By Yalda Uhls, Greater Good Magazine, June 28, 2022
Several years ago, when my son was a preteen, I worried he was addicted to video games. I remember looking into his room and seeing his tiny body in an oversized office chair. He sat there for hours, wearing gigantic headphones and shouting to his fellow players while his fingers moved the gaming mouse.
I told myself it was social. At least when he was playing the game, he was interacting with the other people playing the game with him. Some days he watched YouTube videos of other gamers playing “Minecraft,” another activity that seemed both obscure and excessive. Yes, he received exceptional reviews at every parent-teacher conference, slept at least eight hours a day, and was able to look adults in the eye when speaking with them. I still gave in to the fears that parenting in the digital age engenders.
Worried about my child, I eventually looked to what I felt to be the best guide: data and social science research. I’m a psychologist who studies media and adolescence, so I turned to science to help me understand if my son was in true trouble. As I dug deeper into the research and talked with other adults (conversations that often happened online…our kids aren’t the only ones living in the digital age), I realized many caregivers shared my fears.