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Here is a bit of context to start with:

I live 150 km away from my little brother. My father got remarried to another woman, with whom he had my little brother (let's call him 'Marc'). Since we grew up together before I moved to continue my studies, I consider him as my brother instead of my step brother.

'Marc', since he discovered YouTube and gaming, is a huge fan of Minecraft and spends way too much time on it, at the point where it's getting obvious that he has an addiction:

  • He botches his homework assignment, which gives him really bad marks even though he entered middle-school and it's not hard at all to get really good ones

  • He barely washes himself, spending a couple minutes under the shower with no soap at all to win time and play more

  • He wakes up early on the weekends (8 A.M.) to play all day, without going outside at all.

My education through my father was way harsher back then, and I believe that he realized that and decided not to be this harsh with him, so he decided not to cut the internet or deny Marc's access to a tablet or a computer.

Of course, my parents have had enough with my brother's behaviour, and decided to cut the internet. He then starts a tantrum, answers back to his mother, and yells.

Last weekend, while my father called me to help him install some software, we talked about this and decided that I would go to my father's next weekend to have a discussion. He's worried but also overtaken by the events: he's approaching 60 years old and doesn't really know what to do.

So, since I'm going at their place next weekend, I'm planning to try to make my brother see how what he's doing isn't good for him and his family. I can relate, since I was an addict myself a few years back.

My plans are to make him imagine his life later if he keeps going like this, talk to my father about restrictions to set up (better marks to get the tablet / computer, etc...), but also to talk him into starting to learn web languages (I'm a web developer and my father told me that one time, Marc wanted to do what I do). This way, at least he'll learn things that might interest him and I could coach him even if I'm not around

However, my main concern is that he's just 11, and I know he'll struggle to see the big picture (having hard time to have a job without diplomas and such)

My main question is, how can I bring this whole thing to him with losing him?

Thank you


Update: I got to see my little brother

I went to see him last sunday (as of 15/10/2017). Now it looks logical but he's not that "addicted", even though there still is a problem where he's prioritize videogames to homework, and I certainly can't blame him for this, since I did excactly the same myself.

We had a little discussion where I tried to be the least bit annoying, and well, I believe that he cared at least a little bit to what I said, I just hope this will make a tiny difference.

I set myself as the caring big brother (that I actually am), and helped him to do some english and french homework. We spoke a bit about development instead of playing, but for now he isn't really interested, I might try this again in a year or two, it will depends on if I feel he is mature enough.

Thank you all for your answers, an update was the least I could do. If it's still allowed, don't hesitate to comment on this and I'll try my best to answer you if needed

  • I meant, were there any mental health problems before? Was he depressed or something, or was he a happy child until this fell out of the sky? – stommestack Oct 10 '17 at 21:32
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    It makes a difference that the game is Minecraft. There are very different ways to play with Minecraft: build, fight, design, mess around with friends, code, invent new games, tell stories, shoot movies, and so on. What your brother does in Minecraft should tip you off as to what other activity you might try to introduce. – Travis Oct 12 '17 at 16:51
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    Not really an answer, but since he's only 11 I would expect it's a phase. It may last a few years, but he'll grow out of it... especially once girls become more interesting than Minecraft. – Omegacron Oct 12 '17 at 17:52
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    I put 60+ days (not hours) into COD4 back in the day, #3 in the world clan, parents worried about me as well. Then I got a girlfriend and dropped it cold turkey. I'd say it's a phase. – DasBeasto Oct 12 '17 at 18:37
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    Just don't... You'll annoy the shit out of him if you try to stop his "addiction" and probably lose him. I can relate here... I have a sister that did this with me back when I was younger and "game addicted". Today I rarely talk to her. Let his parents do the parenting... – Mischa Oct 13 '17 at 8:48

11 Answers 11

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This is anecdotal but... Throughout highschool my life was: wake-up, go to school, come home, game, go to bed, repeat. As I developed other hobbies, I did those instead of gaming. As money to buy things (new games, clothing, etc) became important to me, I did chores around the house and kept my grades up (an A at the end of the term was worth $5, a B+: $4, B: $3.50, and so on down to a C which was only worth $1 and nothing less was worth any money).

