Two articles I read recently have me asking myself over and over again, “Where are the parents?” The first, Compulsive Gamers not Addicts, appeared on the BBC News web site in late November. The article discusses how young people being treated in in Britan for gaming addiction are actually not addicts at all.’  The founder of a UK clinic to treat gaming addiction, Keith Bakker is quoted saying, “…the more we work with these kids the less I believe we can call this addiction. What many of these kids need is their parents and their school teachers – this is a social problem.”

That seems to say it all.’  Many teens who game hours and hours on end aren’t necessarily doing it because they are addicted. They are constantly gaming because they don’t have anything else to do and don’t have anyone else helping them to figure out what to do with their time.

This feeds right into the results of a study released last week about children’s use of media and their health.’  The study found that children who spend a lot of time with media – TV, computers, etc. – were more likely to be obese, smoke, and so on.’ ‘  Jim Steyer, of Common Sense Media, is quoted in the New York Times article on the study this way, “The average parent doesn’t understand that if you plop your kids down in front of the TV or the computer for five hours a day, it can change their brain development, it can make them fat, and it can lead them to get involved in risky sexual activity at a young age.”

How can one not help but ask after reading articles about gaming addiction and child health, “Where are the parents?”

It’s always frustrating to me to see technology, media, games, and whatever blamed for the behaviors of young people. While there is no doubt in my mind that if a 14-year-old sits in front of a computer all day her behaviors and health might be affected, but, I can’t blame that on the computer. No way. That teenagers parents’, or other caring adults in her life, should be helping her to find a variety of things to do with her time. Some time might be spent on the computer and some time might be spent in other activities.

If you find yourself involved in a conversation with other adults about gaming addiction and/or the negative impact of teen media consumption, don’t be afraid to do some poking and prodding. Perhaps ask the adults what role they think parents (and other caring adults) play in teen use of technology and media.’  Perhaps ask what those you are talking with think grown-ups might do to help teens spend their time effectively. And, perhaps come right out and ask, where are the parents?

Lets not blame the technology and the media for teen problems and behaviors. Lets dig deeper and spend time looking at how society plays a role in teen lives.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

4 Thoughts on “Where Are The Parents?

  1. It’s funny you should mention this… I just finished reading Last Child in the Woods by Louv. We are preparing for our annual Family Science Night and trying to encourage young people and their families to enjoy nature together. One of the challenges for today’s parents trying to provide alternative activities for kids and teens is the lack of access to nature, which is something I had not really considered until I read this book.

    Teens today might not have access to outdoor spaces for casual play – liability concerns and rising insurance rates have even led some scout troops to sell off their camping sites! Exercise tends to be highly supervised by adults, even for older kids, in the form of organized sports. The free use of green space has been curtailed dramatically in past years to the point where indoor activities might seem like teens’ only options for entertainment.

    That said, it falls to caring adults to be creative and think of interactive ways to engage teens in activities that provide them meaningful experiences with the world around them. A visiting presenter reminded our library staff not long ago that as librarians, we can model and demonstrate developmentally appropriate interactions with youth. But with teens, parents are not always present in the library when these interactions occur. It seems that if we are to really make a difference, the whole community needs to be invested in providing youth with opportunities to connect rather than to be isolated with/by technology.

  2. As librarians, when we see the same teens coming in the building day after day to get on the computer, what is our responsibility?

    I find that talking to the teens and getting to know them is a good start. I try to have conversations with them while they are computing and sometimes they have a lot to say! As librarians, i think we can make a huge difference in the lives of teens that might not have positive interaction opportunities at home (or even in school if they feel isolated).

    We are the third place for teens!

    Sometimes I have run into teens that don’t even know what to do on the computer. They are bored! That’s why it’s important to get to know the teens, so we can interact with them, recommend web sites and activities, and provide them with alternatives.

  3. Creating a group or club around a particular popular site is also a way to provide some balance – some of the time will be spent interacting, socializing, and creating content, not just button-clicking.

  4. Along the “addictive” line… something I heard at Games Learning & Libraries Symposium has stuck with me.. Games are not addictive. They are GRIPPING, like a great book is un-put-downable.

    Certainly, balance in life is everything — but the issue isn’t the technology, it’s the behavior. As a young teen, my mom would tell me to put my book down and “go outside and blow the stink off ya, for crying out loud” in an effort to get me to stop reading and get some fresh air and exercise.

    I’ve also heard from several self-admitted (adult) gaming aficionados that gaming for hours helped them escape something in their life they weren’t ready or able to deal with at the time… but they emerged from the gaming obsession when they were ready, and when their other personal problems cleared up. It became just a hobby again, instead of an obsession.

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