Extreme Cyber-Parenting: Combatting Gaming Addiction

“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” takes on a new and decidedly digital flavour. One Chinese parent went to drastic measures to deal with a son who was more dedicated to playing his online war game than to finding a job.

The 23-year-old son who gamed at elite levels started noticing that he could barely begin his games before being picked off by snipers. After questioning a long string of assassins, he uncovered a covert operation.

His own father had hired hit men to take him out as soon as he started playing. Dad figured his son would quickly tire of the game if he stopped winning all the time. The scheme didn’t work; the son is still playing.

The Chinese government has its own way of dealing with the burgeoning problem of computer addiction. In 2007, it set up clinics offering, among other things, electroshock therapy as treatment for computer addiction. According to a report in The Telegraph, the practice was abandoned in 2009, but the clinics continue. Boot camp-style centres known to dole out physical punishment and isolation have also been popular treatment models, according to an article in Wired magazine.

As shocking as a father’s hiring assassins might seem, it most definitely beats getting zapped in a government rehabilitation clinic or beaten to a pulp at “camp.”

PIU – Problematic Internet Use

So how much is too much? Researchers have made a distinction: when the heavy use has a “clinically significant impact on one’s daily social and psychological functioning,” it is deemed problematic. Australia’s Dr Philip Tam is a world authority on PIU. He is a Child/ Adolescent Psychiatrist and President/ Co-Founder of nirra, the Network for Internet Investigation and Research Australia.

Read Dr Tam’s summary of PIU here.

For more from eQuipped on this topic, see this post called 4 Steps to Avoid Gaming Addiction in Your Teen.

14 Comments

  1. Beena Saju

    How much is too much ?? This is truly the dilemma that befuddles me as a parent. On one side is the academic requirement to access media and on the other is the young person’s ” constant state of distraction” . Daily social and psychological functioning – is too broad a term.This needs to be spelled out to help us parents draw the line for our young people.

    1. Alison Stegert

      Thanks for commenting Beena. I agree this is the area that is hardest to quantify and negotiate. What makes it difficult is that the amount of time on line is not the only factor. Personality, age, family considerations, timing (as in which week of the school term it is), among other things all play in determining “how much is too much.” A one-size-fits-all answer probably wouldn’t be helpful. An inflexible approach could shut down communication or encourage to clandestine activity.

      That said, I do believe it is completely appropriate for all families to have a nightly shut-down time. For example, for senior school students (grades 10-12) in the latter part of the school term, 11:00 PM might be the absolute latest time for internet activity. It’s unhealthy for adolescents to be staring at a screen any later. (Really, a healthy shut down time is more like 9:30.) Enforce it by collecting devices (including smart phones and iPod Touches), using filtering software or hardware, or simply shutting down the Wi-Fi at the router, if your system allows for that. Make sure everyone knows the rules in advance and FOLLOW THROUGH consistently.

      I maintain that the most important, helpful things that parents can do are: 1) keep communication open and happening; 2) set AND enforce age-appropriate boundaries; 3) teach the child self-monitor; and 4) model what you want to see–balanced media use coupled with an active lifestyle.

  2. Beena Saju

    How much is too much ?? This is truly the dilemma that befuddles me as a parent. On one side is the academic requirement to access media and on the other is the young person’s ” constant state of distraction” . Daily social and psychological functioning – is too broad a term.This needs to be spelled out to help us parents draw the line for our young people.

    1. Alison Stegert

      Thanks for commenting Beena. I agree this is the area that is hardest to quantify and negotiate. What makes it difficult is that the amount of time on line is not the only factor. Personality, age, family considerations, timing (as in which week of the school term it is), among other things all play in determining “how much is too much.” A one-size-fits-all answer probably wouldn’t be helpful. An inflexible approach could shut down communication or encourage to clandestine activity.

      That said, I do believe it is completely appropriate for all families to have a nightly shut-down time. For example, for senior school students (grades 10-12) in the latter part of the school term, 11:00 PM might be the absolute latest time for internet activity. It’s unhealthy for adolescents to be staring at a screen any later. (Really, a healthy shut down time is more like 9:30.) Enforce it by collecting devices (including smart phones and iPod Touches), using filtering software or hardware, or simply shutting down the Wi-Fi at the router, if your system allows for that. Make sure everyone knows the rules in advance and FOLLOW THROUGH consistently.

      I maintain that the most important, helpful things that parents can do are: 1) keep communication open and happening; 2) set AND enforce age-appropriate boundaries; 3) teach the child self-monitor; and 4) model what you want to see–balanced media use coupled with an active lifestyle.

  3. Karen Tyrrell

    Thanks Alison for sharing this most important topic. I can relate as a mental health advocate, author, teacher, and parent. My son was addicted to online games staying up all night to play. Thankfully he found his way and is now studying in the medical field.
    As an author for children, my mission to to empower children to be more resilient … Karen 🙂

    1. Alison Stegert

      Thanks for commenting Karen. It’s good to hear stories of young people overcoming problematic internet use, and it’s doubly nice that the story is coming from a mental health advocate and parent. Visit anytime!

      1. pearlz

        Everything in moderation – great to read a blog on this. I limit my children’s time and want them to learn how to direct and control what they use it for, is it communication with friends, drawing, research, learning, gaming, watching iview (we don’t have tv) and learn to balance it. I love that my youngest ups and runs around the yard! He seems to have it in hand,

        1. Alison Stegert

          Thanks for commenting, June. Your approach is exactly what’s needed. Start training them young, and start with what it is (a tool) and is not (a one-way ticket to La-La land). Encourage and model balance–Brilliant!

  4. Karen Tyrrell

    Thanks Alison for sharing this most important topic. I can relate as a mental health advocate, author, teacher, and parent. My son was addicted to online games staying up all night to play. Thankfully he found his way and is now studying in the medical field.
    As an author for children, my mission to to empower children to be more resilient … Karen 🙂

    1. Alison Stegert

      Thanks for commenting Karen. It’s good to hear stories of young people overcoming problematic internet use, and it’s doubly nice that the story is coming from a mental health advocate and parent. Visit anytime!

      1. pearlz

        Everything in moderation – great to read a blog on this. I limit my children’s time and want them to learn how to direct and control what they use it for, is it communication with friends, drawing, research, learning, gaming, watching iview (we don’t have tv) and learn to balance it. I love that my youngest ups and runs around the yard! He seems to have it in hand,

        1. Alison Stegert

          Thanks for commenting, June. Your approach is exactly what’s needed. Start training them young, and start with what it is (a tool) and is not (a one-way ticket to La-La land). Encourage and model balance–Brilliant!

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