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Overcoming The Video Gaming Syndrome (VGS)-Part One -Adolescents

Aug 17, 2007
One of things I like to do is go to FreeCell when I open my computer for the day. It relaxes me. It is fun to play. It does not cost me anything since it comes free with Windows 98. However, it is a time grabber. I spend about 20 minutes each morning trying to get all the cards out of the deck. 68 percent of the time I win. 32 percent of the time I either bomb out or else I see where I have to give up the game.

I make it my rule to play only one game. If I win, that is great. If I lose, I do not come back at least until the next day. Does this make me a habitual video gaming addict? I think not, since I am in control over how much I play and under what terms I wish to play the game.

When I see the workload I have in front of me, I now have revised my computer routine. I do not play FreeCell any longer. If I am on the computer each day, that means I spend two hours each week trying to figure out how to master the cards in front of me. This means my writing must suffer. My marketing also must give up some precious time. So, the little time I spend playing FreeCell on my computer has gone to zero.

I would not have given this a second thought if it were not for two isolated events. One event just happened along by accident. The other event sprang from my recollection of my prior projects. I blundered quite by accident into a FreeCell website while searching for another topic. I found out FreeCell could be played all over the Web. I also discovered that some of the FreeCell player scores reached into astronomical levels. If I had a win percentage like some of the players I saw on one or more of the FreeCell websites, I would have been given a ticker tape parade on Main Street. If I had opted to play FreeCell as frequently as some of the players there, I would have found myself doing nothing else in my whole life except playing FreeCell. I would not have any more time to eat. I could not devote a minute's worth of time to write or to take care of my frail and ailing wife.

Not only did I see an impressive volume of games played. The high scores achieved were equally impressive. Because FreeCell has now become interactive over the Web, I would be in competition with these other players. If there were any wagering or prizes associated with winning, I would be stripped clean of money. I would not be playing FreeCell any more for the fun of it. I would be in deadly competition with people I did not know except by names such as CardWiz, Zingo, BingBang, The Vamp, and others with similar "handles".

VGS starts early. It appears never to leave. On the contrary, it only gets worse. Here is a posted article from a parent that is distraught over what has been happening to her son.

"My son is a sophomore at Albany High, and he appears to be addicted to video games. I think his ideal life would be sitting in front of a computer monitor with an IV in his arm to deliver enough nutrients and caffeine that he wouldn't have to eat or sleep. He also has started to lie to his mother and me -- and to his teachers -- about his schoolwork to maximize his access to the video games, particularly those on the web. He has some friends, but they tend to be limited to other "gamers."

"Does anyone have any advice and/or good resources for dealing with this problem? In one sense, I'm glad he isn't out on the streets getting into drugs or other forms of trouble. But I fear his life has become so one-dimensional that he will be damaged as a result of this obsession."

-Anonymous

Many parents have found similar problems with their children and video game addictions. They don't know what to do. Many people only relate addiction to drugs or alcohol or smoking but addictions can come in many forms.

So what is an addiction?

Addition is a state of being where the person needs more and more of a substance or behavior to keep him going.

If the person does not get more of the substance or behavior, he becomes irritable and miserable.
Addictions can vary in intensity. One can really like playing video games and will miss it if he or she does not play one or two days. This person will be unlikely to go into withdrawal. On the other hand, there are others who cannot live without playing at least several hours a day. Addiction to this extent is not in epidemic proportions, but small addictions are seen everyday in different people's lives.

Video games have been known to cause people to have violent behavior because of the guns and other weapons involved in video games. Video gamers are usually pre-teens from ages 10-13 but there can be other age groups that are addicted.

Here are some of the symptoms and observations about VGS in the pre-teen and teen groups:
1. Does your child or adolescent play almost every day?
2. Does he or she often play for long periods of time, often 3 to 4 hours or longer?
3. Does he or she play for excitement?
4. Is there an outbreak of hostility if he or she can't play?

If the answer is yes to any of these or other questions, you have a problem. Moreover, you have a responsibility to your child or adolescent to nip this problem in the bud before it gets worse.

VGS can be uncontrollably addictive as adolescents become adults. If you as parents do not step in and take control at this early stage in life, the lives of your kids can be permanently ruined. Parents need to be aware of this and protect their children from getting to the VGS stage.

You must also be prepared to teach your child the worthlessness and pitfalls of VGS. Approach it from a perspective of how much time gets wasted, or what got accomplished. Did your son win a letter for quarterbacking the high school football team? Did your son win a 70 rating for War On Worlds (WOW). A football letter will always remain, but an electronic screen entry can always get erased.

Here are some other solutions you as parents can employ:

Give children educational rather than violent games.

Encourage video game playing in groups rather than as a solitary activity.

Set time limits on children's playing time. Tell them they can play for a couple of hours after they have done their homework - not before.

Ensure children follow the video game manufacturer's recommendations. For example, they should sit at least two feet from the screen, play in a well-lit room, never have the screen at maximum brightness, and never play when feeling tired.

Finally, if all else fails, take away the game's console and give it back on a part-time basis when appropriate.

The ultimate solution is for you to maintain control of the high speed internet connection in your home and never allow this to pass into the hands of your children. You must be prepared for some strenuous backlash to this or else a lot of whining about why you or your spouse do not trust the kids.

My answer to this one "Would you trust a fox to watch the hen house?" We all know this much: a house without a high speed internet connection is completely disabled from VGS. The speeds are much too slow. The game action will crawl. The chat lines moan and groan. With several good ideas how to manage your computers and your telephone connections, you have put VGS out of business and are well on your way to taking back your lives.

As long as the family unit stays together, there is hope in combating VGS. The hope here is that both parents follow these simple rules almost religiously.

Rule Number 1: As soon as you or your spouse suspect VGS, get help! As easy as you might think you can eradicate the problem, think again. VGS is like a snake with multiple heads.

Rule Number Two: Stay together. Your offspring will look for every which way to get you and your spouse to take sides against each other. Once they have succeeded in getting you into opposing camps, they will mop up at your expense.

Rule Number Three: Apply tough love. While you must stay on top of what your offspring may be doing, do not assume the role of being a dictator. Your greatest chances for success will be in how effectively you can disarm the evil Captain Zappo from being their new hero. We wish you luck!
About the Author
Bob Carper is a veteran information systems consultant specializing in verbal and written communication. He is an ardent writer and belongs to various societies. You may contact him at robertcarper06@comcast.net or visit http://www.secure-webconference.citymax.com
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