Hygiene is important and he needs to know this, but there were also days when I was simply a stinky teenager who didn't shower at all. (Hell, there were whole WEEKENDS when I didn't leave the house or shower.) There is nothing wrong with an OCCASIONAL weekend of being gross (dental hygiene is always important though). He won't melt or start growing moss. I remember once my sister complained to my dad "Daaaaad, she smells... make her take a shower!".

Developing other interests and a sense of responsibility would be the main things to focus on. Grades can lead to a good job and a better future. Dental hygiene will prevent cavities and nasty trips to the dentist for fillings.

I think completely cutting him off will only make him see the person who does the cutting off as an enemy to be fought instead of an ally to be worked with,.

Compare this to the situation of someone who loves books and does a lot of reading: they are still just sitting around doing something, but likely if he spent the same amount of time reading, no one would care. People have odd attitudes about computer games sometimes.

To get him out of the house and doing physical activity: you and/or your dad or his mom can ask him to accompany them: go to throw a frisbee or kick a ball around, go for a bike ride together, go for a hike, etc.

edit: Both exercise, hobby development and better homework habits could perhpas be improved with [more] parental involvement. You didn't mention if there is any parental involvement beyond "go out and play.", "do your homework." etc. But having a parent sit down with him and keep him company and assist when he gets stuck in his homework may make a world of difference. Perhaps the botched homework assignments are not as much a factor of the gaming as they are of struggling to understand the material but perhaps they are due to rushing to game. Having a parent nearby to gently remind him to take an extra few minutes to think things though and perhaps check accuracy before letting him on the comp could really help. Having a parent invite him to help make dinner, or join them in one of their hobbies can expose him to other things he may not realize he would enjoy. Also, having a parent come and play with him can help them learn more about what he is doing and why he enjoys it as well as help in building a better relationship which could then be leveraged to invite him to do other things with them.

You mentioned that the game he plays in Minecraft and you wanted to get him interested in Software design. That is PERFECT! For starters, there is a HUGE (and I mean MASSIVE) community built up around creating mods for minecraft. These mods add SO MUCH content. One of them (ComputerCraft) actually adds the ability to program in Lua from within the Minecraft game.

This yields two options: get him playing with Lua code in Minecraft, and/or get him learning Java to write his own mods for the game! (Learn Java before trying to write a mod; MinecraftForge is a large, complicated framework not very friendly to beginners.)

(edit): I forgot to add: I'm a young, happily married engineer who landed a good job right out of university. Playing video games for 8-10 hours every evening throughout highschool has not left any negative impacts on my "future". Carrying an oversized backpack and purse did more to wreck my posture and back than gaming did. I have an (over) active social life, and sometimes that involves myself, my husband and some friends (who are also successful and have families and careers) spending the whole evening playing video games... (we just spent the entire weekend playing an EXTREMELY heavily modded version of Minecraft actually) and there is nothing wrong with that :)

Too much gaming CAN be a bad thing, but not always. Be careful that in trying to find a balance that YOU (and your dad) are happy with, you don't swing the pendulum too far the other way and prevent him from doing one of his favorite hobbies which could instead be turned into an awesome tool to teach programming. If he is playing on a server, it is also possible that he has friends online that he plays with, so take this into account too.

Edit again: Something to consider though... if he is gaming instead of sleeping, it would be reasonable to enforce no gaming after a certain time. He is old enough that I think this should be a conversation that he participates in instead of something that is dictated. But should still be kept within reasonable hours. Perhaps something like "no electronics for 30 min before bed" with the internet cut off at some hour after that, and only turned on at a certain time in the morning to help enforce healthy sleep habits.

One more edit: There is a game called "Code Combat" that teaches coding in a game situation. It could be worth looking into. From what I have played of it, it is in the form of: "type this to make the little dude fight the monster", "use what you learned about how to fight the monster to get through this puzzle".

