Posted on October 18th, 2011 in Media Addiction, Parents Stories, Public Policy | Leave a comment

The American Academy of Pediatrics today reaffirmed their position that media and screen time for kids younger than 2 can have potentially negative effects.

Recommendations include:

• The AAP realizes that media exposure is a reality for many families in today’s society. If parents choose to engage their young children with electronic media, they should have concrete strategies to manage it. Ideally, parents should review the content of what their child is watching and watch the program with their child.

• Parents are discouraged from placing a television set in their child’s bedroom.

• Parents need to realize that their own media use can have a negative effect on their children. Television that is intended for adults and is on with a young child in the room is distracting for both the parent and the child.

• Unstructured playtime is more valuable for the developing brain than any electronic media exposure. If a parent is not able to actively play with a child, that child should have solo playtime with an adult nearby. Even for infants as young as 4 months of age, solo play allows a child to think creatively, problem-solve, and accomplish tasks with minimal parent interaction. The parent can also learn something in the process of giving the child an opportunity to entertain himself or herself while remaining nearby.

The full AAP Policy Statement below:

Posted on October 11th, 2011 in Media Addiction, Parents Stories | Leave a comment

I was reading a local newspaper article this weekend about a man who is trying to raise his children as media free as possible. He claims that he is fanatical about going outside and trying to do physical activities as well as implementing a few rules in regards to media usage.  His co-author was poking fun of him through out the article and even went on to say that he was “holding” his children back from socializing and connecting with peers in the present day dynamic.

I am wondering why, as parents, it is holding our children back, or denying them their rights if we attempt to make them well-rounded, and all around healthy individuals.  I am not saying, nor have I ever stated that we should deny children the usage of technology, or even media. I do think that there is a line between allowing our children to utilize technology to further their knowledge base, and kids being addicted to texting, or facebook.  When we, as parents, do not set up rules and limits in regards to media devices we are in essence showing our children that they cannot and should not be able to live without their technological devices. I am wondering when, we as parents, lost control and gave it to our children?

A few of the tips that the author gave was:

  1. NO computers in their bedrooms, EVER.
  2. Have a time limit for any computer/media usage.
  3. All media devices were to be put away during ANY meal.
  4. They had to do at least one non-media related activity per day.

Parents need to set up perameters, and boundaries so that our children know what the expectation is.  Many articles, interviews, and research with adoloscents show a majority wish that their parents would set up rules, and ask them to not be on the computer as much.  They wish parents would have limits on personal usage too, and gave them more attention.  Some of the teenagers stated that they didn’t think they could stop their facebook, video game, computer usage or texting addiction without the assistance of family.  So, maybe now, we can take back some of that control and at least set up some rules and limits when it comes to media usage.

A well publicized article in the UK Daily Mail today reported an unusual story of a man, Mark Bradford, 46,  accused of assaulting a 13 year-old boy after being “killed” by him in the popular interactive video game, Call of Duty.  A grown up assaulting a child is appalling anytime, but to have been provoked by something supposed to be for fun has to call into question the culpability of these games.  The mother of the alleged victim said this, “If you can’t stand losing to a child, you shouldn’t play the game.”

Gamers and proponents of games like Call of Duty, often dismiss incidents like this as actions of a small minority, and that the games themselves should not be questioned as a result.  But think about it, when was the last time you heard of a grown man throttling a young boy over losing at Monopoly?  What you do see, time after time, in many violent crimes is that the accused are gamers.  Does it mean everyone who plays these games will attack kids, or go on violent rampages?  Of course not.

But, should light be shed on the fact that all too often violent video games are part of these stories?  We think so.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that government needs to prevent their distribution, it does lead me to think that there is some collective imperative that more research is done on the correlation between the two.

As a parent, pediatrician or involved citizen, what do you make of these growing incidents between violent video games and real life violence?



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?

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 an article about cartoons and the problems that occur with television ratings.  It is shocking that it isn’t just about the content in the cartoons but that what they are marketing and trying to sell to the kids during commercials.  The article was contained on , titled Cartoons Are No Laughing Matter.  It talked about the Nielsen Data, and how it states that TV-PG shows and cartoons are shown to not only be over-loaded with profanity, but also contain very adult storylines from rape, cocaine, STD’s and crystal meth.  They also said that networks are failing to warn parents what are in these shows, and specifically Cartoon Network failed to warn parents 100% of the time.

The article also talked about what the advertisements were during these TV-PG shows. They were definitely NOT advertising pillow pets, and toothbrushes, quite the contrary, they were advertising rated R movies, TV-MA shows, and DVD’s .  It is outrageous to think that we aren’t trying to persuade these already impressionable little kids into wanting to buy things that are completely innappropriate!  Just to warn other parents, once again, I think we might be alone in this world, and that no one is going to help us, so we must help each other!

I know that I keep talking about children and how media usage effects them. But I not only know this to be true from being a preschool teacher and a parent of two, but I believe in my heart that we need to help one another navigate through this media driven world.

I sometimes wonder why children have such a desire to have a cell phone, to text their friends, or play video games, watch violent movies, or even inappropriate television. But then I evaluate my own media usage and that of my friends and family. Children want to be adults at such a young age. Before there were cell phones and computers, the children wanted to drive as eary as possible, have a family and career of their own, and do things that made them feel grown up and adult. So, it would only figure that they would want to do everything that we, as adults, would do, including our media habits.

I am trying to model the media usage behavior that I would want them to display when they are older. I don’t text and drive, and try not to talk on the phone at all while driving. I do not text during meals, or any time that I am interacting with my children. I set aside time to use the computer, watch television, text and email while they are busy doing something else. I don’t want them to feel as though my media usage is more important than the time I get to spend with them. We do not have the television running while they are playing, they have set aside times to watch it, and so do I. I do not have the television running while I am doing other things as well. I shut down all media devices while they are not in use, so that there are specific times to use these, and that does not mean all day long. We cannot expect our children to live by a different standard than the one that we are setting for them.

Posted on June 28th, 2011 in Parents Stories | Leave a comment

Is Summer becoming a media frenzy at your house as well? I feel as though coming up with new and exciting activities for my kids to do is becoming harder and harder, and that the Wii, television shows, and movies are becoming more prevalent as the summer goes on. So because of this I have come up with a list of ideas that we are going to try and check off by the end of the summer.  We have come up with a list of things that both the kids have helped with as well as a few things that I would like to challenge them with by the time they go back to school.

My list of family summer ideas will hopefully serve as an inspiration for others of you that are struggling to find “creative” ways to spend your time this summer.