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Lost in another world

Family | China tackles gaming addiction with regulations, while a U.S. group equips parents to fight it
by Kiley Crossland
Posted 11/15/19, 04:59 pm

The Chinese government announced six measures this week aimed at cracking down on young people’s video gaming habits.

Gamers 17 and younger are now allotted 90 minutes of gaming time a day, only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. On recognized national holidays, they can play up to three hours. The regulations also limit the amount of money minors can spend on in-game transactions like buying virtual cars, clothes, and weapons to 200 yuan ($28) for gamers under age 16 and 400 yuan ($57) for those ages 16 and 17. Every gamer must register their online accounts with their legal names and phone number so they can be tracked.

A year ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for greater oversight of China’s $33 billion online gaming industry, blaming it for the growing number of children in China diagnosed with nearsightedness. Efforts by China to get its gaming problem under control cleared the way for the United States to surpass it this year as the world’s largest gaming market. Worldwide, the video game industry generated just shy of $135 billion last year, more than the global music and movie industries combined, NPR reported.

The World Health Organization officially recognized video game addiction as a mental health condition last year. It defined a gaming disorder as “characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities … and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

Melanie Hempe witnessed the condition firsthand in her oldest son, an A-student who hoped to become an engineer. He dropped out of college after his first year because a childhood gaming habit became a 12-hour-a-day addiction. In the aftermath, Hempe founded Families Managing Media, an organization that supports and informs families who are fighting screen addiction.

She told me parents today don’t know enough about the incredibly addictive nature of online video games. “The science behind it is so powerful,” Hempe said, noting gaming companies use a similar model as slot machines, giving intermittent and novel rewards that trigger dopamine releases and keep the user playing.

For parents concerned their child could be addicted, she asks three questions: Does your child have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude? Do they get bored after an hour? Can you list three things that they like doing more than gaming? If the answers are no, she said, be concerned: “An addictive slot machine should not be the one thing your kid wants to do for entertainment.”

Hempe tells parents the secret to setting boundaries and limiting access to addictive screens is a community of other like-minded parents—even just a couple other moms—who can support each other along the way and take responsibility for their role in managing addictive screens in their home. She said the unpopular truth is that in the end, a gaming addiction “is not the kids’ fault, it’s the parents’ fault.”

Associated Press/Photo by Hans Pennink Associated Press/Photo by Hans Pennink A vitamin E acetate sample

Vaping problem pinpointed

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week named a culprit in the recent outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses: vitamin E acetate. CDC researchers found the compound at the primary site of injury in the lungs of 29 patients, two of whom died.

Vitamin E acetate is a sticky, honey-like substance used to thicken vape fluid, especially in illicit THC vaping products. Although safe in pill form or on the skin, the gluey substance clings to lung tissue.

Injured lungs look like they experienced a toxic chemical burn, similar to injuries seen in people exposed to a chemical spill at an industrial plant or the chemical weapon mustard gas, according to findings published earlier this month by doctors from the Mayo Clinic.

The CDC did not rule out the possibility of other chemicals or toxins contributing to the disease but said vitamin E acetate is the first common suspect found in the damaged lungs of patients from across the country. Nationwide, the outbreak has killed 40 people and injured 2,051 others since March.

Doctors in Michigan announced this week that they performed a double lung transplant last month on a 17-year-old vaper. Surgeons at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit said they found an “enormous amount of inflammation and scarring” on the teen’s lungs. He entered the hospital in early September and immediately went on the transplant list because of his condition. The doctors did not specify what or for how long the teen vaped. —K.C.

iStock/C.Mae Design iStock/C.Mae Design

The goodness of marriage

While the number of couples who cohabit before marriage is on the rise, married adults are still more satisfied in their relationships, a new Pew Research Center study found.

Researchers said 59 percent of U.S. adults ages 18 to 44 said they had cohabited at one point in their lives, compared to 50 percent who have ever been married. The study found marriage, despite its waning popularity, still wins out in every measure of trust and satisfaction. Married adults were more likely than cohabiting adults to trust their significant other to be faithful, act in their best interest, handle money responsibly, and tell them the truth. They were also more likely to say they were very satisfied with their significant other’s parenting, communication, and work-life balance, as well as the division of household chores and their sex lives.

“We can’t necessarily explain why married people are happier,” Juliana Horowitz, a co-author on the Pew report, told The New York Times. She noted that even when they controlled for age, education levels, race, religious affiliation, and relationship duration, “the link between marriage and higher levels of satisfaction was still significant.”

Christians can explain the difference, said Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a WORLD News Group board member. In his podcast The Briefing this week, Mohler said marriage, instituted by God at creation, uniquely builds happiness, trust, and fidelity because it is a covenant. “It shouldn’t take a background in Biblical theology to understand how that offers stability and trust and security,” he said, adding the study’s findings should “point us once again to the goodness of God’s creation and His mercy in giving to human beings the gift of marriage.” —K.C.

iStock/monkeybusinessimages iStock/monkeybusinessimages

Polyamory stats overblown

A recent article by the Institute for Family Studies challenges the notion that polyamory is a now common practice. The report digs into a 2016 study in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, cited by several major news sites, that purported to find 20 percent of Americans have participated in a consensual, nonmonogamous relationship at some point in their lives.

The researchers only surveyed single people—taking monogamous, married people out of the sample altogether—and deliberately oversampled homosexual men and women, who already have a significantly higher likelihood of engaging in consensual nonmonogamy.

“As always, the reality is probably more boring,” wrote Charles Fain Lehman for the Institute for Family Studies. He concluded that the share of people practicing polyamory has probably gone up, but not nearly as much as reported. —K.C.

Kiley Crossland

Kiley is a former WORLD correspondent.

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