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    +1, I'd like to add that I had a similar experience - my first real experience with programming was scripting for Quake3-based games (there was a very fully-fledged modding community). I made friends that I still have today, learned a ton, played a lot of games, made a lot of mods, and am a surprisingly senior software developer today. Cannot +1 this answer enough. – Knetic Oct 10 '17 at 23:42
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    "whole WEEKENDS" wow makes me feel bad about my entire weeks... – MCMastery Oct 11 '17 at 0:16
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    I just want to say that writing a mod for Minecraft is not a good way to start coding. The modding framework is large, complicated, and you're expected to know how to program at an intermediate level before any sort of questions will be accepted on the forums. However, I can definitely endorse using ComputerCraft. – CAD97 Oct 11 '17 at 6:34
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    I do not agree with SnyperBunny. At his age, physical activity is critical. His body is still developing. Even simple things like building legos can help develop the tactile and spatial motor skills that will benefit him later in life. I'd be more concerned with the sedentary behavior than the rare showers. Although a bit smelly, a weekly shower schedule for an 11 year old is not the end of the world (however, brushing teeth is critical). – Wes H Oct 11 '17 at 15:38
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    @SnyperBunny: It depends on when "back then" was. While lots of games before the mid-90s had hooks to keep you playing "just a little longer" (/me glares at Civilization), I don't think any games deliberately tapped into human reward systems like early popular MMOs did (or a lot of current games w/ microtransactions). The lack of endgame for these games didn't help -- the while point was to keep subscribers for as long as possible. It wasn't called "EverCrack" for nothing. – afrazier Oct 11 '17 at 20:06
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Are you looking at an addiction, or at a symptom, or just a hobby?

First, "video game addiction" is not recognized as a disorder. Unlike gambling or alcoholism — where addiction can be real and very tangible — gaming addiction is heavily disputed, the tools for trying to diagnose it are crude and problematic, and in any case addiction — that is to say a mental disorder — is not something that laymen should attempt to diagnose, let alone try to fix.

So... take two steps back and look at the wider picture. Are you really looking at an addiction, or are you looking at the symptom of another problem? Video games can be used as a form of escapism. Is your brother escaping something? Is there something that weighs on him that makes him seek refuge in the video games?

I have been there. I have done that. The games were not the problem. The rest of my life was.

And it does not even have to be a problem. It can be he just likes it and is very enthusiastic about it. That the games fills a space in his life that he enjoys. Of course you will have clashes then if you suddenly stomp in and say "No, you must stop now!". You are then ruining his hobby!

This is what you can do

  1. Sit with him. Do not give judgement or comments on what he should do. Just sit with him.
  2. Watch him play. Again: no comments on what he is doing in terms or wrong or right. Observe.
  3. Ask him to explain what he is doing. Listen, do not comment.
  4. Keep at it, until you understand.

Then(!)... when you have sussed what drives him in this... that is when you can act.

Why you should NOT try to rip the game away heavy-handed

Picture this...

You are playing a game of football with your friends. You are in the middle of a match. You are having a great time.

Suddenly someone stomps onto the field and yells at you "Get off of here, now!".

You want to know "Why?"

They say "Because I say you have played too much and it is time to stop now!".

If you do not sense a conflict brewing here I accuse you of lack of empathy, in the sense that you cannot picture what another person might feel about such a situation.

You brother obviously fulfills some kind of need with the computer games. If you suddenly take that fulfillment away, with no other argument than "I have decided this is best for you", you will have a conflict. You will undermine your credibility. You will not get compliance through trust, but by force. No matter if the need is healthy (hobby), a reaction to something unhealthy (escapism) or unhealthy in itself (addiction) you are not doing him any good. In fact you risk hurting him and your relation to him more than you stand the chance of doing anything good.

And no, "doing something is better than doing nothing" is not an argument here. Cutting off your toe to cure an infected ingrown nail is also "doing something".

If you want to do something that is safe and in your brother's best interest, get engaged in his activity instead of just trying to rip it away.

If you still suspect that this is addiction, i.e. a mental disorder...

