So here’s the good news: I have been assigned a “new kid” to mentor at the middle school. You’ll remember that sadly, my original boy had to move only weeks into the new semester.
Anyway, my new little guy is awesome.
He’s twelve years old, Vietnamese, quiet as a mouse and so eager to please. As I sat in the media center waiting to meet him, I watched another volunteer struggling to keep the attention of her two charges. They couldn’t sit still, were veering off subject (“did you really get into a fight last week?”) and were uncomfortably disrespectful. It was a reading rodeo..poor woman!
I like to start off getting to know my kids by asking tons of questions..their favorite food, their favorite team, favorite TV show, what they want to be when they grow up, hobbies etc. The strange thing is, as different as both of my students have been, what they both had in common was the inability to answer most of these questions. It was as if they had just landed on earth.
No favorite TV show
No favorite sport
No favorite music
No favorite food (at home or at a restaurant)
No idea what they want to be
How is this possible?
And then it hit me. You know what both these kids do in their spare time? They play lots of video games. And unlike watching TV shows where you might at least peer through some sliver of a window into the real world, video games provide no situational life-context of any kind.
These two boys aren’t “bad” kids, but they are mentally and emotionally uncoupled from life, from any sense of being connected to a past, present or a future. They don’t seem to develop likes and dislikes, hopes, fears or opinions; they are unnervingly neutral. They aren’t invested emotionally in anything outside of themselves, even something as simple as a sports team. It’s as if they don’t have roots for nourishment and stability..nor do they have limbs that reach up towards their dreams; they are simply, tragically, snapped off branches.
Super violent video games like Mortal Kombat are often implicated when studying the lives of juveniles who commit serious crimes, but could it be that intense isolation and separation from family, classmates, society and anything remotely relational starts much earlier in life- with unchecked hours upon hours playing seemingly innocent Mario Cart?