I had an insightful experience while visiting one of my favorite coffee shops this morning. I had just finished my morning walk with a friend, and then crossed the road to get myself a decaf Americano.
I entered the door and was greeted by the gleeful expression of a young boy, who was sitting at a table with his brother and mother. He had an electronic device in his hands and he was shouting with excitement that “He won!” And then he expressed to his mother that he wanted to continue to the next level.
I have to admit that, at first, my hackles went up. It was like a trigger of many years ago when my youngest son, who later became video gaming addicted, was playing incessantly on his Game Boy, and I became a bit panicked for this child and his mother. I immediately caught myself and changed my thought to one of acceptance. After all. it’s perfectly fine for young boys to play recreational video games: I also secretly hoped that his mother had created boundaries and rules around this.
The young woman behind the counter was very busy preparing food and drinks for the other patrons so I took a moment to slip into the washroom. When I finished my bathroom break and opened the door to enter the coffee shop, I was again greeted by this young boy’s voice. This time he was in a loud negotiation with his mother. Their food had now arrived at the table and his mother wanted him to put his device away. Her son was begging her to let him play another game. This went on for a bit as I ordered and waited for my coffee, but mom eventually won the battle and the video game was shut down; food and drinks were consumed.
Mom then asked her two sons to step outside and take their family dog out of their parked vehicle, on a leash and give him a bit of exercise while she finished her coffee. As the boys were leaving the shop, the video-game-loving-child was once again into negotiations about whether or not he could share his video game time with his friend later that morning. He begged and pleaded, and I was happy to hear mom held her ground with a firm No.
How I wanted to turn around and gently speak with the mother, applauding her for her good decision making, and briefly share my own experience with my son. I had so much to tell her! But let’s face it, I was eavesdropping, and she was a complete stranger.
At that moment a man walked into the coffee shop whom the woman knew and they began to have a conversation about her sons and the ski instructing he was helping them with. I wasn’t really paying attention anymore, but then suddenly heard that one of mom’s sons was dealing with anxiety, and my radar went up. You see, there is a twofold issue with gaming and anxiety. On the one hand, children with anxiety can be more likely drawn into the world of video gaming to temporarily escape from and quell that panic within. And excessive, long term screen usage can magnify the anxiety disorder. Oh, how I now wanted to share with this mom and educate her on the risk factors. But there was no opportunity, I was certainly not going to interrupt this private adult conversation, and I needed to be on my way.
I left the cafe with the belief that mom would continue to monitor and restrain her son from going overboard with his video gaming, and hoped that one day soon she will either find herself reading my book or attending one of my talks, One More Level: Video Gaming Addiction, in her son’s school, so that she will be more aware and educated about the impending dangers and the risk factors of this growing disorder.
This experience has helped to remind me why it is that sharing my story, as a speaker is so important, but it has also shown me that this journey may bring up my own emotional triggers. I must keep my own prejudice in check, resist the urge to preach unsolicited advice, while still creating awareness for those who need to hear it.