Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Parent of a Pre-teen Son…*

Today I am re-posting an article that I enjoyed writing – a long time ago now, and I hope you will enjoy reading today.

When I first started writing Tech–for Everyone way back on the 8th of June, 2007, I wondered how long I could go before I talked about computer gaming. I think I did fairly well at delaying the inevitable. Two things triggered this post: a client with a pre-teen boy, and my mood. I’ll look at the latter first.

This week I got into a foul mood. I became short-tempered, irritated, antsy. I was definitely ‘out of sorts’. I was not a Happy Camper. Part of this was due to the fact that I had several back-to-back days of too-much-to-do/too-little-time (can anyone relate?). I felt a bit less than “in control”.

I managed to keep up with demands, and my time-spent was successful. I not only kept afloat, but I succeeded. However, this didn’t lighten my mood. Finally, by staying up a little longer than I should, I was able to take a break and play a conquest map of Age of Empires III, The Warchiefs. Amazingly, I was calm, refreshed, and happy. I was a Happy Camper again.

Why? I realized that it had been several days since I had played a game, and I had subconsciously “missed it”, like a smoker during a long flight, or a dieter walking past the bakery. And that once I got my “fix”, I was returned to a normal psychological state. This realization has caused me to wonder if I (me! myself!) wasn’t developing a gaming “addiction”. Wow.

There have been several news stories about computer gaming; ranging from the couple who suffered financial ruin by devoting their lives completely to the online game World of Warcraft (a couple of nut-jobs, if you ask me), to the medical ramifications (carpal-tunnel) of too much controller/mouse/keyboard use … especially in children.

There is a real belief in “gaming addiction”, and there’s a doctor who’s gone so far as publicly stating that as much as 40% of all WoW players are clinically addicted to it. (Read the article) Consider that there’s at least six and-a half ten million people subscribing to WoW, and you realize that that’s a LOT of people … and that’s just one game. It is my belief that these news stories will only increase in number; that as our society becomes more and more of a shut-in society, and more of our interactions take place online, topics along this line will only grow. Google “World of Warcraft+divorce” and you’ll see 747,000 765,000 results. WoW!
If your friends are telling you you’re an addict, please … don’t take it as a compliment. Take a serious look at yourself, before you lose everything.

That said, I do play computer games; and if you’re curious, I like the WW II FPS titles (Call of Duty, Medal of Honor), air combat simulators (Lock On, Il-2, Microsoft), and ‘civilization’ games. And good-old Solitaire. I play a couple of games a day, to “unwind”. I think I’m alright… I haven’t, as yet, spent real money on ‘magic armor’.

The second topic I mentioned was the lady with the pre-teen son. She keeps having “weird pop ups”, and her machine is “always so slow.” I had installed a security suite, and the full gamut of protections onto her machine, and yet she keeps having these issues. She asked me, “why does this keep happening?”

I asked her several questions and looked over her logs and histories. She told me she has a 12 year-old son, and that as soon as he gets home from school he goes straight to the computer to “do homework” … that he spends quit a bit of time on the PC. Well! I was once a 12 year-old boy, and I remember well how much time in the afternoon — freshly released from a day of scholarly confinement — I spent on homework. None. Zero. Nada. (At least, not willingly.)

Sure enough, a look at IE’s browsing history (read how to do this here) did not reveal any instances of National Geographic, The History Explorer, Encyclopedia Britannica, or “math help” (or anything else even vaguely homework-related), but revealed endless explorations of online Flash games, YouTube, and “cheat codes”.

I looked at his download history and found plenty of “demo games”, screensavers, magic swords and shields, and other “bonuses” he’d earned playing his online games. Could one of those ‘magic swords’ (or demo-games) have contained spyware??? Does spyware slow down your machine? Cause pop ups? Well … (duh) YES!

Tip of the day: Here’s the thing most folks fail to fully grasp — when you let your child run under your User Account, he’s running with full administrator privileges and can install programs unrestricted and, when you click on “download this file”, you’re bypassing your protection. (PC’s have to work this way, or you’d never get anything done) You are telling your security programs, “it’s OK. I know what I’m doing.” A 12 year-old boy, caught up in the excitement at having just “triumphed” and earning himself a +2 Sword of Sharpness, probably doesn’t know what he’s doing, and he will click “download your prize now!”
98% of the time, it’s harmless fun. How can you tell which demo game or ‘magic shield’ is safe, and which one’s contain spyware? You can’t. Sorry. Like I said, 98% of them are safe.

If you missed my series on protecting your kids from the Internet, you can learn how to remedy this — creating a Limited User Account, and cranking up IE’s security, etc. — by clicking here.

Related:
* Protecting Our Kids On The Internet: Using Parental Controls
I recently set up parental controls for a seven and a nine year old who are very near and dear to me…

* There’s an online addiction assessment test you can take if you have suspicions/concerns about Internet/gaming addiction.

Today’s free download: K9 Web Protection is free Internet filtering and control solution for the home. K9 puts YOU in control of the Internet so you can protect your kids.

As if being a parent isn’t hard enough…

The Internet has made your job a whole lot tougher. As soon as your child is old enough to get online, you have to safely guide him through a whole new world: the virtual one. How can you encourage your child to explore wonderful new places that stimulate creativity and learning while ensuring he or she doesn’t wander into dangerous territory?

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Orig post: 8/9/07

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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July 9, 2010 - Posted by | computers | , , , , , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. Yes, I remember reading this interesting article before. I think in this “tech world” to refresh ones mind, to read again is necessary. While in my tech mode,I tend to read rapidly, then move/rush onto something else – so little time…
    I think many people do the same.

    …and now for the main topic
    Paul you are a good/honest witness to the possible addictions to games etc. I’ve heard people “deny” that they are addicted, or becoming so, they try to hide it, or perhaps they are not even aware, as you mentioned…

    g.

    Like

    Comment by Gaia | July 10, 2010 | Reply

  2. Gaia,
    I personally think much of the hype over “online addiction” is just that – hype. There is fearmongering to do and profits to be made (the treatment of addiction is a huge industry).

    That said, there is no doubt in my mind that certain people, of certain physio-psycho makeups, do become entangled in self-damaging “addicted behavior”, and that this behavior manifests itself in many different forms.. including (but certainly not limited to) spending way too much time online, playing games.

    Like

    Comment by techpaul | July 10, 2010 | Reply

  3. One of the online addiction assessment test questions is “How often do you block out disturbing thoughts about your life with soothing thoughts of the Internet?”. I find this question a little disturbing (not to mention funny). I don’t think I’ve ever heard the words “soothing” and “internet” used in the same sentence before. I would think if you come up with any answer other than “Does Not Apply” you have some sort of problem.

    Like

    Comment by KC | July 12, 2010 | Reply

    • KC,
      Most of the time, those questionnaires are recruitment tools more than true measuring devices.

      “have you ever __________?” (yeah. once. when I was 12. I’m 56 now…)

      … soothing? … Internet? Uh..

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | July 12, 2010 | Reply


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