What is the best way to take away the video games for a 17-year-old?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Lourdes, Jan 23, 2012.

  1. Lourdes

    Lourdes Guest

    Hi all - I have been on and off this board under several different user names since my son was 5 and now he is 17 years old. I have always gotten the best advice here. My son spends all of his waking hours when not in school, playing video games - Halo, Star Wars, World of Warcraft mostly. He has a headset and a computer as well as an Xbox 360 and he is interacting with people - the same kids for years - so he is not playing totally alone. He is alone in his room however. He also streams movies and shows sometimes. His real life friends from school faded away after 8th grade. He attends a private school for kids with ADHD and learning disabilities. He is not involved in any school activities. School personnel says he is a nice kid, not a bad kid, not a mean bone in his body - just refuses to put forth any effort towards schoolwork. He is also immature.

    I have taken away his video games in the past and he goes nuts - runs away from home, skips school, gets depressed and never leaves his bed. I can say if you do x, y, and z you can get some video game time, but it doesn't work. He won't do x, y, and z. He refuses to be manipulated or to have his behavior motified by external forces.

    Obviously the electronics have to go, but what is the best way to handle it? I don't feel like I can just unplug it all and put it away. Or maybe I can? I remember when he was a toddler he would not give up his bottle and my anger about it built up and built up and finally I was Soooooo angry I just grabbed all the bottles and tossed them in the trash and didn't care one iota that he screamed and cried for a week. I was just OVER IT. And it worked. Bottle gone, no harm, no foul.

    But now he is almost an adult! He is taller than me. I told him if he made good grades and spent some time doing other things, no one would care about the video games, but when he has bad grades, bad homework, and no interests the video games stick out like a sore thumb.

    Anyone deal with this?

    His diagnosis are ADHD, reading, writing, math disabilities, stuttering that comes and goes. Never had a dad or any type of father figure. No substance abuse (they test all the kids at his school). No medication.
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    i WOULD TAKE HIM TO A neuropsychologist FOR AN EVALUATION. i'M NOT SURE HIS OBSESSION WITH VIDEOGAMES IS SOMETHING HE CAN HELP. ADHD sounds a little mild for what you have going on. If he really isn't taking street drugs, I'd be thinking he may be on the autism spectrum. This causes extreme obsessions and videogames are one. Taking them away from him won't stop the obsessions. We let our son play them at home as long as he participates in a few other activities besides that.

    Good luck and keep us posted!
  3. Lourdes

    Lourdes Guest

    Yeah I have wondered if he is on the spectrum. He has been evaluated so many times, although mostly prior to age 9 and no spectrum disorder came up. When he was age 5 I did that online Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) questionnaire thing and he did come up positive on that, but I did it again around age 8 and a lot of the answers had changed - he had changed - and with that 2nd time he didn't qualify as Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). He has never been to a neuropsychologist though. He was evaluated by several PhDs and one developmental pedi who only saw kids with school-related issues. He had one evaluation at age 15 and absolutely nothing came up - not one diagnosis - which just made me laugh. It was a freebie through the public school district.
  4. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Freebee evaluations don't tend to come up with much, anyway. Comprehensive evaluations do. MWM suggested neuropsychologist, we've had some success with the team approach - for example, a behavioural team at a children's hospital.

    If it isn't something on the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) spectrum somewhere, then the next option is severe depression - and the whole games thing is his escape from reality. In some ways, the side effects are not as bad as drugs and alcohol, but... in other ways, its just as serious. The games are addictive. They disrupt sleep patterns, and so on.

    Have you ever researched depression in men/boys? Its VERY different from what we normally think of as depression.

    With the list of challenges you listed... it isn't uncommon to have anxiety and/or depression as a secondary problem (i.e. brought on because of the primary issues).
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Take him to a neuropsychologist. It will be much more obvious when he is seventeen. I highly recommend it. You may be getting annoyed with him over something he can't help. In fact, in my opinion, you are. He is just a differently wired young adult and taking his games away...he'll just develop another obsession. It will not make him like other kids. Don't, don't, don't use the school district!!! Yikes!

    Take care :)
  6. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    When you find out, let me know.

    In the meantime - the best we have managed, is to teach them to self-monitor. Ask the kid to set his own limits. Ask him how long HE thinks is reasonable to spend each day on computer games. When we did this with difficult child 1, he set what he thought was a very generous limit but was in fact a very unrealistic underestimate of his daily gaming time.

