ARE WE PRIMING THE NEXT GENERATION FOR ADDICTION?
You see this picture above. It’s my 8 year-old Andrew, his brother Aiden who is 4, and my 6 year old Ellie. They are locked and loaded on a new personal computer game with graphics that push the boundaries of reality. As a matter of fact, these games are essentially a virtual reality experience.
The purpose of the game is beyond my grasp. As a highly functioning, highly intelligent adult I am at a loss for how to control the game. I am at loss in terms of what the goal is. However, my kids get it. They all completely understand the purpose and the functioning of the game.
To me it’s like trying to fly a plane. To my 4 year-old Aiden, it’s like opening a door or turning on a light switch. Simple and easy to grasp.
But look how “engaged” they are…they are locked in.
I could leave the house and they wouldn’t even know we left. Sort of like I was in “active addiction”.
Now, of course, I’m uncomfortable with making such a comparison. Especially where my own kids are concerned. In a way I’m basically saying “look at me and my poor parenting skills while I let my kids travel down the path of debauchery.”
Truth is…I would join them in playing the game if I could figure out what the hell was going on.
All that said, I do wonder what is going on in their little, malleable, highly vulnerable brains. We know Facebook is designed to get kids addicted.
See link to Slate story here: Addiction for Fun and Profit
We also know that the neurotransmitter associated with addiction, Dopamine, is linked to any activity that is reinforcing and pleasurable. I think its safe to assume that a fair amount of Dopamine is being released into their brains via this game.
I mean, check it out, that looks intense.
But if may not be all bad?
At the same time, there are studies that suggest a moderate amount of time on gaming systems enhancing cognitive performance in certain areas. Performance on tasks that measure attention spans for example seem to be favorably impacted via moderate gaming.
I don’t want to get too deep into that part of the discussion right now. But it is interesting. One such study is linked here: Action video games change brains, improve visual attention from Science Daily
My intent in this post to acknowledge the reality of the situation. Parents and others involved need to understand this iGen is not looking back. We can say what we want about the downfall of society via technology, but the reality is we have entered the Matrix.
Nostalgia for the days of Atari and “playing outside” is useless. The ship has sailed. These kids get technology intuitively. It doesn’t take explanation. They know how it works, they know what button to push, they understand it on a level that us “digital immigrants” can’t grasp.
I don’t know if I would have ever spent a day outside if I would have had a game as cool as the one they are playing in this picture. Just sayin’!
I played outside because it was go outside or watch one of 3 TV channels. Or we could:
“Rock out to a game of Space Invaders”.
Of course, this has led to the over organized micro managed generation where every sport is planned and run by adults. There are no kids playing pickup, so we develop leagues for everything and monitor their every reaction. We get our kids outside by putting them on a team.
Nothing organic happening anymore.
It’s time to stop whining about this Rich! It is what it is… join into the Matrix.
What the heck do we do?
1) We have to limit the time on these machines: Too much time is clearly problematic and can become a problem in its own right. Internet gaming addiction is a real thing. I have dealt with it in my practice.
2) But not eliminate these machines: However, taking it away completely makes no sense. This is the world we live in. Embrace it.
3) And embrace it by getting involved: I for one need to learn more about their world. I’m already a Facebook expert. Perhaps I should try one of these hologram experiences for myself. Bond over the game. Understand that world.
4) If we have to make them go outside and it has to be organized…. Well then grin and bear it. Sign them up for the next soccer league or jump rope team.
We must be prepared to meet this generation on their terms.
P.S. – This is either the most insightful article ever written. Or a master manipulation, opening the door for me to spend all Christmas break playing video games.