....cross posted from our sister site, Chicago Moms Blog.
There is something familiar about the figure slouched in the office chair, face aglow in the eerie light of the monitor. I can still see traces of that sweet little boy who used to talk my ear off, but it's hard to recognize him, since I only ever see him in profile anymore, and his earphones tether him to his computer. There is an occasional deep-voiced giggle over the latest Dane Cook video, but otherwise just the quiet, rhythmic tap dance of keyboard and mouse clicks.
I know I'm not the only mother who fears losing her teenage son to screens, but I'm kept awake at night with visions of him actually falling into his monitor and becoming an avatar. If I look closely, I swear I can see the edges of his face turning into thick dark lines, while his visage flattens into two dimensions in Web-ready colors. The sad thing is, I think this is a fate he would welcome.
My son, now 17, was born 16 weeks prematurely. While he is doing great given his desperate prognosis at birth, he struggles with ADD, a short-term memory deficit, delayed social skills and a few other learning disabilities. It's ironic to me that a child who has difficulty concentrating can become utterly engrossed in the artificial world of video games, but this is a common scenario. According to Larry Silver, MD, video games hold particular appeal to kids and teens with ADD: "A child who's bothered by distractibilty in the real world may be capable of intense focus, or hyperfocus, while playing," says Silver. "For children who struggle with social skills, or lack the skills to play team sports, these games entertain and level the playing field. Computer games are emotionally safe."