Hazem, or Zoom as he prefers to be called, is a 15-year-old from Houston, TX. He enjoys fantasy novels, video games and chilling with friends. His favorite subjects are English, Literature and Chemistry. He wants to be an International Lawyer.
It is far from uncommon for parents to complain and argue about their kids’ obsession with videogames. They keep them stuck in the house, damage their eyesight and, worst of all, “dumb them down”. But why is it that so many kids are so obsessed with their games? Parents almost never stop to ask this question and as a result, the usual scenario happens. War drums boom as the fight between child and parent begins with no end in sight. Is there a way to understand? Of course; there always is. Let’s first explore why kids are so obsessed with their videogames.
Virtual worlds provide a haven like no other for kids and teens. Especially with role-playing games, you can be virtually anything you want. Your name, appearance, role, and even gender are all based solely on your choice in many games these days. If a teen is bullied at school, does not like what life has given them, or feels they are underappreciated and misunderstood, they will start to find refuge in the virtual world. There is no shortage to the amount of stories about people who’ve picked up a completely new identity on online videogames. Coupled with a sense of belonging in the game’s universe, this factor alone is enough for kids and teens to get hooked on videogames with no intention of leaving them.
Another major reason for kids and teens taking up videogames and virtual worlds is for distraction. Let’s say there is a teenager whose parents just went through a bitter divorce. With the family split apart, it is almost obvious that they will take up some sort of distraction to take their pain and grief off it. Videogames are perfect for said distraction; they provide that sense of “everything is as you want it to be”. For example, I know a boy who started playing World of Warcraft, known as one of the most devastating and addicting videogames, as soon as he broke up with a girl he really loved. For two years, his social life deteriorated as his addiction grew and grew. It took him a hole in his wallet and a sudden feeling of lacking to wake up from the spell, to realize that the ‘comfort’ the game was providing him was far from what he needed. Though he is off the hook now, he still plays it every once in a while when he faces hardships.
While these two reasons are certainly not the only ones, they are highly important. What we need to ask now is how do parents address the reasons behind this? The most important thing parents need, not only in the issue of videogames but also with any problem with their kids, is patience. Since lots of cases of videogame addiction are due to issues the teen is going through, parents need to be patient and not burst at them. They need to analyze what the teen is going through, whether by observation (not stalking, though) or by just asking them. Before they begin judging the teen, they need to understand what they’re going through. Once they do, parents will know if they can then proceed with trying to help their teen. If parents find out there’s actually nothing troubling them, well, then that’s another story.
Though a teen immersing themselves in virtual worlds is often the result of adolescent problems, it does not mean that is the only thing games are good for. As a former gamer, I can say that few things compare to losing yourself in a world you’ve created and can see with your own eyes even though you know it isn’t real. In short, while parents should be weary of how much video games their kids are playing, they also need to understand the joy and thrill of it. So they may allow their kids to enjoy one of the most creative mediums of the twenty-first century.
Photo Credit: therapycatguardian from Flickr