    And we held him to it. That is when he realised how much time he was losing in games.

    What we have done with difficult child 3 - keep a log book, let him play as much as he wants but make him sign in and out when gaming. Also quietly keep your own log, so you can verify he is logging all his gaming hours.

    Also try to record what else he does (if anything). Then after a week, sit him down and discuss the evidence. That way it's not your word against his, it's evidence on paper. He needs to recognise the extent of the problem and to then be part of the solution.

    But we have found, especially with our spectrum kids, that gaming seems to be a coping strategy. And when you begin to interfere with their coping strategies, all purgatory breaks loose.

    What is normal - goes out the window. Do not let other people tell you things like "At his age he should be..." or whatever. With spectrum kids, the calendar does not apply.

    This afternoon I said to a friend, "I've asked people to come here..."
    Friend said, "With the state your house is in?"
    "I know," I said, "But I've asked difficult child 3 to get the NERF out of the living room. Although he bought a new NERF toy today."
    "He's going to be 18 in two days!" she said.
    "Since when has that made any difference?" I had to remind her.
    I could hear the shrug down the phone.

  7. totiredtofight

    totiredtofight New Member

    I may not be the best to speak on this but world of warcraft should be an easy one to put a stop to ..and in my opinion should be the game you worry about the most .. it is extremly addictive even in normal functioning adults.. and has been the cause of many job losses,suicides and divorces..not to mention the money that would be saved by not buying the "gametime" anymore after all if he doesnt have the game time he cant play it .. as far as the behavior .. i havent a clue
  8. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Well I am another one who cant really help. I dont know that I would try at this age really. I have an aspie who was really into video games for quite awhile but when he decided to self regulate he did it on his own. That came when he got a job. That isnt to say he doesnt still have his games and he doesnt still have his computer and he still plays his games...he does. He isnt one to spend a whole lot of time with the family on a daily basis but he does go to work and he is beginning go out with friends as the designated driver. it could be that in a year or two or three he will simply cut down on his own and find a new thing to move on to that is more important.
  9. SearchingForRainbows

    SearchingForRainbows Active Member

    Well said, Marg!

    We found this to be the case with difficult child 1. Taking away his computer time caused him to totally explode. His rages were so bad that when I was home alone with him, I would lock myself inside my bedroom, afraid of what he might decide to do. At the time, I was beyond furious. I didn't understand that this was a coping mechanism. All I could see was a totally out of control teen controlling our lives and I wasn't about to let this happen. Sadly, this is exactly what happened.

    Like Janet's son, difficult child 1 has changed. He no longer spends all his time gaming. Less then a month ago, he told me that he has better things to do. He now has a good job (working with computers of course!), friends and a "life." I agree with Janet that given some time, your difficult child might find other things to occupy his time.

    Sorry you're going through this... SFR
  10. myeverything04

    myeverything04 New Member

    My ex-husband had a very bad obsession with video games so I'm going to throw this one out there just as another idea... could it be that he can be himself and finds these 'video game worlds' and 'video game friends' sorta like another life? Almost like he doesn't feel comfortable with himself in 'real life' so he finds another way to just 'be himself and be excepted?' I know my ex used to play roleplaying games... warcraft, star wars and all those games.... to escape the life we had. He was the only one working, we had a preemie, just bought a house, etc. I know your son wouldn't have stresses such as these, but may other stressers that would want him to escape the real life? Like I said, I'm just throwing this out there and mean no harm. I had no idea this was why my ex played video games all the time until after we were divorced and he finally said he felt excepted and wanted in his video life
  11. Lourdes

    Lourdes Guest

    Wow, good advice. I will log his time and put it on a schedule like thing showing him the big blocks of time spent gaming. Give him a visual. I have read about the addictive nature of World of Warcraft. He plays that game the least and I could probably eliminate that one with no blow up. The big one for him is Halo and he is a highly ranked player. He also posts in the Halo forums. I was hoping he would just find other interests and it would fade away, but so far that hasn't happened. He just started drivers ed - against his will - but now they want him to do homework and he is refusing. I was hoping driving would open up his world. It's easy enough to take away the video games because I pay for it. It's just the over the top reaction - anger, depression, running away.

