A story circulated last week about a father in China and his 23-year-old son who were at loggerheads over the son’s perpetual unemployment and his seeming addiction to video games. The son, as reported Kotaku East, spent nearly all of his waking hours playing first-person-shooter games against online opponents, much to his father’s chagrin. The son became so adept at killing and dominating within this virtual world, that all real life prospects of a job or personal growth soon fell away. Until one day the son started playing the game and losing to other players who seemed to be specifically targeting him for assassination. Soon, the truth became clear. Grossly unhappy with his son not finding a job, his father decided to hire players in his son’s favorite online games to hunt down and kill his son (in a virtual sense). The father’s hope was that his son would get bored of playing games if he was killed every time he logged on, and that he would start putting more effort into getting a job. Unfortunately the son figured it out (by communicating with his virtual assassins) and soon thwarted his father’s grand plan.
In a contemporary culture where technology has eclipsed real life interaction, it is unspeakably difficult for parents to provide suitable guidance for their teenagers, let alone know what they are doing. Some parents deal with these challenges with grace and respect, whereas others resort to evasive action and varying levels of manipulation and public shaming. The example above is hardly the worst. About a year ago a North Carolina father took possession of his 15-year-old daughter’s laptop computer and destroyed it with a .45 pistol – videotaping the entire act of aggression and posting it on Youtube.com. All of this because his daughter had used her Facebook account to lodge a lengthy complaint about the chores her parents asked her to do (see video here).
So in the face of technology run amok and teenagers using such technology to thwart responsibility or undermine parental authority, what sensible approach should parents take? Are highly symbolic acts of violence, like the ones mentioned above, a sensible and reasonable approach, or are they inherently too disrespectful and manipulative? What do you do to keep your teenager grounded in the real world?