Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Epic Summer Saga 3: How Can Video Games Lead to Meltdown? Let Me Count the Ways

Any parent to boys, especially boys with Asperger-ish tendencies, knows that video games can be a blessing and a curse. Nothing short cuts sensory overload and anxiety-induced meltdowns quite like a screen full of computer graphics. Then again, nothing can trigger a meltdown quite like my kid's obsession with games like Mine Craft.  Just over a week ago, Sky got an upgrade on Mine Craft. Things have been hellish ever since. Here's a list of meltdown triggers since then:

1. Four words: revert to factory settings

The day after Sky got his upgrade, his Kindle Fire inexplicably uninstalled itself. Apparently Sky had no idea something like this could happen. How could technology fail him so? Oh, the horror! Oh, the injustice! Oh. My. Gosh. I've never seem him meltdown so quickly and so thoroughly as he did when he turned on his Kindle to discover a black screen.  The apps, the books, the everything? Gone. Pfft. Vanished without a trace. And he was inconsolable. In the end, I had to promise him a day of unlimited play time once the Kindle was fixed (thus setting myself up for the next major cause for meltdown...) just to keep him from hyperventilating.

2.  Kindle Free Time

Do you guys know about this app? You pay $3 a month, and then you get access to tons of free kids books, games, apps and movies. More importantly, though, you get the ability to set usage time limits. We love it. Sky, not so much. Sky's Kindle is set to allow unlimited access to books, but his app usage is limited to an hour a day in the summer. Ironically, we thought putting Free Time onto Sky's Kindle would help eliminate the constant negotiations we endured when he played the DS.

Ah, nope. According to Sky, using Kindle Free time = torture. He even polls his friends to see if their parents are as mean as we are. According to Sky NONE of his friends have limits set on their gaming. This may actually be true. I've asked several and only found one other parent who seems to have some means of controlling how much her kid games.  Maybe those kids don't get as obsessed with games as mine. Maybe their parents don't care how much time they spend glued to a screen. I'm not sure, but I do know that Sky thinks we must be the meanest, most strict parents in like ever.

Major meltdown number two came when I told Sky he could only play for three hours the day after Ren fixed the Kindle instead of the initial all day I'd originally promised. See, I figured it would take  Ren a couple of days to get it fixed, but actually, it only took an hour. So, the next morning, when I gave the Kindle back to Sky, I explained that he would get three hours instead of the usual one since he'd missed play time the day before. Silly me thinking he'd adjust to the change, thinking he meant it when he said he understood why the daily limit was (an incredibly generous) three hours. Silly me, when I was shocked by his meltdown.

3. Taking Away the Device

After two consecutive days of meltdown, on the third day, I suggested that he take a break from his Kindle.


I mean, I didn't even have the chance to talk him through the pros of giving it up for a day or two. Ren and I were headed out of town, and I knew I couldn't leave a highly meltdown-prone Sky with my parents. But, I also couldn't give in and give him his Kindle after such bad behavior the days before. So, I told him he could play his DS a little.

And, he played non-stop pretty much the entire time we were gone.  I don't know about you, but when I leave my kids with someone else, I don't expect them to strictly enforce all of our rules, especially the ones about how the kids spend their free time. So, by the time we got back, Sky had played DS for hours and hours.  I suppose this wouldn't have been a big deal, except that it was Father's Day.

4. Father's Day Cards

Ren and I spent Father's Day weekend driving to our new city to close on our new house. Six hours each way, with a house closing, house cleaning, and construction preparation sandwiched in between. When we finally got home, it was 8:30 and time for the kids to go to bed. Sky didn't even realize we'd returned because he was so obsessed by his DS. But, as soon as I was able to get him away from his game, he realized that he hadn't finished the Father's Day card he'd started making hours before.


How could we have gotten home so soon? Why didn't Big Sissy make him stop playing his game? Why didn't someone remind him to color it? Why, oh why, was Father's Day ruined by this ill-fated turn of events?

The cover of the Father's Day card Sky didn't finish. It's a super hero with a vacuum, and really, I can't think of a better homage to Ren than this.
By the time we got him through the Great Father's Day Meltdown of 2013, I was convinced that everything had the potential to cause video-game-related meltdowns. This made me more determined than ever to get him away from his games for awhile.

Thankfully, finally, on day five, Sky agreed he needed put his devices away** for the day. And, we had a great day, a great one!

**TODAY'S PSA: Apparently, one must say "put them away" and NOT "put them into time out." Even though these are the exact same thing in practice, one phrase causes meltdowns and the other does not.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 4


H Stos said...

My small one almost reverted my Kindle to factory settings one day. I have a pass code on mine to open it up and apparently if you enter it incorrectly more than a couple of times it starts bringing you through some options to revert the machine to factory settings. I got to him/it just as the screen said something like "Do you really want to revert to factory settings? YES or NO" I almost had a meltdown myself.

Mom on the Edge said...

THAT explains it! I imagine Stow set the trap and Sky clicked "yes."

Denise said...

I just found your blog. I am married to a Japanese man. I have a son with ASD and a younger daughter. I guess I feel a strong sense of familiarity with what you write about. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I have enjoyed reading some of your posts this evening. Very entertaining stuff! I will check out some more soon.

RachelG said...

Oh. YES! To all of it. My son does not have ASD, but he seems to share a lot in common with Sky. And, I swear I could have written this post. Right down to the unfinished Father's Day Card that is, somehow, someone else's fault. And the reasons listed above are the same reasons that our son doesn't have his own Kindle or DS (despite constant begging and nagging). We must be even meaner parents than you! :-) But, time on the Wii and time on the computer are enforced... and yes, I've been told how NONE of his other friends have such restrictions. pfft! BTW, I love your blog. It makes me feel less alone in dealing with a child who is different. In our case, he has some sensitivity/sensory issues (not sure what the proper term is) as well as some anxiety and panic issues.