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In his book, Boys Adrift, Leonard Sax discusses the five factors that he believes are causing boys and young men to be unmotivated. These boys look for no success outside what pleases them directly and immediately. This article will give a synopsis of the second contributor to underachievement in capable boys, video games.
What is excessive video game play? The average boy spends more than thirteen hours a week playing video games. Some experts say that 30 minutes to an hour should be the max, but this can be left up to the parent of course. Video games can be a good diversion on long trips, and weekends are meant for more leisure time. Although, in my experience, forty minutes seems to be reasonable.
Here are some things to consider if you wonder whether or not your child is playing too much. Is he losing sleep? Are his grades dropping at school? Is he obsessed with playing? It has been proven that video games release dopamine (the pleasure chemical of the brain) in much the same way drugs release it. No reason kids want to play so much, they have addictive qualities. Therefore, game time must be seriously regulated, particularly since boys lose a sense of time when engrossed with a game.
Now, what is the correlation between boys who play and those who aren’t contributing much to society or their own future? These are boys who care little about their grades, are content to live with their parents well into adulthood, and aren’t interested in relationships that might lead to a family. In video games, boys are in control. They are tested at doing their best and are rewarded for their success. These are all things that typically drive boys to succeed in society but if they are getting these rewards from games, why should they seek them elsewhere? Sax interviewed girls who said that boys would rather play games than pursue them. What?! Video games fill a void for boys, causing them to get all the fulfillment they need, but to what end? A high score?
Some proponents argue that video games make kids smarter and they give the gamers faster hand/eye coordination. These are small payoffs for the amount of time squandered away at getting virtual points in a virtual world with virtual friends. Where is the real pay off? The Atlanta Braves aren’t calling because your son won the Virtual World Series. He may be quicker on the draw but Sax states that it is only by two-hundredths of a second (0.02) – when compared to kids who don’t play. It’s not worth it.
Is he smarter? Hardly. Smarter at the video game but the evidence does not support a cause and effect from games to school. In fact, “A series of studies over the past seven years has demonstrated clearly and unambiguously” that the more time your child spends playing video games, the less likely he is to do well in school at any level. Furthermore, as researchers account for variables, the evidence becomes stronger.
Don’t get me wrong. Some gaming is good. I play with my son. It’s a way to connect and I even use it to exercise. The main point to ponder is, “Are games taking the place of other, more enriching activities?” Also, is the subject matter appropriate? Researchers at Yale University have reported that playing violent video games leads directly to “aggressive behavior . . . and decreases in helping behavior.” Gamers also report fewer friends, depression, and heightened anxiety. Don’t get scared just yet because this does come from excessive play.
As a parent, you must ask yourself whether or not your child is playing too much. If he doesn’t care about school, wants to stay in all the time, and has few interests that can contribute to his future, it may be time to limit or completely take away the system. After all, will his life really be better if he continues playing?