Posted on October 5th, 2011 in Media Addiction, Public Policy | Leave a comment

While researching media addiction, I came across some details on internet addiction.  A study was recently published in the journal Injury Prevention.  It stated that in teenagers that were addicted to the internet they were five times more likely to hurt themselves.  Injuries have included burning themselves, pulling out their hair, or hitting or pinching themselves.  If you are wondering if your child might be addicted, here are some of the signs to look out for;

  • Excessive time spent devoted to using the Internet
  • Depression, moodiness or nervousness when not online
  • Fantasizing about or being preoccupied with being online
  • A change in sleeping patterns or habits
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Lying about time spent on the Internet or denying use
  • Neglecting family, friends or activities they used to enjoy
  • Using the Internet to avoid problems

If you think that your child might be addicted to the internet then there are a few things you can do first, before you seek professional help.

  1. You need to limit computer usage.  There needs to be a start and stop time.
  2. You should put the computer in a common area where the time spent on the computer can be monitored at all times.
  3. Talk to them about the reasons they are on the computer all of the time, and see if there is anything that you can do without seeking professional help.
  4. If all else fails, seek professional, medical assistance.

There have been quite a few questions in the media and legally about what the justice system can do to regulate the gaming community without infringing on individual’s rights.  I think we all know how I feel about that, but if you don’t, I believe that every person has a right to play whatever they want, but when it comes to children, we need to protect them.  Sometimes that means knowing more than they do, sometimes that means regulating by law what they can and cannot do, and sometimes, just sometimes it means stepping up to the plate and doing what is right, but not what is always popular.

I came across a CNN article about the gaming industry in Japan and how they are allowed to create anything without being censored.  The reporter was explaining how this greatly affects us here in America.  If you have access to the internet, you can download any video game that is created anywhere in the world, not just the ones that are deemed acceptable by our own government. There was a video game that was created in Japan called RapeLay.  It is a video game that was created to simulate a rapist who can follow, groom, and then rape their victims which could be females, children, etc.  It was actually sold on Amazon for a short period of time, until the uproar caused by the public forced them to remove it from the website.  I am appalled that Amazon was ever going to sell the game, but the fact that it was created in the first place is unsettling as well.  The reporter actually interviewed a couple in England that was able to download the game onto their computer via skype and play it as if they had bought the game off the shelf at their local Walmart.

I believe that as parents, and community leaders, as caregivers, educators, and citizens of the United States, we need to ask the gaming community to not allow any games to be downloaded via the internet that are not sanctioned by their companies. Similar to television V-chips, I think there should be a lock available for computers that can allow parents to filter the material that can be downloaded on computers, or foreign material that isn’t regulated by our own government.

That may or may not ever take place, so instead of waiting around, what can you do?  My husband and I were asking this question the other night, this is what we’ve come up with:

We were talking about what we will do when our children become the age where they will be encoutering innappropriate media with or without our supervision.  My husband’s first reaction will be that he will make sure that he knows more than they do in regards to the games that are out there, and the movies that are available.  I think that is great, more power to him and to all of the parents out there that can do that.

I also said that I would put any video game consule that we have out in the common area so that whatever game they play will be in full view of the entire family.  That was one thing that prevented me from watching inappropriate television when I was growing up, because the only television we had was in the family room for all to see! We also talked about going over the ratings system and finding out why they are rated the way they are and what other “gamers” are posting about this particular game before we purchase it.  My husband says that he will periodically watch them playing the game, and this includes at the beginning, through out the middle and at the end.

But what happens when we aren’t home? What happens when he or she is at a friend’s house that doesn’t believe exactly what we believe?  What happens when he or she stumble upon something inappropriate?

It’s on these questions that we would love to see some government action.  Maybe it’s an awareness campaign, similar to the anti drug public service announcements of the 1980’s and 1990’s, maybe it is stricter distribution on suspect material, maybe it’s increased regulation on what can be produced.  Even with all of these things, with the ease of information distribution on the internet, it’s going to take the vigilance of parents to protect our children.

I have read many stories recently of famous couples that are suffering from a spouse that is addicted to playing video games.  These relationships are just examples of the average couple, because there are many couples out there that suffer from this exact same problem.  It puts a strain on the marriage and makes for a very neglected relationship. 

