I recently watched a video that was floating around Facebook and it was titled “Hard-Hitting Nature Valley Ad Shows the Terrifying Side of Kids Addicted To Technology.” The video showed a difference in how my generation (80s children and older) grew up compared to our most recent generation in regards to our favorite activities and consequently, technology use.
But I felt like it not only fell short of the “addiction to technology” claim, it didn’t even come close to the issue.
Back In My Day
We need to be reminded of what the strong term addiction means. I grew up with an Atari and Nintendo in my home, and many of my friends progressed to the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64. However, I wasn’t into video games. I was always outside. I grew up running around the neighborhood with friends. On bikes with friends. Playing sports with friends. Everyone knew each other in the neighborhood.
I loved my childhood. When the street lights came on or when we heard our parents call or whistle, we went home. And not without protest. There would be complaining and begging if we could stay out a little longer. It would’ve felt like the end of the world if my parents took away my bike or said I couldn’t play basketball. And yet, no one would have said that I had an addiction.
The athletic child who practices all day is never called addicted. The kid with the guitar who can’t put down is not called addicted. The kid who draws and has new paintings to show every day is not called addicted. Instead, these kids are praised for their talent and ability. Oh, but watch out for that child who wants to play Minecraft all day, he may be addicted.
What is Addiction?
Addiction is something that happens in the brain. When something fun or rewarding occurs, our body releases dopamine to our brain. Dopamine is released for me when I run and play sports. It’s also released when you are eating, having a good talk with friends and during sex. Dopamine is released for people who drink alcohol and for people who do drugs.
However, the levels of dopamine released are not the same for all of these activities. And if you look up these activities, you will find that technology releases the same level of dopamine as normal activities like running and not nearly as much as doing drugs like cocaine. Regular high levels of dopamine is what leads to addiction because your brain begins to want and need to sustain those high levels to function.
So often we hear about technology or video game addictions for adults and children. We think of the person in their dark basement playing video games all day who is malnourished and has no contact with people or the outside world. Going back to the video I mentioned, it forgot to take into account the changes in society over the last 20 to 30 years. Yea, I stayed outside when I was a kid. But it also felt safer then; we lived in neighborhoods where parents knew each other. We also didn’t have computers; they didn’t exist in everyone’s homes. I was in middle school when we got a computer in our house.
That video showed how times were different because times WERE different.
We Like What We Like
With all that said, I am not a fan of video games. As a 34-year-old, I could still go out and play sports all day and my 6-year-old is the same way. However, my 9- and 10-year-olds are the opposite. They are not into sports. They like music and art but they love video games.
My husband loves video games, too. He played a lot as a child; he played in college; and he still plays in his free time today. My husband also has an aerospace engineering degree and a degree in family counseling. He has served in the military for almost 17 years and is working toward retirement. He plays video games with our kids. Our office is like a computer lab. It’s not my thing, it doesn’t get my dopamine levels up, but it does for them (in healthy doses).
I’ll be honest; my kids have played a lot of Minecraft and Roblox this summer — way more than the recommended amount. Yes, they have done other things, too, but the majority of their time is spent in front of a screen. I used to feel so judged when people asked what my kids like to do. We lived in a neighborhood full of athletic boys, and I tried to push my boys out to play sports, but at some point I had to accept that sports aren’t their thing, just like video games aren’t my thing.
Technology is Good (in Moderation)
I write this in hopes to get people to stop the negative judgement toward kids and parents who allow more technology in their house than they may. Yes, there are dangers associated with video games and computer usage, but like most things kids do, we as parents should be monitoring them. And with everything in life, there should be healthy balance. I hope to shed light on some positives of technology so that we can all stop jumping straight to the negative extremes of it when it comes to our children and other’s children.
5 Positives of Technology and Video Games
- Adapts children to the reality of the future of increasing technological advances. They know how to interact with technology as second nature.
- Proper content promotes creativity. For example, instead of a thousand Legos, they have an infinite amount of blocks (Minecraft) to create whatever they can imagine. Inventors and engineers are successful because of their unlimited imaginations and creativity.
- Technology is a continually growing industry. Video games are over a 100 billion dollar industry. Tech jobs pay good money. There actually is a future in it, and kids can learn it at a young age, continually growing with its advances.
- Teaches skills. I have seen my kids personally grow in the area of spelling and math from the games they play. Their interest of playing has led to an interest of being the creator. They have asked for and received books that teach computer programming and coding.
- It is fun. My boys and husband all play side by side on their own computers on the same game where they share supplies and have a common goal, whether it’s on Minecraft, Roblox or Kerbal Space Program. It is not quiet. They are continually talking, laughing and sometimes yelling at each other (one kid steals supplies or breaks creations at times).
What I haven’t mentioned are the shooter games, and I did that on purpose.
I think people who have automatic negative responses to video games are jumping right to the first person shooter games or games with high violence. My kids play a ton of games, none of which are the shooter games. My point is that instead of jumping to the worst, we should realize that there are different types of games out there, not all are bad and not all are good.
There also are different kids out there, not all are athletic, not all love camping in the woods, and not all like being in front of a computer screen. Also, if technology was so bad, we wouldn’t be reading this right now on our computer, phone or tablet.