Childhood Depression: Is the Cause Lurking in Your Living Room?

by Melissa on September 27, 2010

This is why depression rates in kids are skyrocketing!” I thought yesterday.

While searching for a wireless router at Best Buy I had gotten lost in the video game section. It blew my mind.

The graphics are fantastic, to the point where the opponents and challenges seem completely realistic.

I’ve seen them all before, but standing, there, having a wall of different kinds staring back at me was what really made it hit home.

Kids inhabit a virtual world and a physical world. In the virtual one, anything is possible. They can play football against top NFL athletes that actually look like the athletes, and beat them. They can perform feats with swords and musical instruments and basketballs that they could never perform in real life.

Standing there, I couldn’t help but wonder, “How confusing is it for kids to live these two different lives?”

I get it. It’s fun. It’s a release.

I remember when my friend Pam bought Rock Band. Katie, Kelly, and I would meet at her place for “band practice” once a week. We had a blast. But I don’t know how to play the guitar or the drums.

The feeling I got when I left was relaxing, but it was nothing compared to the time, this summer, when I sat down and played the piano for a friend who didn’t know I played.

That filled me with pride.

And it took me years of hard work and practice to get to that point.

Video games give us super-human powers, but when kids are spending endless hours interacting in the virtual world rather than the physical, they’re deprived of time engaged in activities that are critical to brain development.

When they spend too much time in the virtual world, they’re not working towards mastering something that they can actually do that would greatly increase their self-confidence.

They have instant, unrealistic gratification.

If they don’t develop pride and self-confidence through actual experiences, it’s only obvious that it will lead to feelings of frustration and powerlessness in the physical world.

How to get started:

1. Talk about it! As always, at Tandem Teaching we think that a conversation should be the starting point for any change in your child’s life. Explain your reasoning, the research, and your desire for them to live a happy life where they have skills that will bring them pride for their lifetime.

2. Work out a plan together. If your kiddo is using for 2 hours a day right now, it wouldn’t make sense to cut them back to 15 minutes. It would  shock their system. Decrease time by 15 minutes every two days, until they’re at 15 minutes a day.

3. Offer support. Think about any time you’ve gone on a diet, or tried to break a bad habit. It was probably much easier if no one was bringing your favorite ice cream into the house. Be right there with them as they’re practicing the piano to cheer them on, or help them set up a skate board ramp, then hoot and holler when they do their tricks!

This small act will make a big difference in your child’s life.

Melissa Lubaszka is the founder of Tandem Teaching and teaches in the inner-city. She blogs weekly about tips parents can implement to enhance their connection with their children and ways to bring out their children’s inherent gifts. Contact her for a private consulting session.

{ 5 comments }

Liz September 28, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Melissa-

I wish every parent in the world could read this. I really feel like if parents knew how much damage was being done (or how much growth was being suppressed) we would have a totally different take on the dominant form of entertainment for children these days.

Thanks for speaking your mind!
Liz´s last blog post ..Morning Rush- Logistical Challenge or Existential Crisis

Margaret Ross September 28, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Yes the balancing act is too much for the youngest children, I agree.
Even years ago, when my son wanted a simple video game at about age 8, (he’s 29 now) we told him he could buy one when he had enough money of his own saved. He played freely at friends homes, but when they came here, they played outdoors or drew comics. He’s still a comic fan, but a great reader, trivia guru and a charming young man, that can carry on an intelligent conversation with any age group.
Our daughter was much too busy to even consider video games, her own imagination was totally sufficient, enjoyed make believe and the outdoors as well. She’s 26, but does have a droid, oh and our son is an “Apple” king and they both have plenty of apps and aptitude!

Melissa September 28, 2010 at 8:50 pm

It’s just boysI think, Margaret. I think they’re so busy, too, but it just shows up in a different way.

I think it’s great that you had him save for something he wanted so that he could understand the value of it. Your son and daughter sound like they’re absolute delights. I’m so happy for you. It must feel great to know that your parenting contributed to the amazing people they’ve become.

Melissa September 28, 2010 at 9:00 pm

“How much growth was being supressed” I love that!

Piaget and Vygotsky gave us all of the research about what children’s minds are supposed to be doing, developmentally. I think it might be tricky to try to navigate, if you’re a parent that is raising kids in this era that is so saturated with media.

I’m so pleased to recommend you as a parent and educational expert that can help parents navigate through this really tough system. Thanks Liz!

Hockey October 20, 2010 at 9:37 am

This is a superb post and may be one that should be followed up to see what happens

A colleague emailed this link the other day and I will be desperately waiting your next write. Continue on the fabulous work.