...then take the brother to licensed psychologist and get it properly investigated there. Addiction is not, and I cannot stress this enough, something that laymen shall meddle with. Diagnosis and treatment must be done by professionals.

/Michael, 43 years old, gamer since 1984, father of 2

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    > Unlike gambling or alcoholism the mechanisms that make up an addiction are just not there when it comes to games. I disagree with this, I feel that video games use bright colors, sounds flashing, etc to show that you 'won' as a way to keep you playing. You end of chasing that endorphin of winning. Which is the same as gambling. Take competitive gaming like Halo, LoL or something similar in account, the endorphin of winning something that you're putting 20mins+ into, keeps you coming back. Now change that from 20mins of your time into $20 dollars, both time and money are valuable. – knocked loose Oct 11 '17 at 15:06
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    @ether "I feel that...". Sorry to be blunt here but: what you feel about this does not matter at all. Addiction is a clinical diagnosis. Laymen such as you and I cannot make up a clinical diagnosis on our own. It is not that people have not tried, but just as with roleplaying games, rock music and other such youth culture, they have failed to villify computer games. Computer Game Addiction is not a recognised disorder. It simply does not meet the criteria for any such condition. – MichaelK Oct 11 '17 at 15:14
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    @MichaelKarnerfors What is the mechanism of gambling addition that differs from gaming? What changes just by adding money/whatever is being gambled on to the equation? – JAB Oct 11 '17 at 15:38
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    Agreed. Doing badly at school, lack of hygiene, lack of social interaction and spending all day playing Minecraft might just as well all be symptoms of being depressed, bullied, or simply lonely. You need to ferret out the root cause first before attacking what might be a coping mechanism. – Llewellyn Oct 13 '17 at 17:23
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    Michael, it seems many of the comments have issue with the tone of the first part. While I get that you are saying they shouldn't just treat this as an addiction without professional help, as it is currently written, it is very easy to read it as an authoritative "Video game addiction? That's not even a thing!". Toning it down and/or providing support for the particular claims may help. Supporting the "is not recognized" claim may be hard as proving a negative is hard, but providing support that it is disputed, and diagnosis tools are problematic should be possible. – Mr.Mindor Oct 13 '17 at 22:28
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Don't worry about the Minecraft playing.

  • "'Marc', since he discovered YouTube and gaming, is a huge fan of Minecraft and spends way too much time on it, at the point where it's getting obvious that he has an addiction:

Before "correcting" this situation, specify your definition of "too much", and know why is that definition right.

  • He botches his homework assignment, which gives him really bad marks even though he entered middle-school and it's not hard at all to get really good ones

What has been easy for some people has been quite challenging for other people. Some people's schools focus more on rewarding effort (e.g., doing homework with consistency) while others focus more on raw talent (successfully answering what's been memorized). There could be significant reason for his results other than Minecraft.

  • He barely washes himself, spending a couple minutes under the shower with no soap at all to win time and play more

I seem to remember starting daily showers at the age of 14. Even then, I really lacked some basic understanding of proper hygiene until my mid-20s.

  • He wakes up early on the weekends (8 A.M.) to play all day, without going outside at all.

Who is to say he should be outside? I, for one, suffered for probably 15 years from being notably photosensitive from solar light, and had an unpleasant experience in a park where I tried just lying on the grass but had bugs crawl on me. These were two of three major factors that led me to spend a whole lot of time indoors. (The third was interest in playing video games and using computers, both of which were very much indoor activities due to technological reasons at the time.)

If he loves doing it, what's the harm?

Well, actually, there may be significant harm, such as undeveloping other skills. What you really need to do is to phrase things in a positive way, both to others (your brother and dad) but also in your own mind. Do not make your goal to be minimizing Minecraft ; instead, make your goal focused on what positive things you want to see happen. If you can win him over on those positive things, then you become an ally, and hopefully the Minecraft usage will diminish just enough so that the amount of Minecraft usage isn't incompatible with the positive things that you're promoting. The amount of Minecraft that gets played may be entirely unproblematic as long as other things are happening well.