In an attempt to find solutions for those in desperate need of help for media addiction therapy I found a couples therapy group in Seattle, Washington. The therapy group  is led by two women, Dr. Hilarie Cash and Ana DiNoto.  Dr. Hilarie Cash is the co-founder of Internet/Computer Addiction Services and Ana DiNoto is studying for her doctorate in clinical psychology with a focus in video game/Internet addiction at Argosy University in Seattle, Washington. They lead couples therapy sessions in an attempt to:

  • allow individuals in the broken couple to feel as though they are not alone and that other people are suffering with the same problem, so that they can gain support from others.
  • to heal communication problems that are caused by media addiction.
  • help rebuild damaged relationships by showing the individuals in the relationship to recognize the patterns that they participate in that contribute to the addiction.
  • give the addicted member of the couple the ability to understand how their addiction interferes with the intimacy of the relationship, and also to learn the skills that they need to have a satisfying and successful relationship.

I just hope that evidence of these therapy options allows people to understand that media addiction is a real problem, with real solutions.  I also hope that those individuals that are suffering with these issues know that they are not alone.

I read an article from 2007 that was showing that playing video games has altered some children’s personalities as well as their choices and behaviors.  The article went on to say that some experts believe that playing video games is as addictive as using heroine.  The article said that almost 90% of American youth play video games and as much as 15% of them are classified as addicted, this is almost 5 million kids.

From the article, Joyce Protopapas of Frisco, Texas commenting on her 17 year old son, Michael, said: “We went to therapists, we tried taking the game away.  He would threaten us physically. He would curse and call us every name imaginable, It was as if he was possessed.”

The article goes on to state that there was an anonymous website created for gamers who are wanting help.  A posting by an thirteen year old who stated that after playing video games for twelve hours he was suicidal and was thinking he was addicted.  The website also had numerous postings from men who had lost everything because of their video game habits.

The AMA will be deciding later this year as to whether it will classify Video Addiction as a Mental Disorder.  It seems that the article has quotes and opinions from quite a few mothers that would agree that media addiction should be classified as a mental disorder, and also taken more seriously in the addiction arena.

While this article is only one example, we’ve shared many examples of media addiction, specifically video game addiction and it’s impacts on kids.  Do you think if the AMA took this big step, it would have an impact on parents?

Posted on September 9th, 2011 in Media Addiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

If you have never heard of the game Angry Birds than you should look around, because it is everywhere. In every catalogue I have received, to every promotional advertisement…this game is literally everywhere you look. They are selling t-shirts, mugs, and baseball hats with this Angry Birds logo on it! Parents are saying that not only are they addicted to this game, but their children are addicted to playing the game as well. Many parents started out giving their children their I-Phone while they were in line at the post office, or in the waiting room of a doctor, and then it turned into this obsession and many of them are having to restrict their child’s usage.
I have talked about research that I have found in regards to violent video games and how they are disgusting and immoral and horrific in nature, but ALL video games are highly addictive, and this goes for any game out there. It seems that this Angry Birds game is so highly addictive that it ends up becoming overwhelming for the player. I just wonder what makes one video game more addictive than the other. I know that in casual conversation men and women alike will refer to their child as being “addicted” to video games and will say that it is a certain game that has them hooked. I have also talked to women who say that all their husband does is play video games, and that he is more obsessed with certain games. I just wonder if it is dependent on the person, or if a game like Angry Birds will hook any type of person, no matter what circumstances! Just be aware before you allow your child to play this game, because it might cause you and your child more harm than good!

It sometimes feels as though we, as parents, are helpless against the giant known as the video game industry. They are a multi-billion dollar industry with worldwide popularity, momentum, and very little oversight.

In places like Korea, there are 300 professional gamers who play in 11 teams. Corporations will pay as much as $20 million dollars per year just to sponsor them. While we’re not reflexively anti-video game, with the facts about the addictive effects that these games have, and that many of the most popular games depict graphic violence, it seems as though parents have few options but to fight against the industry as a whole.

As gaming becomes more prevalent, and potentially becomes even more popular in the US, as it is in places like Korea, here are some facts to consider as parents:

Depending on your perspective this may not seem like too high of a number, but when compared to the use of crack cocaine it shows the quantity of impact.  According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) research, .7 of the population of the United States has been reported of using crack cocaine.  That means that if you compare that out of the entire population of the United States, 12.5% of them are clinically addicted to video games, and only .7 of them are addicted to crack cocaine.  By no means am I comparing the impacts of crack addiction to that of video games.  However with the known impacts any addiction has on relationships, it certainly should give us pause.  If there’s been a nearly 3 decade “War on Drugs” by the Federal government, how come with video game addiction there’s been only a few shots fired?

Clearly, as we’ve discussed, we can’t count of the government to intervene.  Whether it’s the Supreme Court viewing video games as free speech, or the executive and legislative branches viewing the adverse impacts too far down the list of public health issues, parents can’t count on anyone else to look out for your children on media related issues.

So our challenge is this, Step Up!  Become a MVP, and build a family that is attuned the realities of video game addiction today.

