Thursday, April 9, 2009

Video game obsession is not child’s play; it’s abuse

Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Duncan
During a presentation at The Clubs At Quantico April 2, Dr.Barbara Craig, a pediatrician specializing in child maltreatment, expresses concern with video gaming and its contribution to child abuse and neglect.
In recognition of Child Abuse Awareness Month, members of the Family Advocacy Program held a breakfast and professional military education class for commanders and senior leadership at The Clubs At Quantico April 2.

‘‘I am happy to see there is a designated month where agencies and communities can raise awareness on the complexity of child maltreatment and how it occurs across all socio-economic backgrounds and in innumerable situations,” said Cynthia Becker, family advocacy victim advocate. ‘‘April highlights the importance of child abuse prevention through education, information and referral to various services such as parenting classes, and stress and anger management classes.”

This annual event gives Family Advocacy employees an opportunity to create awareness for Marines with families and those in command positions who are able to provide guidance and assistance for junior enlisted Marines.

‘‘The breakfast gives us a chance to support our commanders and senior enlisted by reinforcing prevention programs such as our life skills classes,” said Rebecca Childress, prevention and education specialist for the Family Advocacy Program. ‘‘It presents an opportunity to be educated on the most current information in the area of child abuse.”

The focus of this PME, conducted by Dr. Barbara Craig, a pediatrician specializing in child maltreatment, was how use of electronics can become a source of child abuse or negligence.

‘‘I thought Dr. Craig did an excellent job in effectively portraying the correlation between child abuse, and video gaming and internet activity,” said Becker. ‘‘She was able to convey the physiological effects engaging in these activities can have on the brain and on the person as a whole.

‘‘She clearly illustrated the addictive nature of these activities and how easily a person who becomes consumed by the game can remain oblivious to other priorities and can lose perspective and rational thought.”

‘‘This is unfortunately a cause of child abuse that I believe we will continue to see rise with the introduction of new technology,” said Childress.

Games are often used to bring families together and bridge gaps created by age between parents and their children.

‘‘Some Marines and their families choose to play video games and participate in sports; they must strike a balance that places personal interaction as a priority in their homes. Those who choose to play video games, watch sports or use social networking sites must do so in moderation,” said Childress. ‘‘Dr. Craig’s examples portray how some could become so engrossed in playing a game, watching TV or surfing the web that they become oblivious to personal and family needs, especially the needs of children.”

The greatest issue with this sort of child abuse is that it is attributed to an addiction that is not onlysocially acceptable but also has no medicinal remedy.

‘‘I found the case examples of how addicted some parents were to video gaming that they found themselves abusing and⁄or neglecting their children to the point of serious injury or death,” said Becker. ‘‘The section which discussed the difference in brain activity for those addicted and their resultant behavioral changes to the point of aggression were also remarkable to see.”

Childress indicated that, although there is not much in the field of medical treatment that can be done about an addiction like this, there are preventative measures that can be taken to avoid the neglect and abuse of children in these cases.

‘‘I would encourage families to get back to the basics - having meals as a family, playing a board game, reading books, working puzzles or going for a walk or bike ride. These tried-and-true ways of family bonding build a strong foundation for children that strengthen their own self-esteem and increase their faith in their parents,” said Childress. ‘‘It’s the little things that add up to be the big things that make a family strong.”

‘‘I think that parents should monitor their children’s time spent on video games, limit the time, and monitor the type of video games their children play for age appropriateness and content,” said Becker.

The key to any addiction is getting the help you need; the same can be said for child abuse cases.

‘‘Parents who have become addicted to video gaming to the point of child neglect should be offered help and support to raise their awareness of the addictive nature of video gaming,” said Becker.

There are many venues on Quantico where Marines can get the help they need to protect their families.

‘‘I encourage Marines and family members to seek help at the first indication of any concerns. Don’t wait for an incident to happen,” said Childress. ‘‘Be proactive as a parent and take advantage of the manyservices offered by programs such as the FamilyAdvocacy Program, New Parent Support Program, Marine Corps Family Team Building and the many other resources on base.”