Many hours often wasted, not hearing when someone call. Playing the forces preventing me from getting high scores. Controllers defaced from constant angry bashing against the wall. Breaking buttons and joysticks, frustration alert behind closed doors.
Many months disappeared, fighting the warlord. Trying to conquer and destroy the mighty tower. All those levels I cleared, searching castles as the monsters roared. And the beasts and brutes hold the princesses with some strange power. Many years under the control of newer consoles coming out. Feeding my addiction, eyes wide from box gazing. Many memory cards gone missing in action, making me shout. Fingers stiff from all the games I can’t stop from playing. A whole lifetime spent, playing some new split-screen game. With friends and foes alike, constantly shooting guns at people’s faces. Making me think everyone’s a villain, yes everyone’s to blame. But it don’t matter, it’s just me in my room, I never go to any real places
Hi, welcome back to the iSafeCafe. For aperitif today we took a look at the phenomenon of videogame addiction. I hope the poem managed to capture something of what it might feel like to be addicted to electronic videogames, but bear in mind it is not just the games that are addictive, technology and the internet itself can be extremely addictive.
In my last blog-post we talked about an event that left its mark on me as a teacher in charge of pupils. Today, as we pass the hors d’oeuvre around, I want to talk to you as a parent. Let me tell you a little story about my daughter Ahisha, or Princess Ahisha as I sometimes call her.
Born in the mid-eighties, just at the dawning of the home computer, or the PC as it was popularly called, Ahisha grew up in the age of the computer. Nowadays it is not uncommon for kids to receive their first piece of technology, usually a toy of some sort, from as early as two, sometimes even earlier, but back then it wasn’t quite so early. If my memory serves me well, Ahisha got her little hands on her first piece of technology, a Donkey-kong hand-held, for her seventh birthday. We had hours of fun, well at least I did, I’m not even sure she was that bothered and understanding the various levels back then may have been a little bit daunting for a seven year-old. My, how times have changed. Now a little bit about Ahisha.
My first born, there was never a father more proud. She was the most beautiful little girl, turning heads wherever she went. But more important, she was the best behaved kid you could wish for. Slept right through the night from early – if you’re a parent you’ll now the joy that can bring – she hardly ever fretted for anything, did as she was told and I hope she won’t mind me saying, she literally hero-worshiped her papa. She followed me everywhere I went, even waiting for me outside the bathroom door. She was always destined to follow me into the theatre as from a very early age she spent so much time watching me directing numerous shows.
Sure enough she completed her drama degree at university and onto professional acting school and a career in the theatre, her high-point to date being chosen as Disney’s first black princess, Princess Tiana from “The Princess and the frog” at Disneyland Paris, wowing international audiences with her dancing and performance skills. To this day, a fine young woman with a handsome son, she pretty much still does anything I ask her to do, except as she says, when she’s being a pain in the bum. Now why am I telling you all this? Apart from the fact I enjoy sharing about my beloved kids, and I will share about my son another time, this background is important. As a parent, it is crucial to know that when it comes to internet safety, it seems there are no “bad” or “good” kids. In my experience, all kids will behave inappropriately in some way once interacting with technology and the internet, if you let them. Therefore please believe me when I say in all sincerity that all kids are exposed to danger when on the internet. It’s not about us feeling or thinking they are safe, their safety largely depends on us consciously taking some kind of precaution to optimise they safety, and even then we can’t really say they are safe.
After Donkey-kong, for her eighth birthday Ahisha was the proud owner of one of the first generation games consoles, Nintendo Entertainment Systems, or NES as it was called. This came with the first Super Mario game and one of the first shoot ‘em up games, Duck Hunt, remember? A lot more sophisticated by this time and now fully conversant with game technology, Ahisha was enraptured. She would be on that game before school in the morning and first thing when she came home in the evening. This was before the advent of e-safety or anyone recognising there was a need for rules when it comes to technology, so at first we were only too pleased to see how happy she was with her new toy. It gave her moments of pure joy, hours of joy, days of joy, weeks of joy… and then the penny dropped. She was spending an inordinate amount of time on that game, something wasn’t quite right. Again, without any precedence and therefore nothing to guide us, we were breaking new ground, but it was clear we had to do something. Now remember, Ahisha had been what you could almost call a model child, someone who always did as she was told at home and showed the greatest respect for house rules such as going to bed and getting up in the morning. I never had to give her even a hint of the slightest little smack for stepping out of line. So surely they wouldn’t be any issues with rules over this fascinating game, would they? So rules were made. You will play only for half an hour at a time and having had your half-hour, you can’t return within the next ninety minutes, so half hour in every two hours, quite fair I thought. Hahaha, you must be joking. The very first time that first half-hour rule kicked in, all hell broke loose. I witnessed my beautiful little girl have her first full-scale tantrum, stamping and screaming, I could hardly prise that controller out of her little fist. And it was here she received for the first and only time, a parental smack. It stunned her. She’d never been smacked and here she was at aged eight getting her first one. It certainly had the desired effect. She released the controller and stared at me in absolute shock horror, but she never bucked that rule again and was as good as gold thereafter.
