Monday, July 16, 2007

Hang on, I think I can make the next level

Last month, experts in addiction at the American Medical Association meeting backed away from a proposal to designate video addiction as a mental disorder, stating that it needed further research. Some said that the issue is similar to alcoholism while others said that there was no concrete evidence that it is a psychological disease. On July 13 2007, Michael, 25, and Iana, 23, Straw of Reno NV pled guilty to charges that may be strongly linked to such an addiction.

The Straws are are accused of losing themselves in the virtual world of on-line video games to the extent that they allowed their two children, 11 months-old and nearly 2 years-old, to suffer from starvation and sickness. Their case was cracked open after a neighbor of theirs complained to the police about a baby which was constantly crying. A visit from an officer prompted social workers to investigate and the children were taken to the hospital.

Doctors at the hospital stated that both the children were severly malnourished and on the verge of death. Their daughter, who had weighed approximately six pounds at birth, weighed 10 pounds at 11 months-old. She couldn't lift her head or sit up due to lack of muscle development when the social workers found her. Her hair was matted with cat urine, had an infection in her mouth, had dry skin and was so dehydrated when she was found, that she could not cry or urinate. The police report states that the hospital staff had to shave her head because of the severity of the matting.

Her brother was also severely starved, suffered a genital infection and his lack of muscle development caused him difficulty when he did walk. Both children were found only wearing diapers, neither had received any immunizations and the baby had not seen a doctor since her birth the police stated.

When the police had responded, they said that they found the Straws apartment filled with trash bags, it smelled like garbage and dirty dishes and food were found in the kitchen. The refrigerator and cupboards were found to have contained food and formula. Social workers told the Straws that they had to leave the home so that it could be cleaned and when they checked on the couple two days after the officer's visit, they removed the children and took them to the hospital.

"Instead of providing health care or food for their children, they bought computer equipment. They had food, they chose not to give it to their kids because they were too busy playing video games," stated Deputy District Attorney Kelli Ann Viloria, who is prosecuting the Straws.

According to the investigation, Michael Straw received a $50,000 inheritance in September 2006 and had spent much of that by December on computer equipment and a large plasma TV. He had met his wife on-line when she was 16 and Michael, an unemployed cashier and Iana, a temporary warehouse worker, were obsessed with computers and the Internet. Viloria charges that they were too distracted by on-line video games, especially the "Dungeon & Dragons" series, that they failed to give their children proper care.

While child abuse because of methamphetimine addiction or alcoholism is common in Washoe County is common, abuse related to computer and video games is rare. Patrick Killen, spokeman for Nevada Child Abuse Prevention, said that video game addiction's correlation to child abuse is "a new spin on an old problem." He explained that child neglect cases comprise most of the child abuse cases in the state and are mistakenly considered less serious than actual physical abuse. He also said that it is easy for someone to get addicted to something and neglect the children. Whether it is video games, alcohol or meth, it is a serious issue he feels and Nevada needs to become more aware of it.

The Straws pleaded guilty to two counts of child neglect and both face a maximum 12-year sentence. They declined to be interviewed and their public defenders could not be reached for comment on the case.

I can understand the logic of how easily some can become addicted and it should be interesting what further research can prove in regards to an addiction such as this. I do fail to see how they could be seen as so addicted, when they obviously had the time to take a break from the video games and create two children, shop for whatever food was in the house and remember to feed themselves.

For another interesting post on video addictions, go here.

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