Monday, March 16, 2015

Minecraft Ruined My Child

I have a twelve year old. He is the oldest of five kids. He has always been a very calm, mild mannered, self-motivated child. He has so many good qualities I just love. He follows the rules, doesn't talk back, does what he is asked, and does his chores and  homework without any prompting. Sometimes I don't even notice he is around because he doesn't ask for much, entertains himself and is very quiet.

When he turned twelve he was allowed to get Minecraft. I never allowed him to get it before because I believe there are so many free apps and games to play I don't allow paid games or apps. He saved his money and asked to purchase it. I had heard how good it is for imagination and creativity so I did online research, and ultimately allowed it.

I began to notice that anytime he was not doing homework or chores he was on that game when he was home. He did nothing else for entertainment. He has never liked sports. He did try football but did not enjoy it. Now however, he did not even have any interest in TV or movies any longer, even though before he got the game there were a few shows he enjoyed watching. He used to enjoy reading, but hadn't picked up a book since getting the game either.

When I told him he needed to stop playing he would just sit and stare at the wall, or go to sleep. He did not play with his siblings, read, watch TV, build with Legos, play outside, or ride his bike. I started to get the feeling he was addicted to that game. It was all he thought about or talked about even if he was not playing.

I did not want to limit screen time. I never had a screen time limit growing up, but I still chose a lot of other activities to fill my time, so I assumed once he got bored of the game he would start doing other things again once the newness of it wore off. Five months later that still had not happened. I needed a plan to get him off that screen sometimes and doing other things. But how?

I tried reminding him for weeks that if he did not find other interests I would need to start placing a limit on screen time for all the kids, even though none of the others over do it and they all have other leisure activities they enjoyed.  After weeks of reminders, I placed a limit on screens for everyone and he is the only one that has any problem with it. I find him playing when I said not to and I promptly take the device away. The other kids do not do that.

Our lives have become HELL over here since this limit has been put in place. After two weeks of limited screen time, he still just sits and stares, plus he whines, asks why he can't play, tells me how mean I am and asks constantly what time it is and what time he is allowed to eat or go to bed just so he won't need to just sit there anymore. I have tried making hundreds of suggestions of activities he might want to do, but none of them are good enough because they are not Minecraft.

Yesterday I had him read many articles about why too much screen time is bad and why limiting it is good. He logically understands why, but he still does not like it. I believe he is addicted to Minecraft. The reason he is addicted is because electronics are designed to produce little dopamine rewards in our brains as we interact with them. It makes perfect sense then, that all other activities, after experiencing this, pale in comparison. It all seems boring now, because it isn't giving him the dopamine shots he was getting during game play.

I am really not picking on Minecraft alone, really any game can be addicting, I just have never seen it myself. My son's poison is Minecraft. Another kid's may be another game. I love Minecraft as far as video games go because it is better than a lot of them out there. I just don't like how addicting it is and how much my son plays.

I read that once a child is addicted and limits are newly placed on screens it can take months before children can enjoy other activities. I hope not, because this is a horrible way to live for the entire household. It would be so much easier for me not to have limits. In fact I wrote a blog about The Benefits of Screen Time two weeks ago! This would not help my child, however, therefore, I am going the harder, yet more beneficial route.

I learned the hard way, limit screens before it gets out of hand.

Is your child addicted to a particular game? Do you have screen time limits or do your kids get to play as much as they want to?