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Why my Son's Addiction to Halo was a Silent Cry for Help

By Anna Gitellis, Guest Contributor to TechAddiction

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in guest articles are solely those of the author and are not necessarily the views of TechAddiction and/or Dr. Conrad.

It started with physical symptoms that I didn’t attribute to anything other than common middle school antics, merely a sprained wrist.  After all, we had just wrapped up football, so I didn’t think twice when my son complained about his hand hurting.  His pediatrician recommended icing and wrapping it with an ace bandage.  Yet, when my son brought it up, again and again, I couldn’t understand why his wrist wasn’t healing properly.  Odder yet? It was frequently before he went to bed on the weekends, accompanied by headaches and fatigue.  

It was then that I began to put the pieces together, we didn’t allow the Xbox to be used during the school week, hence the weekends were filled with hours of Halo, in my opinion, far too much Halo.  Internet gaming can be a great source of entertainment, even opportunities to play professionally, but how can you tell if your child’s interest have fallen beyond the scope of fun and into the deadly realm of addiction?

Let’s look at signs that could be indicative of when your child may have crossed the line:

• Overly-obsessed:

Yes, it can be difficult to recognize the difference between an adolescent passing fancy versus a full-blown obsession.  When you speak with them, does the conversation seem a little heavy on the gaming side? Discussions about plans that weekend to meet up and play somewhere? If you attempt to curtail their time are they irritable (this can be hard for me as well, after all, when is a teen not a little irritable?) but does their anger seem explosive and unreasonable if anything interferes with their gaming time?

• Unaware of time passing:

Not long after the wrist injury, I found my son downstairs in their ‘man cave’ way into the wee hours, still awake and battling away.  I reminded him that I already told him to go to bed to which my son replied, “I know, I just want to play for a couple more minutes…”and that’s where I found him three hours later!  Yes, I know that most teens are not really known for their prompt attention to details or timeliness, but still….

• Falling Grades, Missing Social Events:

I love all my sons, but truth be told they’ve never really been the uber-scholarly types, and yet when I went online to check on my son’s grades, it was shocking even for their minimal marks.  Missing assignments, low test scores/homework assignments.  Obviously his low grades where indicative of something larger and when his social life seemed relegated to weekends of Halo as opposed to going to the movies or attending school-sponsored events, I really began to worry.    

• Lying/Dishonesty:

When I confronted my son about his lackluster school efforts combined with his overly-devoted time to gaming, he of course became immediately defensive and worse yet, began lying to me.  Telling me that he went out over to a friend’s house to play basketball when I know for a fact after talking to his friend’s mother that the two of them spent a good twelve hours straight online and playing Halo.

As a mother, you always want the best for your children and when I began to calculate the amount of time spent online, the total was shocking to me.  And far worse for my son.  Time taken away from his childhood, squandered on a television screen, time that he would never get back.  I spoke to my husband and we both agreed that his Halo obsession had grown far too strong, so we did the only thing we could….we took the console away.  

It was two weeks of utter, well, you probably know what I’m referring to, but I wasn’t willing to lose my sweet boy to a game that was causing his grades and social life to fall away.  I gave him my old college acoustic guitar and had him join a ‘School of Rock’ program that I found online.   We found out later that he was having a hard time fitting in at school and to him playing online was a great escape, when he battled on Halo he could become a hero, especially on the multiplayer campaigns.
It was tough at first to wean him off the Xbox, but now when I hear him plucking away in his room and actually smiling again….well, the weeks of discomfort were well worth it.  

If you are interested in the School of Rock programs, check out: http://mystory.schoolofrock.com/ for their nearest location.

Guest Author Bio

As a mother of four, Anna Gitellis knows how to make every penny of that family dollar stretch to make the most for her large brood. When she's not running around the soccer field, PTA meetings or the local ice rink, you can find her online looking for the best deals for her family.

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