The story followed Britta Hodge, a despairing mother whose sons’ gaming addictions were so severe they hadn’t attended school for two years.
During the segment, Britta spoke of collosal tantrums where Sam and Logan, her addicted 13 and 14-year-old sons, had hurled abuse at her when the game was removed. She described being head-butted, bitten, concussed and forced to call the police to deal with the boys’ violent attacks.
Unable to understand why the mother-of-six couldn’t simply confiscate the gaming console, Britta received a flood of criticism and finger-pointing from strangers accusing her of bad parenting after the episode aired.
But despite the judgement, Facebook posts seen by news.com.au prove she’s not alone in her struggle.
Hundreds of parents have taken to Britta’s Facebook support page Online Gaming Addiction to shed light on terrifying, heartbreaking tales of children consumed by gaming addiction.
News.com.au have published posts describing teenagers who have dropped out of high school, aggressive tantrums from six-year-olds, and shocking reports of children who are so glued to their games they don’t even get up to go to the toilet, sitting in their own waste for hours.
A huge number of parents in the group describe the same feeling of shame, of guilt, and of hopelessness.
“The 60 Minutes segment clearly caused so much negativity among Australia — parent blaming, shaming, bullying and, quite frankly, the most disgusting display of hypocrisy,” said one mother of a 12-year-old.
“If only their small-minded answers were so simply executed. They don’t see the stress, the breakdown, the attacks, the meltdowns, the sadness.”
The devastating post continued with the mother admitting she felt guilty for initially using gaming as a means of helping her son with his autism.
“Our son has and always had a communication disorder, a disorder that affects his ability to socialise,” she said.
“When I saw and heard his ability to feel free to talk and play without having to give eye contact, to play something where people understand his lingo, to have him feel like he had friends.
“When you hear him say ‘I let such-and-such win because he has only had two wins before’, showing empathy and kindness the only way he feels like he can — that’s how it got so far because I loved that he finally felt a little happiness when days for him are so difficult.
“His senses don’t cope in our ‘normal’ day, so yep I know I stuffed up, but man it’s hard.”
Another mother described feeling helpless at the situation with her 16-year-old son, who, just like Sam and Logan, had not attended school for two years.
She said at times, her son, who suffers from severe anxiety, cooperated when the game was taken away, but she still couldn’t persuade him to go to school or apply for a job.
“He gets very angry at times and has put holes in walls, has damaged furniture and been abusive. He doesn’t care about the other people in the house when he games at all hours of the night and day. He swears and thumps his desk or the walls if he’s losing,” she said.
“I’ve taken his console away and he has complied at times.
“He keeps his room immaculate and does chores that he is asked to do but he flatly refuses to go to school or to be a functioning member of society.
“He has high anxiety. He’s been assessed by five psychologists and one child psychiatrist and they can’t seem to find him on any spectrum but have said he is a very sad young man.”
Psychiatrist Dr Raji Guterres previously urged parents struggling with addicted children “not to lose hope”.
He told Mamamia there may be several underlying factors contributing to the addiction, which could be dealt with by mental health professionals.
“The concern is if we’re missing an underlying disorder… There might be something else going on at school – so it’s not necessarily addiction to the game as such.”
He added that in some cases, going “cold turkey” may produce more anxiety for the child.
“Start by encouraging small breaks. And don’t present those breaks as punitive. Taking a break from the game shouldn’t be seen as a ‘punishment’. It’s about positive reinforcement – so you could even consider ways of positively incentivising a decrease in gaming time.”
Dr Guterres suggested parents take their children to see a GP to assess any mental health issues, but the most important thing, Dr Guterres advises, is that parents present a unified front on the matter.
“Sticking together as a team indicates to your child that you are being firm, but fair, so the message is clear.