Stories about: feeling of control in kids

"What I wish parents knew about eating disorders…"

In the following blog, a teenager who has overcome an eating disorder reflects on what she wishes more parents knew about the condition. For more information visit Children’s Center for Young Women website, or this parent’s guide to eating disorders.

It was never about weight. I just wanted to feel like I had some control.

I never thought I was fat. In fact, I liked the way I looked before I developed an eating disorder and liked my body less and less as I continued to lose weight. What a lot of people, including my parents, didn’t understand is that an eating disorder functions as a coping mechanism for other problems in someone’s life.

As I met more people who suffered from eating disorders, I realized that many of us had something in common. Many felt some sort of loss of control in their life and had used their eating disorder as a reaction or way to deal with it. Although for some people bad body image did play a large role in what started their eating disorder, for a lot of people it was the feeling of losing control in their life that they discovered was the initial cause of their eating disorder.

People with anorexia nervosa feel like they are able to gain control through extreme dieting and strict rules around food. They control what they eat, and eventually the shape and size of their body. Although it is an unhealthy coping mechanism, the eating disorder gives them a sense of relief that there is one thing in their life they can completely control without anyone else being able to have an influence.

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Does being in control of video games make kids more easily frustrated in the real world?

Michael Rich, MD, MPH is Children’s media expert. He is the director of Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Take a look at his blog archive or follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston.

Michael Rich, MD, MPH
Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Last week he answered your questions on if TV for toddlers can lead to poor school preformance later in life. This week he answers your question about whether or not feelings of control in video games make kids more easily frustrated in real life.

Q: Many of the kids I know have been playing video games from a very young age. For the most part, as these children have grown up, they have become anti-social and easily frustrated. Are there any studies showing that these games, where the player is always in control, affect behavior and the ability to live in the real world?
Kids in Control? in Santa Monica, CA

A: Dear Kids in Control,

If the kids you are talking about are now teenagers, then their anti-social qualities may just be part of their current stage of life! However, it may be that they seem more withdrawn than other kids their age, or that they are past adolescence and still seem anti-social. Looking at the scientific research, there are a number of studies about the effects of violent video games on behavior. One author actually compared all of these studies to each other and concluded: The evidence strongly suggests that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for…decreased empathy and prosocial behavior. So it is possible that kids who play a lot of violent video games will grow up to be less social. However, the study does not examine why that is.

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