    I gave up a message board/forum cold turkey several months ago. I was a moderator. Spend hours every time reading and posting and modding - for THREE years. The adminstrator was rude to me and BOOM I logged off and never logged back in. I was already thinking I was spending way too much time on that message board and being treated badly was the last straw. I keep thinking my son will get to that point too and just walk away from it.

    I wish it was easier to tell if it's coping strategy in relation to the spectrum or an addiction.
  12. Lourdes

    Lourdes Guest

    Yes, yes, my son's only successes are his successes in the video games. He has no real life success. School is hard. Most of the family doesn't give him the time of day. He has no real life friends left. He has no outside interests. It's just him in his room with his games and his cyber buddies.
  13. ready2run

    ready2run New Member

    ugh/ my husband is a gamer and it is aweful how addicting these games are. halo is just as addictive because you get status from earning higher levels, which means longer hours so the more time you spend on the game, the more popular you are. it's rediculous. at one point i threw out all husband's games and cut off his internet because i could not deal with being a single mom/game widow anymore. he had a huge meltdown that lasted for days. i gave it back to him with a promise to limit game time to after the kids are in bed or in the morning if they are at school. this has worked out well so far, although i have had to threaten to delete his games on him a few times to keep him on his promised schedule. i also find that 'rewarding' him with lots of praise for things he does while not online has helped get him back into the real world more, and spending some time doing things with him like watching his kind of movies together and helping him find a friend to hang out with has helped. i know, he is husband, not a kid but he is like a kid sometimes..lol.
  14. Here is what our experience showed us for our 13 year old son:
    • Our son gets terribly addicted very quickly and we have to limit his gaming.
    • The more he plays them, the worse he interacts with the real world. School deteriorates, family relationships deteriorate, his reverts to being unable to remember simple tasks, such as getting dressed in the morning, remembering his backpack supplies, lunch, closing the door, eating, etc.
    • It seems to affect his brain waves, sleep patters, thinking patterns and attitude. He gets snide and sarcastic, and short-tempered.
    • This seems to happen with regular television, too, so we have very strict limits on what and how much TV he can watch.
    We have tested this over and over with him.

    What we got was an Xbox with Kinect. He is only allowed to play big, physical Kinect games most of the time. We play with him a lot of the time. We made video games a family activity. He moves his body, gets sweaty, doesn't isolate himself. The endorphins start flowing and it helps his mood and gives him physical activity.

    He does get some of his favorite "controller games" for direct rewards for big things he does well, like have a great week at school, or remember a task for five days in the week without being reminded. But he will only get 30 minutes or so on a weekend. That's it.

    We use it for reward time mostly. When we first took it away, he just did nothing. He would sit there. No other hobbies, no interest in anything other than following me around the house and chattering. I thought it was a shame to take away his one "hobby." What I realized is that he is the kind of kid who doesn't really have hobbies that sustain anyway, and the gaming wasn't a hobby. It was an addiction. He IS the kind of kid who doesn't play outside, doesn't play with toys, and won't really do anything unless I orchestrate it for him. Lately, without TV and video games, he is reading an 800 page book on the US presidents -- and wants me to quiz him.

    He is also starting to do drawings with a protractor, and draw by numbers activities from a craft store. He is also reading some decent books. Reducing the video games in his life really makes him a happier person, and of course, he really likes playing them with us and having a family activity that he enjoys that other people in the family will actually do with him.

    I have become very interested in neurofeedback and brain wave patterns as a result of seeing these changes in my son.

    My son is only 13 and we can really control the stuff he does because he is very compliant with us, in a lot of ways. I don't know what to tell you about a kid who gets severely upset when his games are taken away. You might need some support to do this if he gets that upset. I also second that he needs to be professionally evaluated by neuropsychologist. Sounds like more than ADHD, which is what I think you said, right?
  15. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Otto - your post made me laugh. I have a close friend with a son who is High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Aspie and spent years following people around chattering about presidents. One of his friends would look him in the eye and say "I AM NOT LISTENING TO YOU. I AM DOING X" where X was a lot of different things including talking with other people and it NEVER fazed him. He just kept following her and chattering. Or he followed his mom or siblings around their home or wherever. He was homeschooled partly because this would NEVER have stopped at school. Now? He has stopped it, but it still brings back memories.