I remember being obsessed, and claims were made that I was addicted, "proven" by the evidence that my obsession was getting in the way of other "important" things. However, I really didn't have any interest in those other things, for reasons that I believed I identified as being completely unrelated to my addiction. For instance, people deemed it disgraceful if I preferred to waste my time by spending it on a less worthwhile activity instead of traveling to a hiking spot with family. Yet I really disliked the outdoors and wasn't getting along with that family. People thought I was prioritizing my addiction too much, when just as much of the reason was a consequence of just how unattractive I found the alternative options that people wished I would engage with more.

If you think Minecraft is getting in the way of something he should do, make sure he realizes why that positive activity is so needed. If you think Minecraft is getting in the way of other necessary things, focus on making sure those other things are suitably attractive. If Minecraft is getting in the way of other things, DO NOT take away the Minecraft until you have a definite plan on how to make sure those other things get done instead. (Otherwise you may have a lose/lose situation as he loses his Minecraft, and you're not getting what you want as he either just sits around sulking and not accomplishing what you're hoping for, or becomes obsessed with some other activity that utilizes his time while the goals you want to see happen still remain unreached.)

In summary, the reason I said "Don't worry about the Minecraft playing" is that you should focus on how to successfully the positive goals you want pursued. If those other things become suitably attractive, he will likely self-regulate Minecraft downward as needed to make sure he achieves whatever else he finds to be attractive.

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Of course, my parents can have enough with my brother's behaviour, and decide to cut the internet. He then starts a tantrum, answer back to his mother and yells.

I'm going to hazard a guess - does this result in the internet being reinstated, sooner or later? If so, this is a classic mistake. It trains the child that throwing a tantrum will get them the result they want, and only leads to more tantrums.

The solution I would suggest is rather than an outright gaming ban, limit it to something reasonable (e.g. 1 hour a day on weekdays, 2 hours a day on weekends). Any tantrum or misbehavior related to being cut off results in the loss of the next day's internet. That will quickly curb the tantrums. The most important thing is to stick to what you say. If you "go easy" when it comes to the next day, you undo the hard work. It doesn't have to be all strict though. Good activities (e.g. achieving a good grade) can be rewarded with extra gaming time, etc.

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    I also don't think that shutting down internet is the solution either, neither do my parents. I'd like my brother to quit being an addict, not to make him go offline, because I don't think it's fair for him. I'll keep your words in mind :) – Jaeger Oct 11 '17 at 22:56
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I think your best option is to try and develop a relationship as your brother's ally in this situation.

You can talk to your father about implementing consequences and what type of consequences are best and how they can be structured, but leave all consequences to him, and don't let your brother see/know that you are doing so.

When you talk with your brother, start by sympathizing with him. If he complains about how unfair your father is being, acknowledge that he is upset and that it doesn't seem fair. You can share stories about how strict your dad was with you, and joke with him that he should feel grateful that your dad is not as strict anymore. But, whatever you do, don't try to convince him that there is anything wrong with his behavior. That will make you sound like another "adult" telling him what to do.

If possible, try and remember a time when you did something similar to his behavior. You might say something like "When I was 16 I discovered Tetris, and got addicted. I didn't want to do anything except play Tetris all the time. But after a while, I realized that none of my friends wanted to spend time with me, because they didn't like playing Tetris as much as I did, plus I kinda smelled bad because I wasn't showering very much. Also, my grades dropped a bit, and that meant that I had to take classes in the summer, instead of having a great vacation" (obviously, this is all made up, but hopefully you can think of something similar in your life). Feel free to embellish the truth a bit if it makes the story more impactful (maybe you didn't lose any friends, but if you know that he has, you can throw that in to make your story more relatable). But, make sure that the story you tell is believable.

Then tell him what you did to make the situation better. You can say something along the lines of "So, I decided that I could play Tetris only after I had finished my homework," or "I set a timer for 1/2 hour, and only let myself play for that amount of time every day." By doing this, you are providing him with potential solutions that he can use to adjust his own behavior--without actually suggesting that he implement these solutions. Acknowledge that his situation is different, and that he might not have the same problems that you did, and that your solutions might not work well for him. And then tell him that you are happy to help him figure out something that might work if or when he decides that he does need help.