I was reading more about the death surrounding the gamer, Chris Staniforth, who died of a blod clot.  Above all else, this is very sad.  With that said, it’s frustrating because it’s totally preventable.  Medical professionals are now coming out and saying that those individuals who play these games need to take regular breaks to move around and exercise their bodies.

We know this issue extends far beyond just an extreme case like this.  Excessive gaming, especially violent games, has shown major physiological changes on the brain, as well as a host of other public health issues.

Our hope is that a terrible case like this, sheds more light on an important, yet largely unknown issues associated with video game play.  Clearly, the video game industry doesn’t aim for outcomes like this.  But as parents, teachers, physicians, and other citizens engaged in society, we should hold every industry to similar scrutiny.

While it’s easy to throw stones at things that have a more direct correlation to adverse outcomes, like alcohol or tabacco, stories like this raise sometimes more challenging questions.  Should there be regulations or warnings?  Would that even have impact on those gamers that seem to show signs of addiction?  Does the government have any role in regulation of these games, or, as the Supreme Court ruled, is this artistic expression.

What’s clear is that the days of Pong and Mario Brothers are long behind us.  We would be interested to hear your thoughts on how you process through these issues when Constitutional rights run into public health and safety issues.

Posted on August 1st, 2011 in Media Addiction | Leave a comment

Athletes today are becoming more media addicted than ever before. I read an article that talked about athletes and their video game addictions. It quoted and described three athletes and their video game experiences, and it was horrible how they talked about their usage in such a casual way. They talked about playing games for 5 to 6 hours as if that was normal and apart of every day life. You can read it here.

It makes me wonder if the athletes that our youth are idolizing are influencing their media usage. As our children look up to these athletes and try to emulate them, it makes me wonder if we know the whole truth behind their influence. If they are making millions of dollars off their video game endorsements, then how could they not be trying to sell our children to buy, play and become addicted to the items that they are making money on?! I just wonder about the sincerity in which they present themselves and their life experiences.

As parents, I think we need to question these athletes and ask what their intentions are, and at what cost are we going to let them influence our kids? Athletes talking about being addicted to video games like that is apart of life, athletes endorsing violent video games, and athletes being apart of the video games themselves….when is enough, enough?


Posted on June 23rd, 2011 in Media Addiction, Parents Stories | 2 Comments

When is an appropriate age for cell phone ownership?  I feel as though when I am out in public that the kids running around texting and using cell phones is getting younger and younger.  I am afraid that my six year old is going to be asking for one at her next birthday.  All kidding aside, there is more here than just status image or responsible cell phone usage.  Cell phones give kids a way to communicate with one another that is completely unedited..  There are many different issues with basic cell phones, however, now that cell phones can access the web there are a variety of new problems that arise with their ownership as well as their usage.

A few problems that I have come across with parents, educators and other minors are;

  • Sexting
  • Bullying via texting as well as other online avenues, i.e Facebook.
  • Gaming Addictions
  • Texting While Driving
  • Texting Addiction

It is hard for parents to be able to monitor who their children are talking to, and what is being said, because even the most diligent parents can’t access deleted texts, and can’t monitor communication via the phone.

Dr. Claire McCarthy a primary care physician at the Children’s Hospital Boston, recently ran into the cell phone issue with her 10-year-old, complete with itemized notes, explaining the reasons whey she should be given a cell phone.  As Dr. McCarthy states in her blog, and we have posted here at the MVRC, a 2009 Kaiser Family Foundation report says 31 percent of 8-10 year olds have cell phones.

Some of the issues I raised above were on the doctor’s mind, as she and her husband considered the request.  In addition to the above, they correctly considered an early exposure to the low-level radiation from a cell phones.  As well, the real driver behind their daughter’s motivation, fitting in with what is considered “cool”.  In the end, they decided against giving their 10 year old a cell phone.

Do any other parents have stories to share, and how they’ve considered this 21st Century parenting dilemma?  We’d love to hear from you.


Posted on May 18th, 2011 in Media Addiction | Leave a comment


Video game addiction has affected many people. How many times have we seen a parody on television of a child throwing a fit because they are forced to stop playing their video games, or turn them off, etc? The sad thing is that this type of behavior is more common than not! I think that the most clear example of video addiction should be that the ONLY successful video addiction rehab center in the country is located in Seattle, outside the Microsoft headquarters! We are seeing more and more marriages and relationships breaking up because ADULTS are showing signs of video game addiction. Playing video games used to be isolated to adolescents, however, those adolescents are now grown adults, and we are seeing that they are not giving up playing the video games. The most famous example of this was a few years back when the famous tennis player, Andy Murray, was dumped by his girlfriend because of his over-excessive video game usage!