By Lavern Nissley
“They are not sleeping. They are not going to school. They are dropping out of social activities. A lot of kids have stopped playing sports so they can do this.”
“We have one kid who destroyed the family car because he thought his parents had locked his device inside. He took a hammer to the windshield.”
Ugh! What is the this?
The quote above is from pediatrician Michael Rich, who is also the director for the Clinic for Interactive Media and Internet Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital. He is referring to the online game Fortnite in a March 31, 2019 article in the Boston Globe.
In case you've never heard of Fornite, it's a multiplayer, interactive shooter game. "One hundred competitors are dropped on an island, where they run around finding weapons and materials to build walls, ramps, and floors that can protect them from other players," explains Beth Teitell in the Boston Globe article. The game has been likened to "a cross between 'Minecraft' and 'The Hunger Games.'"
The first computer Ronda and I ever acquired was a Commodore 64. That was in 1983.
Although our reason for purchasing purchasing this high tech marvel was to help with writing post-graduate papers, we also became familiar with primitive games that consumed hours and hours of our time.
I remember the feeling of dividing life into two categories, computer and non-computer. There were those mundane and totally unsatisfying tasks that were "non-computer". But after those were done (wink-wink), I could immerse myself in the wonderful world of "computer". So very satisfying!
The problem was that Ronda's highest love languages are 1) Acts of Service, and 2) Quality Time. (I didn't know this at the time as Dr. Gary Chapman didn't write The Five Languages until a decade later in 1992.) Do you think my wonderful-world-of-computer may have been at odds with Ronda's love languages. Uh. Yeah.
So, even primitive games in the early 1980's were able to become a relationship barrier. Fortnite is light years ahead of one of the first games I remember playing for hours where you had to try to cross a series of roads without getting hit by traffic. Seriously, Lavern?
Within Fornite are built a variety of elements to train the brain to crave more and more. Flashy colors, multiple plots, social interaction and variable rewards make the game highly addictive. Just like heroin.
If you, your children or your grandchildren are totally consumed by Fortnite, or a game like it, I encourage you to read the entire Boston Globe article. Also, take a look at A Parent's Guide to Fortnite, a $3.99 12 page PDF download.
A final quote from Michael Rich: "In fact, we are currently characterizing PIMU” — Problematic Interactive Media Use — “not as a diagnosis, but as a syndrome, a group of symptoms of diagnoses ranging from ADHD to anxiety, depression, or mood disorders that manifest themselves in the interactive media environment.”
Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.