Stories about: Michael Rich

What can I do for my 15-year-old son, who has Asperger’s and ADHD and seems addicted to video games?

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

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

Q: My son is 15 and displays symptoms of video game addiction, including lying and sneaking to try to gain access. He has Asperger’s and ADHD, and regardless of what medication regimen we try, the gaming obsession remains. I recently asked the psychiatrist to hospitalize him and treat him as they would other addicts, but they just changed his meds. Anyway, even if he were treated, he needs the computer for school. Do you have any advice for me?

Dealing with Addiction, Orlando, FL

A: Dear Dealing with Addiction,

Unfortunately, more and more families share your story. Whether through sleep deprivation, anxiety, or social isolation, teens struggling with problematic video game or internet use are suffering, and their families are disrupted. And research shows that young people with ADHD may actually be more susceptible to problematic video game or internet use.

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Ratings Reality: Who rates our media and what that means for children

By Kristelle Lavallee, staff member at Boston Children’s Hospital’s Center on Media and Child Health

Are you looking to take the family to a movie but aren’t sure whether your child should see The Hunger Games (PG-13) or Bully (unrated)? If you base the decision on the Motion Picture Association of American (MPAA) ratings, the answer seems pretty cut and dry—“maybe” to Hunger Games, and “no” to Bully. But are the movie ratings the best guide to making healthy media choices for your children?

Based on the best-selling novel, The Hunger Games is a fantasy story where teenagers are pitted against each other in a battle to the death broadcast on live TV. In contrast, Bully is a “slice of life” documentary about peer-on-peer bullying in American schools.

Both movies center on children and teenagers, but the fictional Hunger Games, portraying “intense violent thematic material and disturbing images” (MPAA’s description) was given a PG-13 rating, while the documentary Bully with “some language” (MPAA again) was rated R. The producers of Bully knew that accepting an R rating would greatly limit the film’s impact as an educational tool for young viewers, so they chose to release it unrated. But when a film is released without an MPAA rating, it comes at a price: Fewer theaters are willing to show it, and those that do will treat it the same way they treat films unrated for extreme violence or sex.

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Is The Hunger Games movie too scary for younger fans of the book?

Scene from The Hunger Games movie

The movie The Hunger Games opens today, and record tickets sales are expected to make the grisly, post-apocalyptic, survival tale one of the spring’s biggest blockbusters. Like the Harry Potter and Twilight series before it, The Hunger Games film is based on a book written for young adults that has captured the imaginations of readers of all ages.

Considering the ultraviolent nature of The Hunger Games’ plot line—24 teenage protagonists are pitted against each other in a fight to the death—is all this hype a good thing for young, would-be fans? The intended age for young adult novels is 12 to 17, but the books’ popularity has piqued the interest of much younger readers. Not wanting to sully their younger children’s budding interest in reading, many parents across the country have allowed them to read the story.

But just because your child has read The Hunger Game books, does that mean she’s ready to watch it’s bloody action unfold on the big screen? The answer will vary from child to child, but it’s a question parents of younger Hunger Game fans need to ask.

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Could my 14-year-old son’s anxiety be related to playing video games?

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

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

Q: Is there a connection between excessive video game playing and increased anxiety levels? My son is 14 and has some basic anxieties like walking the dog at night that I feel are made worse by the first-person shooter games he plays. I’d love to understand if you have seen any connections here.

Grappling with Gaming, in Westfield, NJ

A: Dear Grappling,

As a parent, you are the best monitor of your son’s well-being. If you have seen an increase in his anxiety that has paralleled his increase in first-person shooter (FPS) game play, then it is probably worth seeing what happens if he cuts back on or eliminates playing these games. Research supports what you are observing—it has found that children and adolescents frequently respond to media violence with increased fear and anxiety, because action entertainment makes violence seem more prevalent than it actually is.

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