You can also talk about learning web languages...but make sure that you talk specifically about how learning those languages connects with gaming. At 11, he is probably less capable with the complex thinking that is required to make the cognitive connection about how learning a web language is related to gaming. So make it concrete for him. Maybe tell him that if he learns a specific language, you will sit down with him and help him develop his own game (even making a very simple game would be pretty exciting).

TL;DR: I guess what it all boils down to is that you want to set yourself up as a confidant/support for your brother. His relationship with your father over this situation is already going to be antagonistic, but if you have already developed your role as someone who understands what he is going through, you might be able to offer suggestions and advice that will help him, while still steering him towards less destructive behaviors than he has been choosing on his own.

  • Thought that came up: I wonder if actually anybody ever got addicted to Tetris. It's always online server-based games people get addicted to. – stommestack Oct 10 '17 at 21:00
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    I never had problems with addiction to Tetris, but did have dreams about the Tetris shapes, and would see the falling shapes when I closed my eyes. Seriously though--although I think there is potential to become addicted to any game that is based on receiving an award for winning--MMORPGs are the most addictive. Check out this study: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3832462 – magerber Oct 10 '17 at 21:11
  • @magerber : You're not the first – TOOGAM Oct 11 '17 at 2:42
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    "Feel free to embellish the truth a bit if it [seems like it will serve your goals]" - no. Don't lie. – TOOGAM Oct 11 '17 at 2:43
  • I realized I was playing too much TFC when I looked at my dad's 3-story office building and thought, in all seriousness for a second or two, "I bet I could rocket jump up there." – Wayne Werner Oct 11 '17 at 16:58
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My main question is, how can I bring this whole thing to him with loosing him?

I don't think you can. Other answers have covered everything very well. I think you're reading too much into this.

I think your father should still be disciplining, and ensuring that he showers since that's important.

Of course, my parents can have enough with my brother's behaviour

It's not clear what you mean by this. If you mean they took away video games and the internet simply because he was playing too much I don't think that's a good idea. If your brother was actually misbehaving, then it's acceptable punishment and the tantrums are just something that comes with people being upset.

I'm planning to try to make my brother see how what he's doing isn't good for him and his family.

I advise against this. You need to be able to articulate why it's bad for him, and in the question you didn't do that. There's a difference between your brother doesn't eat, shower or look after himself, and he spends his free time playing video games.

If you and your father simply dislike him spending his time doing it, then find other things for him to do but be prepared to undertake them as well. There are plenty of things out there. If you want him to do other things, then be engaged with him to do those things. Go bike riding, see movies, or walking, find a hobby together, try tennis or skateboarding. Don't just take something away from him because you feel it's bad.

I used to play a ton of video games when I was younger, and into my early 20's, and I'm fine today (that is: I'm happy, I'm married, I see my friends, I work, I clean the house etc). There were some days I could rack up 16h, and I don't remember what my hygiene was like, but I daresay it wasn't excellent. Video games are engaging and rewarding, far more than what homework is, and I actually learned plenty from playing them. I implore you to read Reality Is Broken, a book about the terrific effects of video games on society

1

In psychology you say that an addiction is cured, when i.E. an alcoholic can drink a glass of wine, but then stops afterwards. If your brother is choosing a game over basic human needs like eating, hygiene and such, then this is definitely a case of addiction that should be taken serious. And if you cannot handle it, you should definitely call an expert on this.

There are reasons why humans have addictions to things which are not on their own addictive. Minecraft i.E. doesn't inject anything in your brother's brain that makes him addictied, he does it to compensate something else. Maybe it has something to do with the divorce of your parents, maybe he has troubles with friends, there are many possibilities, and sometimes a simple hug can cure a lot of things. It would be good if you can figure out what it is that makes him escape from reality and help him to solve it, on the other hand that is only one part of the cure.

