I have read those many articles that make fun of people who say "my kid would just play computer games all day" and they all swear that given unlimited time ,the kid will become bored and wish for something else. The opposite has happened in my house .DS (15) has over the past few years given up on all other things he was formerly interested in and replaced it with more and more video gaming. He used to do karate and go to a homeschool co-op where he took classes like Chinese,creative writing and drama.He used to go outside and play in the woods. He used to read avidly and now will only occaisionally pick up a book.
He will stay up until about midnight, or later on the computer gaming. When he wakes around noon he comes downstairs to use the bathroom and gets online. He is on and not wishing to be disturbed in any way until he gets hungry.He will quickly eat then get back to his games. When I do talk to him he is rude and annoyed.(although he always says thank you for a sandwich!) He says that all those things he used to do are stupid. He has no interest in making friends or socializing.He does not care about his environment.His room is not just messy,but gross with uneaten food he will not clean up. He will sleep in the same clothes and wear them day after day without showering.
I am concerned about these behaviors, but I don't know exactly what to do about them. At 15 years I cannot "make" him do something. I cannot say "you have to do x or no computer,you have to go out with us to this place" because he simply does not participate.I cannot just pick him up and remove him from the house. I can remove his computer,and this will be a fight, definitely imposing my will.
Have him find a way to pay for the internet connection. Just a thought. I have no experience here.
I think so far you've gotten some responses that I think would bring about some serious fights. I might not have a teenager but I've been one. My parents were seriously old-school, and I knew they couldn't *make* me do anything. i just glazed my eyes over while they lectured and went back to whatever I was doing when they weren't looking. It is the foundation of civil disobedience-- what can they do if you refuse until the end? Ooooh, and how powerful I felt!
So I know that the "you're the parent" approach could be completely useless, depending, of course, on how you interpret that phrase. "You're the parent" could mean more guidance than laying down the law in a draconian way. My inner, unevolved teenager still cringes at that phrase! I might never know it's there until I hear those words, and--phwip! There it is. It does not, however make that noise.
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"Let me see you stripped down to the bone. Let me hear you speaking just for me."
Taking the computer when I was a teen would not have worked and it would have hurt me. That being said I honestly dont know what the answer is. Taking it is going to cause panic because it is routine, it keeps him calm, its his everyday life now. The best thing I have to offer is that he will be truly happier away from it but it takes time and hes gotta understand that and make that choice. Find something exciting to get him to do? Let it drag him away from the games for a while and very carefully implant in his brain about how happy hes been going out and doing stuff.
Also, realize it is a huge issue. Your not talking about a phase you are talking about how he may permanently be. I know other people like this who cant control their game addictions/ computer addictions and being blunt they are sentenced to a life of unhappiness. They live in filth their significant others find out fast that they are worthless and that they will never be put first in the relationship and it even effects their work. As long as he doesnt understand he has a problem.... Its a big problem. I would seek whatever help you can... I dont know what you can do but if you care (obviously you do which is why you are here) you will do something because its very serious.
I honestly do not suggest just taking it from him though. My parents had done that to me on several occasions and I tell you very honestly thinking about it causes me a panic attack. Its like the one thing you can count on that brings you inner oeace being ripped away from you and suddenly you are standing in an empty black abyss looking around saying omg what now. For me I just started pacing and gasping until I couldnt breath anymore because I was so at a loss of what to do. maybe he is different than my anxiety issues but even if it doesnt cause him a panic attack I dont see anything beneficial coming from bringing down an iron fist to something that he truly believes is good and is part of his routine.
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I have a 15-year-old son who is unschooled and loves the computer. Staying up until midnight is normal in this family, but he stays up until 3 or 4. He has been known to be on the computer for 16 or more hours a day. As parents we've sometimes despaired, but we have never set limits or removed his computer access.
Having said that, I have spent a lot of time over the years discussing the issues of balance with him and as a family. Balance of solitary and social time, balance of sleep and wake, balance of sedentary and active time, balance of passive and creative pursuits, balance or self-absorptive and contributory work. And I've worked with him to find ways for his computer use to achieve that balance. So I've encouraged him to take his computer pursuits in directions that are creative (through digital photo editing, stop-motion, machinima, music mixing and editing, digital artwork, blogging, HTML scripting, sandbox-editing of game scripts, level-building, "modding," writing reviews and walk-throughs, contributing to user community groups and so on) and social (volunteering with community gaming night, refurbishing donated hardware for community use, hosting servers for game play with real-life friends, social media connections, etc.). And to try out strategies that help him better balance his time during the day so that he gets done the "balancing" things he views as healthy: participating in family conversations and activities, getting outdoors for physical activity, contributing to the household, etc.. The prevailing message through all this has not been that computer use is bad in excess, just that to be healthy it needs to be balanced with other things. Achieve that balance and no one will care whether you spend 10 minutes or 10 hours a day on it.
It's taken a lot of conversations, a lot of brainstorming, a lot of modelling, revisiting, guiding and ongoing collaborative problem-solving efforts. But I have to say that finally, in the last 8 or 10 months, he's doing really well with all this without much support. It has taken years, but he is now viewing himself as a guy who wants to contribute to family, community and world at large, and sees that he needs to keep a handle on his computer habits in order to be that kind of guy... and he's doing so.
Hikkikomori is what they call it in Japan. I think it's often the result of chronic mild social anxiety combined with mild depression, and it can just spiral into an isolating pattern of withdrawal into a virtual world. I would explore the possibility of depression and anxiety as contributing factors for your ds. If you find something significant some red flags, consider getting him into some counselling or therapy of some sort. But he may just need some help learning to balance and "high-grade" his computer use so that he's not spending all his waking hours simply trying to level up in some RPG.
Mountain mama to two great kids and two great grown-ups
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