This is actually the second famous case of teen game addiction in Barrie, Ontario. The first was a tragic story of a teen who ran away from home after being told he couldn't play Call of Duty 4 anymore, fell out of a tree and died. Happily, this boy is alive, unharmed, and now famous for having bagged himself a cougar. So rather than a tragic story, we have a cautionary tale for all of the parties involved:
- Caution to all online lovers: Internet romances, particularly ones begun in your favorite MMO with built-in shared interests, are intoxicating. It feels like soul to soul communication and can make you careless. Be careful that you know all the details before meeting in person and are willing to deal with the ramifications -- whether that means harming a marriage or enticing a child away from his family.
- Caution to all teenage WoW players: Just because you have adult feelings and want to commit like an adult, does not mean that you have all of the experience and wisdom to make important decisions. The boy's lover left her family to travel thousands of miles only to get picked up by police and publicly humiliated. And he worried his parents for two days, causing the city to conduct a search for him as well. Learn how to manage your game time wisely, graduate from school and then feel free to make your adult decisions with fewer ramifications for others.
- Caution to parents: WoW is a wonderful opportunity to teach your children many real life values, including teamwork and time management. But if you don't have the time or inclination to play with or closely supervise your gamer children, then please setup parental controls and keep all computers in common rooms where they don't have the privacy required to participate in activities for which they are not ready. This is particularly true for parents like those in this case who know that their child has a problem. If your child has issues with doing anything in moderation, then rewarding that child with full, unsupervised access is never a good idea. Controlled, monitored access -- yes, please. Teach your children how to balance their play time with school and chores. But just as you shouldn't allow your child full 24 hour access to the refrigerator and pantry if he is obese, your internet addicted child should only have restricted computer privileges. I am particularly baffled that he received a laptop for Christmas to further enable his addiction. Wow, indeed.
All finger wagging at the parents aside, they do seem like good people who have actually tried to get their kid help and took bad or misunderstood advice about computer privileges. At least they were computer savvy enough to read chat logs and uncover the real story about their son's disappearance. But this story really has nothing to do with WoW
. Just because Blizzard makes an immersive game where like-minded people can meet and get cyber-busy does not mean they are facilitating deception, addiction or insubordination. As players and parents we must take responsibility for our own and our children's behavior. After all, this kind of thing goes on in email, in chatrooms, on telephones and, in the olden days, via penpals. My mother got engaged to my father via letters, in order to escape the restrictions of home. It's a story older than Azeroth.Update 1/6:
The woman was arrested upon returning to Texas
, where the age of consent is 17, and charged with soliciting a minor online.