While not quite addicted, I would say that without intervention, it may well have developed into a case of addiction and this incident was my first inkling that there were issues to do with children and new technology. Over the years there’s been much debate about whether or not these games are truly addictive and while recognising there is an opposing argument, I will hold my hands up and say I’m really not interested in arguments against videogame addiction. To me that smacks of lighting a fire and telling children you can engage but you can’t get burn. So for entrée, let’s look at the top ten reasons why video games can be so addictive.
First a simple definition of addiction. Addiction can be seen as “to pathologically repeat pleasurable behaviour despite adverse effects on health or lifestyle”. By pathologically, let’s assume we mean to systematically repeat, some may say morbidly. So let’s look at the top ten reasons given and I’ll leave it to you to decide if you want to sit up and take notice or not, as the case may be.
Top Ten reasons for Videogame addiction:
- Many videogames have no pre-determined end, in other words no fixed point at which a player can say “Finished it”.
- Videogames feed the need to make social connections. We are gregarious at heart and many of today’s games encourage or even require that players interact socially with each other. These virtual connections often come at the expense of real-world relationships and therefore demands the time one would normally spend developing real relationships
- Videogames encourages the player to be immersed in a fully realised virtual world. You can create your own character with attributes you wish you had in real life. You form relationships, develop a career and accomplish things that would be impossible, or require far more effort in the real world. This offers an escape from the reality and difficulties of the real world by presenting a more user-friendly environment.
- Videogames give rewards based on a leveling system, so there is always a drive to get to the next level in order to claim the rewards. This reinforces continued play.
- Multiplayer videogames require two users, often on opposite sides of the world to interact and join together in a common quest. This adds to the excitement and pretend social nature of the experience.
- Playing videogames brings about a false sense of power through in-game currency, in the same way wealth can equal power in the real world. As one amasses more virtual wealth, done by spending more time playing and completing tasks, the virtual wealth translates into greater power, control, respect, influence, status, and purchasing power.
- Videogames tend not to reward short and unscheduled periods of play, requiring long-term commitment of regular gaming sessions lasting at least an hour or more. Due to the great investment – it can take months to develop a character – it becomes very hard to “throw away” all that commitment and hard work.
- Video games can generate strong emotions in players. The virtual world experience is mostly one of battles, betrayal, friendship, romance, marriages, funerals, etc. You are virtually sucked into the virtual world.
- The virtual world of videogames is evolving all the time, even when the player is not online. So if you are not playing you are potentially going to be left behind. To avoid missing out, you have to keep playing.
- Companies regularly release upgrades and expansion packs to avoid boredom, adding new ideas for exploration, new skills to try, new tasks to complete, and new characters to develop. All very exciting, who can resist?
Video – “When videogames become an addiction” by Samantha and Will Worley, for CNN – January 6, 2016
Here are the Top Ten leading factors believed to make youngsters particularly vulnerable to videogame addiction.
- Lack of successful experiences in real life
- Low parental support
- Home upheaval
- High video game use by parents
- Divorce or separation of parents
- Behavioural problems at school
- Truancy from classes
- School phobia
- Poor grades
- Having to repeat a grade
Notice how it is all about home or school life and of course this is not to suggest that a youngster must be experiencing them all at the same time to be vulnerable. The suggestion is that just one of these increases the risk of vulnerability, and I can actually identify three to which my daughter Ahisha was exposed immediately prior to the Nintendo incident. Her mother and I had just recently separated, she had moved 30 miles away from her home in Hertfordshire to live with me in London, and of course she was having to cope with a change in school and having to make new friends. It is no wonder she fell in love with Super Mario and had a hankering to go duck hunting!
We’ve talked at length about addiction, so I’ll try to make this dessert short if not sweet. There is of course a lot more to e-safety than addiction, with six key areas identified…
- Cyber-bullying and cyber-stalking
- Grooming and predatory behaviour
- Inappropriate content – especially sex, violence and profanity
- Addiction and other pathologies
- Security and identity fraud
I will expand on these as we continue together, but for now, there is a little task for you to complete over a nice coffee. How do you like your coffee? I prefer mine black with a drop of the hard stuff and a big dollop of cream floating on top.
Firstly before I explain today’s task, did you complete the task from Blog-post 2? Here is a reminder. You were asked to make a list of all your home-based electronic devices and identify those your children have access to in private, after which you were to consider the question of safety-rules. Did you do it? Did this trigger you into making some rules? Please leave a comment and share your thinking or any rules you have made or plan to make. Alternatively you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
With numbers using internet technologies and other electronic devices growing worldwide, internet safety is becoming a global concern, though in my view not quite fast enough. Governments, organisations, groups and individuals have all expressed some concern over the safety of children using electronic communication devices and a number of agencies have sprung up. Below are links to some useful web-sites. Your coffee task today is to use the links to explore some of the websites, find out what is going on in the world of e-safety and heighten your awareness of the issues. You might just save a child, daughter, son, grandchild, nephews and nieces, friends. We can do our bit to help keep them safe. Yes we can!
In the UK
CHILD EXPLOITATION AND ONLINE PROTECTION (CEOP) –
UK COUNCIL FOR CHILD INTERNET SAFETY (UKCCIS) –
THINK U KNOW – https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/
In the US
SAFEKIDS.COM – http://www.safekids.com/
UNITED STATES COMPUTER EMERGENCY READINESS TEAM (US-CERT) – https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips/ST05-002
WEBWISEKIDS – http://www.webwisekids.org/