To get his priorities back on track you cannot just simply forbid the 'bad' game, because the game is not the problem, what he tries to compensate with it is the problem. If you take away the chair someone is sitting on, he will fall and probably get injured. What you need to do is to show him alternative ways to fulfill the need that causes him to play the game. If possible alternatives, that will help him living his life and not pull him further away from it.

Minecraft is a game of exploration, creativity and interaction with friends, so the alternative should somehow provide similar values. I.E. you could take him on a vacation trip to an interesting place that satisfies his curiosity and creativity the same way, probably take a best friend he's usually playing with along (or just you and your brother, if you have a good relationship). Make clear to him, that this is a no-Minecraft week, but that not playing the game for a while won't hurt him and has advantages. The goal is that he believes that you are rewarding him for something, and not punishing him for playing too much Minecraft.

Do such things on a regular base - not necessarily that expensive, but with the goal of showing him interesting alternatives - and after a while he will realize: Minecraft is a great game, but there are other things that are fun as well. And if things go well, he will eventually choose those other things on his own. If he in the end still plays a lot of Minecraft, but his priorities are in the right order, then this is a completely normal thing to do for a boy of his age.

1

As with any addictions, there is a withdrawal period. Since this is not a physical addition, his withdrawal symptoms will be psychological and may very much look like the stages of grief (anger, denial, isolation, etc).

It is not uncommon for my kids to get an excessive amount of technology time during the summer. I'll make them take a break and completely unplug from all electronics for a couple of weeks at a time. I've found it takes a few days from when I cut the cords until they start to "wake up" to life.

Your brother will be a brat and will not want to do anything for a few days at least. Nothing will change that, but stick with it and he will eventually find something else to do.

Of course, you need to make sure there is something else to do. Don't expect him to pick up War And Peace and dive right in. Since he likes Minecraft, he probably has a great architectural imagination. I'd highly recommend Legos or some other form of building toys. Be ready to spend time on the floor with him showing him how to put things together. Try to get your father to play as well.

Unfortunately, without supervision and boundaries, he will fall right back into the Minecraft trap. You may want to work with your father to establish when and how much time he can use electronics.

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My own sons and I had video games as a shared interest all through their formative years. This extended to board and card games also and provided a foundation for verbal interactions on other topics besides gaming and for overall closeness in the family. There is nothing automatic about a parent/child or sibling relationship. It has to be cultivated like any other relationship though there is a very good starting point and hopefully trust that can be used in the beginning based on the nurturing process. Now my sons are grown with their own families and are very responsible adults and loving parents.

I see gaming as a tool in the arsenal of parenting in this way. Rules in games can mimic rules in life. Winning and losing in gaming provide ways to positively reinforce how to handle success and failure in life. This is possible in gaming as you have a small model or microcosm in which to teach these principles that simulates life experiences, work, etc. without some of the impact of real life. The interactions during a gaming experience with parents and siblings can translate to more successful interactions in life. So I think one of the first things to do is to suggest your father become more involved with his son's gaming and maybe even participate. If he doesn't like that particular game or computer gaming, maybe some board games would work. The idea is to become more involved in his son's life on his son's terms. That is the first step to creating trust which can then be used to help his son. No one wants to be told they are addicted or failing by someone they do not trust or respect. Without those two things it does not matter what is said.

So for your role, I'd encourage your father in this way and also attempt to engage in the gaming yourself as a bridge into your sibling's world. I personally do not think there is a "right amount" of gaming. That is very dependent on the person but certainly if other responsibilities end up being forfeited to something that is a hobby, that is worrisome. Start with the bridge, build the trust, and then try to encourage other activities (board games, card games, outside games, etc.) that will also be attractive to him.

This takes time and there is no quick fix, unfortunately, for relationship building that leads to positive results. The amazing part about this though, is that I promise you will BOTH benefit from the process.

  • I wish this was this easy, but I don't have as much time has my brother does, and even if I happen to play games during my free time, I usually prefer to work on personal projects.. Also, I've never been a huge Minecraft gamer, I think I have maybe 10 hours on it, against 300+ for games such as Skyrim. As for my father, he did try to make bonds, but it's something to ask him to play Minecraft with Marc, because he basically never ever played a game on a computer before, and I'm not sure that my brother will be THIS happy to play with him – Jaeger Oct 10 '17 at 23:01
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When I was a kid, and getting into computer games, my mother never banned me from them, but she worked very hard to make sure I was involved in plenty of other things as well. Because of this, I got into theater, and ended up never really becoming a big gamer.

