Daniel started playing video games when he was 18 months old. I was a new parent and maybe this wasn’t the best decision – actually, I know for sure it wasn’t the best decision. However, what is done is done. He was amazing in some ways. He could use a mouse to make pictures on the MS Paint program on our first family computer – at 12 months old.
Paint wasn’t enough to keep his attention. He soon graduated to Mario 64 on my then-husband’s new Nintendo 64 consul. I was amazed to watch how he could with such small hands, still work all the buttons and joy stick on the controller. By 18 months, he was fascinated by Mario 64. He would play for hours, if I let him. By the time he was 2, he was an addict. Only Blue’s Clues could pull him away from Mario. I started to worry.
By the time he was two and a half, I was worrying about a lot of things. Toilet training him was difficult. Actually, keeping him clothed was difficult. He had no interest in any make believe games that required interaction with anyone else. He didn’t want to play in his room with his baby brother and me. He didn’t want me to read books to him or go to the park. He would have lived on the couch in our living room in nothing but a diaper.
I tried to limit the tv and computer. Daniel would completely melt down – biting, kicking, screaming. I noticed he really wasn’t progressing in his speech at all. He wasn’t interacting with anyone, not even the children that would come over to play. He was distant and detached. He had no interest in anything outside the electronic world of tv and video games. When I eliminated those, every day was hellish from the moment he woke up until he went to sleep. He had no interest in me, other then for food and even food was a challenge because he was such a picky eater.
I began searching for options, answers, “what I had done wrong”. My pediatrician wasn’t very helpful. Maybe I didn’t give him enough information. I was so scared that I was a horrible parent and that everyone was judging me. Our doctor’s opinion was that he was just a boy and boys develop slower. My ex-husband’s opinion was that I should just try to be Daniel’s friend. When I asked for counseling, his answer was, “If you need counseling, then it is broken beyond repair.” I was at my wit’s end.
I started searching on-line. There wasn’t much out there yet but I did find some information on how to work with my son when he melted down. I started using some of the techniques suggested. When Daniel melted down, I would hold him so he couldn’t hurt me or himself. I would calmly and in a quiet voice tell him it was ok and that he could stop and that I loved him. Very slowly, we began making progress.
We have come a long way. However, video games have been a reoccurring problem. Daniel has struggled to balance video games and life. For a long time, he could hardly get himself to stop playing when he needed to use the bathroom, let alone eat. Daniel has lied about his playing, been caught playing under the covers at 2 in the morning. He has forgone sleep to play. The only thing he has never done is lie about being sick so he could stay home from school to play. There have been very long, long stretches where he couldn’t have any video games at all.
Tomorrow – Part II Video Game Addiction? Part II – the Study and the Conclusion.