Updated: Jul 14
Watch video Instead?:
Article: In my recent years as a martial arts instructor, I have been approached by a growing number of concerned parents asking me the same question: How do I get my child off the video games? Let’s face it! Childhood just isn’t the same as it used to be, right? WRONG! The truth of the matter is that children are still children and their psychology has not changed at all. It’s our APPROACH to childhood that has changed, and we’ve got it twisted. We have to ask ourselves as parents and guardians: What is the virtual world offering our children that we are not? Why would children rather spend time on their phone than interact with other people? The answers to these questions are complex and multifaceted, but they are founded on such basic truths that I believe any parent can understand if they try.
Children have a natural predisposition for wonder, excitement, and adventure. They are born into the world inexperienced, and because of this, they possess an all-consuming desire to explore and understand. The radiant expression of astonishment demonstrated by a toddler playing peekaboo with his mother is proof of this. It’s our responsibility, as caretakers, to expose them to as much information as is healthy for them to absorb. Having conversations with them, trying new things together, and encouraging their curiosity are just a few ways to do this.
Apart from other forms of electronic entertainment, the initial appeal of video games in particular is significantly great. Modern video games are more than simple simulation with rigid programming and limiting coding parameters. Video games are becoming increasingly complex. Not only have they progressed in terms of content and substance, but they are better at simulating reality. With vast networks of interconnected coding elements, they offer a wider range of variability and choice, which increases immersion by encouraging individuality and uniqueness of play style. To children, the virtual world is a vast universe of infinite possibility. The artwork, the sounds, and the story-lines aren’t just appealing on a surface level. Every detail in the virtual world has been specifically selected and designed to invoke sensational archetypes of human experience. The landscape and atmosphere of virtual reality is incredibly entrancing on its own, and adding the element of human social interaction, through multiplayer, only serves to enhance the overall immersion and attraction of gaming. The opportunity to share their experience with a real human being makes the game feel more real. Competing and interacting with other human beings by virtual medium increases the overall psychological impact on the player. If winning against artificial intelligence wasn’t enough, then winning against another human with the capacity to learn allows for an ever more glorious experience.
This is what’s being offered to our children. But the reason why children become addicted to video games and other forms of digital media and entertainment isn’t simply because they are enthralling. The problem is much deeper than that and it lies in the personal relationships that we have with our children. Many parents don’t actually understand the psychological mechanisms involved in the virtual experience and its affect on the mind of children. Beyond alluring sights and sounds, playing video games is real mental work which requires an investment of time and energy. This is how children develop emotional attachment to electronic devices. They dedicate their attention and creative capacity to a game and the game rewards the mental labor with virtual power and freedom. This artificial "investment-reward" system can be especially dangerous for children because unlike adults, they have yet to fully develop an identity. In the absence of a clear identity, children are greatly susceptible to the influence of ideas and concepts. The very intention of a video game, at its core, is to bestow a new identity to the player. Whether the identity of the game character is a knight, a marine, a ninja or a wizard, the child will inevitably appropriate the identity of the game character by subconsciously merging their virtual experiences to their perception of self. In severe cases of video game addiction, a fabrication of identity can also lead to a fabrication of purpose that is in alignment to the fantasy of the game. "So what's the problem with this? Aren't video games mostly based on heroic and charismatic characters? Why would it be a bad thing for a child to appropriate some of these positive character traits?" One of the main reasons why video games are so fun is because of the absence of real consequence. If I die in a video game, my character will respawn. If I take a life in a video game, I don't have to think twice about it. No one is going to call the police, I will not be put on trial, and my conscience will certainly remain untroubled. I can simply shut off the game and return to the real world without repercussion. The same is not true for reality. Every decision we make has consequences which determine the course of our lives. This is where video games can become detrimental for the developing mind of a child. A video game can never instill morals into a child due to its inability to produce any binding affects on reality. The virtual world can only serve as a mere mockery of the real world. Divine principles such as truth and wisdom can only be understood through a world of consequence and sacrifice because the attainment of every pure virtue requires a sacrifice of its adverse. To be disciplined, you must give up comfort, to be humble, you must give up pride, to be courageous, you must give up doubt, to be a leader, you must give up selfishness, and to truly live, you must be willing to endure suffering. There is no sacrifice in the virtual world because the mechanisms of cause and effect are inconsequential to the reality in which our consciousness is naturally bound. And so we see, unequivocally, that despite the desires of a child to appropriate the qualities of a video game character, it is impossible for such a thing to happen in the absence of real-world experience. Riding a horse in a video game is not the same as doing it in real life and it never will be. Whether you believe it or not, the truth is evident in light of countless examples of video game addiction. If it were indeed possible for these heroic and charismatic qualities to be magically imparted unto gamers in the absence of real-world experience, then video game addiction would not be causing obesity, low self esteem, and Attention Deficit Disorder. The fact of the matter is that video games are absorbing the life-force of our children by attracting too much of their attention and concern. When the computer, the tablet, and the television go off, the child is forced to return to the only true reality that is Planet Earth. Children need to be in touch with all of the things that make THIS world great. Like their family, their friends, their pets, their homes, their teachers, and their futures. It is, however, up to us as adults, to expose them to the wonder and excitement of THIS world. We cannot leave children to make decisions for themselves! We are their guides, their leaders, their protectors, and they need us! I cannot tell you the amount of parents I've encountered who expect their child to simply stop playing video games without any help from them. A parent should not abdicate responsibility for the veiled afflictions of their own children. If we don’t play an active role in the spiritual development of our children, then technology will ensure their spiritual degeneration.
