Friday, June 1, 2012

Gaming & Porn: Helping our Kids Fight “Drugs” of Today’s Youth

I was in elementary school when I first got the "smoking is bad for your health" lecture.  I fully remember my teacher showing us photos of a lung damaged by nicotine and contrasting it to the healthy lung free of toxins.  I vowed never to smoke – and never did – but heard the message reinforced over and over again.

Last week I was in the car with my girls tooling down the Interstate when the topic came up.  Someone’s parent smoked and what did that mean? Since I didn’t want them to rush back to their friend and say, “Your mom smokes and it’s bad and now she’s gonna die” but did want them to start understanding the sincerity of the decision, I simply said, “Smoking cigarettes is unhealthy and can make you very, very, very sick.  But, cigarettes are designed to make you want more.  When people first try it they don’t think they will do it all the time, but the stuff inside them makes them want them more and more.  They are good people that have made an unfortunate choice and it’s daddy and I’s prayer that you would never choose to try it.” 
Ironically, this cautionary word about addiction would pop up in a new way later in the media.  A CNN article entitled “The Demise of Guys” would compare the addictive nature to drugs to that of gaming and porn.  Two psychologists teamed up to release a book under the same title explaining both as “arousal addictions,” where the “attraction is in the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content. Sameness is soon habituated; newness heightens excitement.” More is needed to satisfy the urge. More violence. Racier photos. More time perusing it.

As the investment grows on the clock so too does its impact.  The ability to reach goals is challenged.  The ability to communicate is altered.  The joy of having a healthy relationship is ruined.
In our newest book, Who’s In Your Social Network, Nathan shared,

“I became so concentrated on gaming that I lost focus on goals in life. Spending massive hours on gaming instead of college, I soon dropped out and many of life’s problems soon followed.  I couldn’t hold down a decent job, and I watched my life spiral downhill from there. I know that I am not alone in this addictive world.  I was playing instead of living real life.''

And, while the article and book are geared towards males, this isn’t solely a boy’s struggle.  Most definitely I will have to one day have discussions with my girls about the games they are choosing to play and what they choose to look at once Dora Saves the Snow Princess and Amy’s Donuts no longer cut it.  After all, it is Stacy who candidly shares in the book,

“Pictures and even videos! I was hooked. Pretty soon pornography wasn’t exciting enough, I had to move to chat rooms and actually writing my own story with an anonymous person on the other side of a screen name. The sex talk got more and more involved and soon they were sending me pictures of themselves having sex, and I reciprocated. It doesn’t take long for the “fake” stuff to become boring and not satisfying, I needed the real thing.”

For her that resulted in countless hookups that left her feeling empty as well as a herpes and HPV diagnosis that changed her life. STD related cancer would cause her to endure a hysterectomy before finishing college.  Not something I would ever wish for my girls.

The thing is these kids do not stand alone.  They were good kids that popped in a game without considering how much time they spent with it or, more importantly, the content they were exposed to.  Curiosity caused them to look at an image or maybe a pop up was even attached to an okay website that made them crave more.  And it happens to kids outside and inside the church.

Truth be told, I’m glad my kids are younger so I can talk with kids about it instead of having it be my home’s war.  But, I can already see how even decorating donuts or checking Draw Something draws them in and leaves them wanting more.  We chose to limit them to 30 minutes a day of technology, with some exception for educational apps/games.

However, this article reinforces the need to tailor age old warnings to (additional) common day addictions.  We need to explain how these activities cause isolation, are addicting, and warp relationships, which WILL impact them.  Communication is key to getting a joy, maintaining friendships, and finding a spouse.  And, integrity issues that cannot be separated from what we look at will influence the ability to have a Godly relationship.

So talk with your kids, show them the article, and if you need help or reinforcement, chapters five and six of our new book deal with these topics alone – words from their peers to help them strongly consider how what they put in affects the character they put out.  

6 comments:

  1. Melissa,
    Thanks for sharing this. As a drug and alcohol counselor who works with adolescents, gaming/internet/technology addiction is something we are seeing more and more of. The most important thing is putting a name to it - for parents to call out the behaviors they are seeing in their young people. And if your kids are not yet teens, talk to them at an early age. Don't scare them, just share with them your concerns and hopes for them.
    Nice work,
    Nancy Olson-Engebreth (aka Hollywood!)

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  2. Such an informative and candid post! Thanks for sharing. I'll spread the word"

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  4. Thanks for this.

    I have a computer addiction. I know it. I'm here about 95% of my day. It takes a LOT of effort on my behalf to turn it off during the day and not go near it again. It's almost impossible, actually. DH and I play an online game that we started 8+ years ago. It does negatively affect our lives, although I will say that it's been way less of an addiction than it used to be. We haven't done any 18 hour game play days in a long while... oy.

    But, what have we modeled to our kids? They love gaming. They love computers and the Wii. They have very strong tendencies to play all day every day. I've had to put the Wii in lockdown for the summer. They get a 1hr each time limit on the computer every day and it's well-filtered.

    The worst is that they notice. Even the 4 year old makes comments about how I get to play on my computer more than they can. (I work on my computer during the day too, so don't think I just play games all the time haha).

    Thanks for your post. I'll be thinking about it today for sure.

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  6. This is a real problem in our home. I don't know how to correct it. My husband and I almost got divorced over this issue. He and my son spend hours on the xbox. Hours, hours, hours. Can you help? I don't know what to do.

    Thanks,
    http://titus2eight.blogspot.com/2012/06/real-titus-2-woman.html

    ReplyDelete

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