Keith Bakker is the founder of one of the most popular gaming addiction rehab centres in the world – the Smith & Jones Centre in Holland. They were the first facility in the world to admit patients for addiction to games, and they’ve been in the headlines lately following a few cases of people playing a little too much of the new WoW expansion.
Last year, Keith said “I believe gaming is currently the greatest threat to our society”, which is a hell of a statement. However, he’s recently made somewhat of a U-turn in his opinions. He now says that 90% of the kids he sees aren’t actually addicts – they just need better social care, which is exactly what I said the other day.
“If I continue to call gaming an addiction it takes away the element of choice these people have. It’s a complete shift in my thinking and also a shift in the thinking of my clinic and the way it treats these people.”
He now believes that parental/adult intervention is the key to addressing the issue. Absolutely right. If your kid is spending 24 hours a day playing video games, then it’s not the game’s fault. It’s yours, for not teaching him or her a bit of restraint. Even better, a PhD researcher, who worked on a study last year into the effects of compulsive gaming, says:
“I am often asked for advice by frustrated parents in regard to children who are ‘only interested in games’ and ‘spend hours playing like a zombie’. When asked what they should do I always give them the same answer, ‘Pick up the controller.’
When a parent plays video games with a child, three important things happen; the activity suddenly becomes a social one, the parent is able to model self-regulating behavior for the child, and finally, the parent is able to monitor the content of the game. All this for the low cost of spending some time with your kid doing something they are interested in.”
That’s exactly, dead-on, what I’d recommend, too. Turn the experience into a social one. Social gaming is the very best kind – just ask the millions of people playing multiplayer over the web. If your kid’s spending hours playing World of Warcraft, then sign up yourself, jump in, and find out why. Who knows, you might even enjoy it.