Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Boston Children’s Hospital’s media expert and director of Boston Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Send him a media-related parenting question via firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston.
Last week, the New York Times featured an article entitled “Unlearning Gun Violence”, which discussed the work of an epidemiologist who, after a decade of fighting TB, HIV, and cholera in Africa, returned to a life-threatening epidemic in his hometown of Chicago—violence. He uses the same techniques that worked in Africa, teaching perpetrators and victims of violence to prevent recurrence of this deadly cycle. Such secondary and tertiary prevention is effective—but after the fact. Prevention of future violence can only happen after violence has occurred, identifying those at risk for aggression and victimization.
One day earlier, a research report in Pediatrics detailed the dramatic increase in gun violence in PG-13 movies, tripling over the past 3 decades. Movies that any child can watch (hopefully, but not necessarily with parental guidance) are now more violent than those that are restricted to those 17 or older unless accompanied by an adult. One day later, I was asked to present research in support of a bill in the Massachusetts Senate that would appoint an expert commission to study whether and how video games and other interactive media influence and teach their users. …
Q:My ten year old grandson is seemingly addicted to his Xbox and is allowed to play M-rated games. On weekend he spends hours on end playing. He becomes very defensive when you call him. His room has become his dungeon and his parents allow it, I guess to keep him out of their hair! Any advice?
~ Exasperated over Xbox, Rockaway Park, NY
A: Dear Exasperated,
Your question highlights a very common issue with raising children in today’s digital domain—namely, that different attitudes and rules about media use can be a source of much tension, not only between “digital native” children and their “digital immigrant” parents, but also between parenting and grand-parenting generations. Rest assured that you are not the first grandparent to disagree with parenting choices made by their children for their grandchildren – and it may not be possible to convince your children that you have a better idea. …
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. …
Q:My father-in-law bonds with my 4-year-old son by playing video games. Recently, he bought a LEGO pirates game, rated for 10 year olds, and the two play it for about an hour every time they see each other. I love that they spend time together, but since they started playing this game, my son has become more violent. My father-in-law doesn’t see the problem, even though I’ve tried talking with him about it. Is there research that might help convince him to choose other bonding activities?
-Baffled over bonding in Palo Alto, CA
A: Dear Baffled,