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Isolated Video Gaming – Why Your Children Should Never Be Left Alone to Play Video Games

4 – The total number of roommates I had that failed college because of video game addiction.

In college I had two life altering experiences.

Freshmen year (1998): I lived in a cinder block wall apartment with 5 other guys. Money was something I didn’t have, so living with strangers was mandatory if I wanted to go to college. Bumming a ride to the grocery store to pickup ramen noodles was also mandatory if I wanted to eat.

Three of my roommates were about as normal as college students get. They ate a lot of pizza, dated a lot of girls, and studied only as hard as they were required to.

Two of my roommates lacked the capacity to make everyday decisions that you or I might find elementary. For one of them this held devastating consequences.

He was from Alberta, Canada. He was here strictly to go to college as he did not have permission to work in the United States. Ironically, he did not have the willpower to study or attend class.

Why didn’t he have the willpower to attend class? He was not on some wild adventure into the deep blue yonder or out partying with girls. I knew where he was every second of the day – in front of the computer playing MUDs. (MUDs are a type of RPG text-based role playing game that was very popular in the early internet years. This was Before we had all this awesome bandwith and graphic cards that could power an entire city…)

His addiction to MUD games had gone so far that he had lost the ability to leave the house. Meals were an afterthought, showering was an afterthought, and laundry was a complete waste of time. The seriousness of the situation seemed to fall on deaf ears. He was failing in college and upon failing he would have to go back to Canada and find somewhere to study there.

A logical person put in this situation would decide it was time to hang up the ropes. Not Him. At one point his Mom came in a last ditch effort to try and persuade him to go to class. In vain she hung her head. Video games were more important to him than the real world.

In the video game world he was invincible, there he was successful, there he could ignore his failing grades, and there he could be whatever he wanted to be.

Another roommate in that apartment was also failing due to video game addiction. He eventually was able to overcome it when my Canadian roommate eventually was kicked out.

My sophomore year in college nothing was different, except for the apartment. There 5 out of the 6 roommates were very normal and there was 1 that wasn’t. I had seen it before. His drug of choice: Everquest (referred to as Evercrack by some). He couldn’t stop playing it. He didn’t attend class, didn’t do his laundry, and he didn’t shower. It was the same pattern I had seen before, except for him eating was a burden.

4 – The total number of roommates I had that failed college because of video game addiction.

13 – The total number of roommates I had that played video games regularly.

16 – The total number of roommates I had.

In 2008 FCC Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate said the following about online gaming addiction and college dropouts.

“You might find it alarming that one of the top reasons for college dropouts in the U.S. is online gaming addiction – such as World of Warcraft- which is played by 11 million individuals.”

(40% – The number of players on World of Warcraft that consider themselves addicted.)

It wasn’t that the rest of us didn’t play video games, in fact at times we’d have parties until 3 PM in the morning playing Battlefield 1942. But there was a difference – we did it “socially”.

There is a difference between someone sitting around and playing wii bowling together as a family or getting together with the boys and having a “Halo” night. These experiences are what I would call “Social Gaming”.

“Isolated gaming” is when you separate yourself from family and friends and interact with people who you don’t know in the real world through a virtual world. Most of this is done with MMORPGS (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games).

Despite lack of complete support from the psychiatric community as a whole (because the studies have not been completely finished) I would very much compare isolated gaming to a drug addiction.

Some of you might think this is extreme, however;

Why do people use drugs?They stimulate the pleasure center of the brain.

Why do people involve themselves in “Isolated Gaming”? They stimulate the pleasure center of the brain.

Both can distort a person’s ability to make every day choices. Both can be very isolated. Both can lead to depression.

One parent in Perth, Australia called His Son’s addiction to gaming a nightmare and compared it to heroin.

Winston Churchill said the following: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Proactive parenting in the information age requires parents to act on information that is readily available and give their children the best chance at success.

Lack of Time and Social Withdrawal

With the addition of cellphones, texting, e-mail, reality TV, and social networks as a society we feel like we have less time to ourselves than our parents ever had.

Social, job, and computer withdrawal pressure some to put their children in front of something that will just “take them away” for a few minutes. If they are in front of the wii/DS/Xbox 360/computer, then certainly you can go check the computer, read up on your e-mail, and get done what you have to get done. I call this video game babysitting.

Many parents, in these instances, will be exposing their young children to a psychological drug they may not have realized was there. 

Before I continue I want to reemphasize that my objection here is more with isolated video gaming in young children. If you want to get out Super Mario Brothers and play it with your 5 year old, then I think that just might be a fun idea for both!

Understanding a Young Child’s Brain Development

Sean Brotherson, Family Science Specialist at NDSU helps us to understand why exposing young children to isolated experiences might be so dangerous: He gives us the following insite into their brain development (emphasis added).

“Brain Development – Myth or Fact?

Myth At birth the brain is fully developed, just like one’s heart or stomach.

Fact – Most of the brain’s cells are formed before birth, but most of the connections among cells are made during infancy and early childhood.

Myth The brain’s development depends entirely on the genes with which you are born.

Fact – Early experience and interaction with the environment are most critical in a child’s brain development.

Myth A toddler’s brain is less active than the brain of a college student.

Fact – A 3-year-old toddler’s brain is twice as active as an adult’s brain.

Myth Talking to a baby is not important because he or she can’t understand what you are saying.

Fact – Talking to young children establishes foundations for learning language during early critical periods when learning is easiest for a child.

Myth Children need special help and specific educational toys to develop their brainpower.

Fact – What children need most is loving care and new experiences, not special attention or costly toys. Talking, singing, playing and reading are some of the key activities that build a child’s brain.”

Social Development

The most critical time for a child’s social development is from infancy to 12 years old. When children are separated or separate themselves socially from others because of a video game they begin to distort their view of the reward system. Simply put, this means that video game rewards become more important than the satisfaction from their parents being proud of them or getting a good grade on a test.

In an effort to help their children develop socially, most parents involve their children in soccer, baseball, playgroup, dance, and preschool. For many parents this becomes so time consuming that one of them decides to stay home. With all of our good intentions, all of our persistence, and all of our love for our children why in the world would we throw that away by exposing them to something that could potentially, like a drug, harm their decision making process in the future?

In the end we as parents have to make our own decision, but before allowing your young children to be involved in “isolated gaming” (especially RPGs (role playing games) and Online RPGs MMORPGS) please take a step back and realize that you as a parent have the responsibility to make sure that your child receives the kind of experiences they need to before their brain has passed its most important stages.

Remember: A child’s early interaction with its environment and what you expose them to is more critical to their brain development than genetics! So if you want them to be good at a particular sport, instrument, subject, then you need to get them involved in that early and often! 

Quick facts: The pleasure center in the brain is much more stimulated in boys brains then it is in girls through video game usage.

Video game addiction for adolescents has shown to cause poor grades and aggression with both teachers and friends.

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