Bill MacKenty

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Games and compulsive internet use

Posted in Educational Tech Games in education on 18 - November 2007 at 08:39 PM (16 years ago). 224 views.

Good article in the New York Times about compulsive Internet use and a special boot camp in South Korea to help kids.

My short response to the article

Relax. Some teenagers go over the deep end and get hooked on internet games and chatting.  Some teenagers drink to much, some teenagers don’t eat enough. Like anything else, teenagers need guidance, boundaries, support, and involved adults in their lives. There is no evidence that playing a computer game makes someone an addict.

But we often hear and read stories about such things happening in the news.

There are some unique characteristics about computers and the internet, though, that may invite teenagers to become hooked.


My slightly longer response to the article

All teenagers deal with some sort of angst as they move from an identity centered on child to an identity centered in adult. In fact, the central struggle in adolescents is one of identity.

I think many teenagers play computer games because in the computer game, teenagers experience success, control, and power. In fact they may not be experiencing these things in real life. Logging onto Eve Online or WoW, a teenager is a powerful presence; they help new players, battle powerful opponents, and see their abilities and stature grow. They may become part of a guild, and work together to solve especially complex puzzles.

But the central issue is one of identity. Games let teenagers explore the very important question: who am I?

And this is what I think is the central hook - this is why computer games are more likely to draw teenagers into them than other mediums - teenagers can pretend to be another person, get away from angst, and troubles, to a virtual place where they are (often literally) a king.

The problem, of course, is when teenagers get stuck in these games. As I mentioned above, teenagers need guidance, boundaries and support - involved adults need to balance care and letting go as teenagers find themselves.