Now that I fret about my own kids and their attraction to video games, I try to keep in mind how effective my mom's approach was. You can't really replace a something (gaming) with a nothing. I try to make sure my kids are exposed to a lot of culture, and cultivate a lot of interests (music, art, etc.) and I have to trust that will guide them away from any singleminded obsessions.

Normally, I would say let your dad handle this himself, but since he's asked for your help, it might be that there are things you can do better than a(n older) parent. For instance, if your brother looks up to you, try to interest him in some of the non-gaming things that interest you, so you can have shared hobbies. If you lived closer you could actually do activities together with him, but this could be the next best thing. And DEFINITELY have a hygiene talk with him... that's an issue for many many middle-school boys, regardless of their interests.

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To put it simply: Gaming is a hobby. Like most hobbies, it's harmless, but like any other hobby taken to excess is problematic for scheduling. If a person is spending too much time with a particular hobby to where they are letting needs (like school work) lapse, the problem isn't with their hobby, but with their time management skills.

Helping to understand putting needs before wants is vital skill, but trying to pick and choose which hobbies he should be interested in is not only rude and insulting, but also disrespects him as a person. Your Dad's idea of turning off the internet may look good on the surface, but problematic under the surface. It seems good because it gets immediate results. It's bad, however, because it teaches him that his family won't allow him to pursue his own goals. Your dad setting an "internet off" and "internet on" times for him to focus on needs, so he knows it ahead of time, would be a responsible way to handle it, purely cutting him off is irresponsible.

Further, research has shown that gaming is right up there with Chess and Reading for developing the mind, so really it should be encouraged as long as it doesn't interfere with his health needs, and it's bad reputation is mainly just due to the normal cultural resistance to new things.

Video Games Can Help Boost Social, Memory & Cognitive Skills

Video game playing found beneficial for the brain

Are Video Games Dangerous?

The Benefits of Playing Video Games

Going through the research, it -does- show that different styles and genres of games provide different benefits. And his focus on Minecraft is actually in your benefit, because it's one of the few games that includes elements from most of the genres - teamwork, spacial reasoning, planning, creativity, and more.

Suggestions: It's much easier to meet a child where they are instead of forcing them to follow your pattern.

Instead of forcing them to do what you want, try to identify what you want out of them, and what they want out of the games, and try to mesh the two together.

If you want the child to play video games less because you want them to interact more with the family, maybe try getting minecraft for everybody else in the family and joining them on the server.

If you want the child to play less video games because you feel they need more exercise, maybe get your child an HTC Vive VR system. (There's also write-up on how to make it work on minecraft, but be warned, it is a chunk of work to set up). At that point, he'll probably look forward to getting exercise.

If it's purely for "fresh air and sunlight", get daylight bulbs in your house (they DO help with your body's vitamin production just as the sun done, and you'll likely find you feel better as well), and put some fans in the window.

Or, if you're willing, combine all three. Having multiple VR systems in the home would let the family take cheap "trips" around the globe together.

Cautionary Note: None of these will work if he is overplaying video games as a way to get away from his family, and he will retreat from attempts - at which point the problem is figuring out why. If that's the cause, addressing the problem in the family will encourage him to slowly spend more time with the family. (Does everyone argue a lot? Are they judgmental of him? Do they hide things? Does he not feel he can be open and honest without being judged? Is he always being overshadowed? Is he ignored when he wants to talk?) Watch for subtle clues about how he acts around family and when he drops out of interacting or leaves the family or what he's looking forward to when he heads off to play his games.

  • Done, hope that helps. These aren't the research papers I read previously (always difficult to hunt down older research), but these make similar points. – liljoshu Oct 12 '17 at 19:10

protected by Community Oct 11 '17 at 22:51

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