    I found the same things happening with Wiz when we eliminated video games/D&D/pokemon. I got a LOT of grief for cutting out his coping techniques. But for Wiz it was NOT coping it was addiction and hiding. The rule was that if you will lie, cheat or steal to play a game/get fantasy stuff/have an object, then it is an unhealthy influence and it goes. Period. My gut told me that for MY kid it was important. And it WORKED. We didn't have kinect or Wii because they didn't exist. So we just locked them in a storage unit.

    Lourdes, it really sounds like your son is addicted to videogames. Not that he uses them as coping, but that they are his drug of choice. More and more people in the addiction treatment world are seeing people with true video game addiction and attempting to get them into treatment. It challenges our concepts of addiction, but videogames stimulate the areas of the brain that other drugs also stimulate, or some of the research I ahve seen says this. You may need to take that into consideration also. They even did an episode of the show "Intervention" on a boy who was addicted. Please do some research on this before you just unplug him. in my humble opinion you need to get some professional help involved before you cut off his videogames. There is more going on than just a hobby.

    Does he have bills? Who pays for the gaming? What would happen if he had to get a job to pay for the gaming? Have you ever told him that he has to have a job if he wants to play games because he must pay for them? It is one strategy to think about and to ask the professionals to help you with.

    I KNOW it sounds like this "trivializes" addiction, even can sound silly to some. But if addiction is a disease, caused by a substance that creates a specific feeling, why can't videogames also stimulate the brain to cause that feeling?
  16. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Ditto Susie...
    I've even heard "anecdotal" statements from psychiatrists that I trust, who are saying that this is also possible with social internet - especially things like FB and twitter...
  17. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    You need to find out if he is on the spectrum first. What kind of games does he play? My son plays innocent chase games (Mario Bros. and Sonic). He doesn't like violent games...I do think this makes a difference. I *have* found that even when Sonic (my son) is at other activities (which he has to go to), he still thinks about his videogames and talks about them. If he is on the spectrum, they tend to have obsessive interests, but they can move from one to another. For example, spectrum kids can go from videogames to nonstop memorizing train schedules. My son recently took up bowling and he LOVES it. He also started a work program at school so he far less on the videogames. Spectrum kids have poor to no real ability to amuse themselves (lack of imagination) therefore they requires stuff like videogames or TV shows to entertain them if they have nothing else to do. They are unlikely to enjoy entertaining themselves. It is SO heartening to know that Sonic can and probably will get more going on in his life than the games and TV. He really IS a lot busier now and seems to enjoy the work program as well as various sports.

    My oldest son also could have been said to have been addicted to videogames, but he's not on the spectrum. He did not act up or scream or rail when we limited him and he had his friends he hung at the mall with, girlfriends, sports and the normal teen stuff to go along with the gaming. Spectrum kids are a different animal. But, if it were me, I would not cut out the videogames...I would just make sure he has other stuff to do as well...and not give him the option of saying, "I won't go."
  18. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Not all spectrum kids have no imagination though. That is a pretty common misconception. THeirs is just different. Wiz has an amazing imagination, so much so that he often confused it with reality. But he is 100% an Aspie and there is NO doubt about that even though he does have quite the imagination.

    But the violent videogames do seem more addictive, in my opinion.
  19. I agree. Lego Star Wars is the most violent game we do. Well, and a Harry Potter one. There is some fire coming out of the wands and they blow stuff up. You can slash up a Lego character but there is no blood and it gets rebuilt. We mostly do sports games, and agility stuff, like Wipeout, some water rafting, some bubble popping. Car racing. Some obstacle course stiff with XBox Kinect. You are exhausted (and buff) at the end of one of those. Oh, and Dance games. Lame, but necessary around here. Tryin' to keep it wholesome, especially with a kid who struggles to make sense out of the normal world.
  20. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Most have trouble amusing themselves and tend to pick up things and put them down and walk around aimlessly or whine about what they want to do, unlike other kids, who can find ways to amuse themselves. I have never met a spectrum kid who was not in some way addicted to videogames, the computer, other electronics, etc...lol :) I'm happy to know that it can get better. I see it getting better with my son.

    I guess I was lucky too that my son's favored videogames were non-violent. He is a gentle boy and will not play "blow 'em up" games. If he were playing violent games, that would concern me.