skills such as working together, being part of a team, problem solving, and hand eye coordination. I guess you just have to know your family and your kids, set rules and stick to them.
    posted by Anonymous JS at 5/19/2008 05:37:00 PM  

  • I actually like video games and have fond memories of playing baseball and football games with my older uncles at family get togethers (we had an Intelivision!) and still like to play a little motocross with my brothers and brothers-in-law on the PS2. So, I think the "no redeeming value" argument is a bit overstated. No, video games won't bring us salvation, but they can be as good a source of entertainment as any other for certain occasions.

    Also, the Wii is actually great exercise!!! I played my 5 year old nephew in some boxing, bowling, and baseball and I was sore for two days. Good grief. No, it's no substitute for real exercise, but it may actually help get the kids off the couch once in a while. And that can't be a bad thing.
    posted by Blogger Todd at 5/19/2008 06:05:00 PM  

  • I have three young boys, and my initial reaction is to just never get a gaming system. One thing that makes me pause, though, is a friend of my husband. He always loved video games, and was also a talented artist. He flunked out of BYU, my husband saw a job posted on some bulletin board at a video game company, and his friend got the job because of his art, and now a decade and a half later he has a very successful career making video games. It's a dream for him, really, merging all the things he's really passionate about. He's a great guy to be around and still plays games all the time.

    When I think about banning all games in our home, I think how sad that would have been for him if he had been cut off from something that perfectly matched all his talents. Granted, I know the vast majority of addicted gamers are not on their way to some great career, but it does make me reconsider automatically restricting my boys from something that might bring a lot of good things into their lives. But I really do dread the battles.

    One thing I do feel sufficiently strongly about is that we'll never ever have a game in our house that involves shooting. (Ok, I played Duck Hunt back in the day, but things have really progressed from what I hear.)
    posted by Blogger Gina at 5/19/2008 07:02:00 PM  

  • I know a very bright young man who has a great career designing computer games, so his "addiction" paid off for him. However, he also has an engineering degree from UCLA. Kids who think they will get big careers just because they love games will be disappointed.

    I had to give up The Sims cold turkey (a few times, actually). Computer games are dangerous for ADD people. I enjoyed playing it until it started playing me.
    posted by Blogger Kathi D at 5/19/2008 08:05:00 PM  

  • julie m. smith--
    1)haha, yes, I see your view on the chores. The book does describe how using games as a reward can be seemingly positive but just feed the fire of excessive playing time. I can't find the quotes--but it's an interesting and compelling point. Depends on kids and parenting too--as all of this topic does.

    2)Consider this--not owning a system does not mean your child won't learn moderation. Kids will play games at relatives and friends often, and may have access on their home computer--it doesn't mean one is "abstinent" from gaming just because there is not an xbox in their home.

    alibop--see, that's what they mean by following your gut. Some parents in the book did the same thing--just chucked the system. I've found my son get mad over wanting to play, or having to leave, a certain computer game. So I really have to make playing it a not-important and infrequent thing. I don't like the contention.

    rachel h--amen!

    proud daughter of eve--yes. Video games are not altogether evil. There are ways to be healthy and fun about it!

    js--yes and yes. The book is definitely about computer games and adults just as much as video games and kids. Exactly. And yes, some games are defintiely better than others. It can be done right.

    todd--yeah. You definitely are not addicted! :) Games can be fun--the book says that and offers suggestions on good party games and group games--steering away from those that are more addictive in nature.

    gina--that's cool about your artist friend. I have a friend who does that too. But I think you're right--his is a different situation than gaming addicts.

    kathi--yes, like every kid who likes basketball shouldn't bank on being a top-paid professional. :) The book didn't talk about addicts and game-careers. Interesting. It makes me wonder if those people are really addicted to games. I'd venture to say they had access to games AND are really creative, driven people--not addicts.

    In general let me just restate--I am not suggesting that nobody should ever own a gaming system, and the authors do not say it's the only way. I just don't want one--I know (by behaviors with tv and the little time we've spent on computer games) that I cannot handle the begging, bickering, and contention games can cause. I also prefer other forms of entertainment. And, I want to do what I feel will help prevent addiction.

    Also, not all games are equal and not all gamers are as likely to become addicted.

    I really can't go into every arguement in the book (there's so much I didn't write about), but if you find yourself curious (or annoyed) with the book, go get it! It's really a quick, easy read.
    posted by Blogger Katie at 5/19/2008 08:29:00 PM  

  • My husband is a video game designer. He dropped out of college to do what he loved, and a big part of his success is those hours and hours spent playing games as a kid. His mom always hated it and claimed the sky was falling just like this book does, and that he was just wasting time. But the fact is, video games are a big part of who he is. He was passionate about them as a kid (and has fond memories of playing Contra with his dad - was big bonding time) and he is still passionate about them now. And an exceptionally good designer too. In fact, we are moving to Berlin next month to take a new job of his there.

    We play all the time together and its a blast. Do you let your kids watch tv? Read books? Just as addictive and once considered just a big of a waste of time (oh how fiction novels were derided when those started becoming popular).

    To be fair, there are games we refer to as "hamster wheels" however. Games that indeed are highly addictive and have no end, so you just keep playing. World of Warcraft, Rock Band...these are 'hamster wheels' and I would avoid. I also feel they are bad for the game industry as a whole.
    posted by Blogger Julie at 5/19/2008 09:40:00 PM  

  • I attribute my awesome city-driving skeelz and anticipation of baby/child accidents (from running into things, not judging space correctly), and thus prevention of them, all to nintendo.

    I have no plans for video games in the near or distant future.

    I also have no plans for American Girl dolls.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 5/20/2008 03:10:00 AM  

  • What's wrong with American Girl dolls?
    posted by Anonymous MKC at 5/20/2008 08:43:00 AM  

  • I was really apprehensive about getting a gaming system many years ago when DH really wanted one. I was worried he would become obsessed with playing it. I saw how he and his brothers would start playing and never stop. His little brother even developed blisters on his thumbs from playing the nintendo so much.

    But we got one and have since upgraded and will probably trade that one in for a Wii soon. 99% of the time it just sits there unused so I don't mind. It is fun the few times we pull it out. My girls don't show that much interest in it but once baby brother gets bigger though, I realize I might have to watch it closer.

    I guess I am a moderate on the subject. I see it as entertainment just like other things - I guess I treat it like the authors suggest - like a board game.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 5/20/2008 09:17:00 AM  

  • You know what else is a hamster wheel? Blogs.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 5/20/2008 10:31:00 AM  

  • Anonymous--Haha! That's good!
    posted by Blogger Katie at 5/20/2008 01:35:00 PM  

  • My mother's day gift from my hubs was a Nintendo Gamecube and MarioKart.

    I don't really like video games other than the Mario games. MarioParty is my personal favorite for playing.

    That being said, I'm having to forcefully turn off PaperMario and make sure it stays off for a few days at a time, because I'm enjoying it a bit too much.
    posted by Blogger Emily C at 5/21/2008 08:09:00 AM  

  • I think parental control and moderation is the key here. I know from my personal experience, when i was younger and the original Nintendo came out - my parents would not get me one. I played Super Mario constantly when i was at my friends house. Finally I aquired enough of my own money to buy a system myself and after awhile it didnt seem quite so "special". My parents were good though and monitored my playing. (Though this was back in the day before "gaming addicitions" actually existed.)

    I dont think there is anything wrong with getting a system - but it is important to limit the frequency of use.
    posted by Blogger Ellen at 5/21/2008 09:15:00 AM  

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