Earlier, I asked the question; "What is the virtual world offering our children that we aren’t?" Taking into account all of the capabilities of the virtual world, ask yourself these questions and see what answers you come up with: Are you rewarding the physical and mental labors of your children? Are you teaching morals and principles? Are you bearing the image of the virtues you seek to instill in your child? How much time do you spend having a simple conversation with your child? Are you willing to subject your child to temporal discomfort, for the sake of building their character? Are you determined to fight for their love and attention? If we want our children to be equipped for life’s trials and hardships, then we must prepare them. That is precisely our role as caretakers. Not simply to meet their material needs, but their immaterial needs as well. Just as we teach our children how to care for their bodies by eating healthy food, exercising regularly, and practicing good hygiene, we must also teach children how to be responsible for their own spiritual development. Everything in the material universe is a tangible expression of intangible principles and concepts existing in the spiritual realm, which is just as real as the physical. Eating healthy can be applied to the spiritual principle of strictly ingesting positive and wholesome influences into one’s heart and mind. Your child’s brain is a vacuum, absorbing immeasurable bits of information which form their perception of the world around them, and by association, their perception of themselves. Are we steering them clear of profane music and other forms of entertainment which only serve to promote filth and decay of the subconscious mind? Just imagine the mind as a huge mouth, devouring invisible food in the form of words, sounds, emotions, images, and sensations. Would you rather give your child a cold bowl of "Give Up Soup" or a freshly baked loaf of "I Can"?
Exercising can be applied to the strength of one's will and the potency of thoughts which is determined by the conversations we allow to unfold in our minds. Reality can be chaotic, full of surprises, and sometimes we are forced into situations that we’d rather not be in. For this reason, we must keep ourselves spiritually fit, that we may be prepared for any mental attacks that come our way. Life is a battlefield, and every day there are things trying to kill us, trying to steal our peace and our joy. It could be a dirty look by a stranger passing by or even an argument with a spouse or family member. Negative encounters with people can leave a mental residue. Often times, we get into a dispute with a person and it occupies our thoughts for hours or even days. We play back the encounter in our minds over and over again. These residual thoughts can paralyze us and prevent us from achieving goals. Are we teaching our children how to exercise their minds in a way that enables them to combat lingering negativity? Do our children know the power of their own thoughts? Good hygiene can be applied to the purification of mind that occurs when we allow truth and clarity to rid our minds of error and folly. Let’s face it; we live in a world full of deceit. We are constantly being bombarded by things that aren’t true whether it be in the news, social media, or just stuff which people repeat daily that simply isn’t true. The truth will bring clarity and certainty into our lives, while lies can fill us with doubt, uncertainty, and cloud judgment. If we teach our children how to wash their hands and make their beds, then how much more are we responsible for teaching them how to wash their minds and structure their thoughts?
Children want a journey, a quest to get their hands dirty! They are seeking a SUPERNATURAL EXPERIENCE, and that is exactly what life is, but they can't see it because we, as a society, have neglected to show them. Take your children out to a ball game, go on a camping trip, hike a mountain, visit the local zoo, take a trip to the museum, tell them a story from your dinosaur days, ask them about their dreams, take them to work with you, teach them about your profession, paint a canvas with them! The grace of spending time with a child is the greatness of their imagination. If you cannot think of something to do, they sure will! Don't allow an electronic device to take your place as the object of your child's affection!