A Sad Reminder of the Influence of Video Games
Here in Canada where I live, a story began unfolding on
Canada's Thanksgiving Day weekend on October 12, 2008.
In the province of Ontario, 15-year-old Brandon Crisp was
handed the ultimate judgment from his frustrated and loving father when his
treasured Xbox was taken away. It seems Brandon had become totally immersed in
playing a particular game -- Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare -- during
which he interacted with other on-line players over the Internet.
Watching his son become further and further pulled into the
game's universe, and even waking up during the middle of the night to hear his
boy playing the game (an account recorded by Brandon's mom in an
October 22, 2008 follow-up article), Brandon's father Steve finally took the
In response, Brandon did what so many of us parents have
watched our own kids do -- he ran away.
"I fully expected him to be home the next day or evening at
worse, with his tail between his legs," said his distraught father on October
27, 2008 in yet another article reporting that the boy still had not been
On November 5, 2008,
police and volunteers found a body of a young boy near the Crisp's home
after weeks of massive search efforts.
Later autopsy reports indicate he died from injuries to his chest that
likely happened after falling from a tree.
October 27 interview, Steve Crisp said, "[The game] has become [Brandon's]
identity, and I didn't realize how in-depth this was until I took his Xbox
away... That's like cutting his legs off. This is such an issue that hits every
parent out there, with video games that are starting to control our kids'
Here in Canada, this story has become a national reminder
as to how necessary it is for parents to monitor and hold a regular dialogue
with their children about what they are doing on the Internet, what kinds of
video games they play, and many other aspects of media use that may be affecting
their mental health.
Coincidentally, just last month Toronto's
Centre for Addiction and Mental Heath began Canada's first clinic
specifically designed to help young people who are struggling with Internet and
video game addictions. Called the Adolescent Clinical Education Service (ACES),
the program also deals with gambling -- another draw for adolescents who are
chronic Internet users.
Dr. Bruce Ballon, head of the new clinic, says the idea is
in response to "tons of calls" from parents complaining about their children's
Internet use. He says addictive on-line behavior is usually "another
manifestation or coping mechanism or strategy to deal with other issues."
Currently Ballon, a child psychiatrist, along with another
psychologist and researcher, are seeing patients between the ages of 16 and 24,
however he says he wants to include teens as young as 14.
If it's at all surprising that children as young as 14 are
having serious game playing issues, you may also be interested to know some
40-year-olds are in similar straits.
This article details stories of two men, one 40 the other 37, who also
battled with game playing addictions -- along with other often related
With the holiday season upon us, these tragic tales of a
recreational activity gone wrong are an important reminder of how technology
often creeps past its intended boundaries. Whether a spouse, child or other
significant loved one, if you notice tendencies toward unexplained drops in
school or work performance, missing money, mysterious credit card charges, or
changing sleep habits, you may want to investigate the cause of such changes.
Also, make use of the latest operating systems' features on
personal computers and video game consoles to limit Internet use and time spent
on particular games or even on the computer itself. And keep your home computer
and video game system in a prominent place where people can see who is using it
and what they are doing. Avoid allowing computers and games to be used in
bedrooms or other private places -- and if possible try and model this behavior
Today (November 14, 2008)
Brandon's parents are attending the funeral for their son. It turns out
loved playing hockey, but was deemed to be too small to continue on his
team. That's when he began his obsession with video games.
As a parent of four (and a guy who was also often relegated
to sitting on the sidelines because I was horrible at competitive sports) my
heart goes out to them completely. They tried so hard to allow their son to have
what he wanted, and at the same time they did what they thought was best to
guide his actions. May all of us, parents and children, determine not to let
this happen again.
Besides writing this column for the Parents Television Council, Rod Gustafson authors Parent Previews® - a newspaper and Internet column (published in association with movies.com) that reviews movies from a parent's perspective. He's also the film critic for a major Canadian TV station, various radio stations and serves on the executive of the Alberta Association for Media Awareness. Finally, his most important role is being the father to four wonderful children and husband to his beautiful wife (and co-worker) Donna.
and the Media by Rod Gustafson
Television Council -
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