Ask Mary Jo

Video games an issue for dad, son

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Q. My son seems obsessed by video games. I think he spends too much time in his room connected to his computer. I talked with him. He’s a good kid and his grades are good, so I don’t think all this video gaming is messing with his life, but it makes me feel sad. When I was a kid, I played outside. Plus, I worry that he’s socially isolated. He does have friends, but they play games as well. I make sure he doesn’t play any games that glorify violence or disrespect women. He says he’s not addicted to gaming, he just enjoys it. I try to listen to him and respect him. What do you think?


– Father of 14-year-old son


Q. My dad thinks I play too many video games. I know he’s writing to you. I freaked out when he said he was going to, so he said I should also write. So here I am. I don’t do anything wrong with my games. I’m not even into the really rough ones. But I do love gaming, and I’m good at it. I told him that as long as my grades stay up and as long as I have friends, I’m good. My friends are all into gaming, too, though, so he worries I don’t really have friends. Which I think is dumb. Just because we all like games doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with us. Do you agree?


– 14-year-old


Mary Jo’s response:


I’ve had the privilege of writing this column since 2005, and this is the first time I’ve had letters from a parent and a young person at the same time. I’m thrilled! It’s so wonderful to see great communication. Parents and young people do not always agree, but as long as they can talk with one another, there’s a good chance they can find common ground.


Common ground means that people who disagree compromise and find a place where they’re comfortable interacting. It appears that you both are in agreement on the following things:


1. The young man is a good student.


2. The young man has friends.


3. Violent and degrading video games are not being played.


I believe you have a great start for finding common ground. Let’s talk.


Parents have legitimate concerns about a young person’s well-being and growth, socially, emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. Parents also grow as their children grow. I know that I was a different parent when my children were babies from when they were adolescents. I learned from raising my children. I believe each child is unique and responds to different types of parenting. I also believe that we need to parent in the culture in which we live.


Parents 50 years ago didn’t worry about video games. I’m dating myself, but “pong” was the video game that emerged during my adolescence; it was mild compared to current games. Reacting to our culture as it changes involves active parenting, and I’m always happy when parents take time to listen and learn from their young people.


Common ground in your situation may involve adding physical activities to life – perhaps as a family. Taking time to bike ride, hike or even walk together would encourage fun away from gaming. Setting realistic limits could work, as well. Stay focused on each other’s needs and the respect you hold for one another.


I think you’re both blessed. As a parent, you have the pleasure of living with a young man who, by your own admission, is doing the right thing. I’m not concerned about his friend selection, although meeting new people and expanding horizons is smart. As a son, you have a parent who is willing to listen to you and respects your individuality.


Yours sounds like a win/win relationship. Keep communicating. Good luck!


Peer Educator response:


Most teens have something they enjoy. Many teens love gaming. As long as his grades are good, he’s fine and his friends are fine.


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