Video game 911 call – Should parents cop out their kids?

We discuss classic addiction intervention techniques of parents with teens who are video game addicts here. Why? Because last December a mom in Boston called the cops when her son wouldn’t stop playing video games. Would you go to this length in order to intervene in a computer addiction? Join the debate about the social and moral obligations parents have when it comes to addiction.

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Calling 911: A cop-out?

According to the Boston Herald, Boston resident Angela Mejia snapped Saturday, December 21, 2009 when she realized that her son was playing video games hours after she had told him to go to sleep. She called the cops on him so that he would stop. Effective strategy for stopping his video game playing? Sure, for the moment. The call would snap any kid out of their dream world and could highlight the dysfunction of the behavior. But What is most important is how Ms. Mejia FOLLOWS UP with the phone call. How can this drastic intervention lead to change?

Gaming addiction intervention

Any addiction can continue ad infinitum. The process that can help an addict stop, examine behavior and possibly seek treatment for addiction is called an intervention. Following is a list of best practices recommended for video game addiction intervention.

  1. Set aside time. When planning an intervention, make it a real event. You might also want to arrange a time when all family members present to state how the addictive behavior has affected them…and can keep the addict accountable.
  2. State the facts. Give examples of excessive video gaming behavior, which can come from logs that document the severity of the problem. Don’t be afraid to record when the gamer plays and for how long, problems resulting from gaming (ex. activities s/he has missed) and how the person reacts to time limits. This data is an objective look at addictive behavior and can be useful during intervention AND treatment.
  3. Be sensitive. Use ”I” statements, and avoid setting blame. Use statements such as, ”I’ve noticed,” ”I’m wondering,” and ”I miss you.”
  4. Plan for a referral. Know that you are not qualified to diagnose a compulsive disorder and be prepared with information about who to see and when. Successful interventions for video game addictions (or any addictions) are followed up with a plan of action.


Parents have the right to set guidelines, limitations and rules for their children. But what can they do when a teen blatantly disrespects boundaries? Although some may argue that Angela Mejia’s phone call was a waste of time, others see her act as an example of classic intervention for an addict. While the phone call generated considerable controversy in Boston, it brings up a very interesting question: How far are you willing to go to confront your child about video game addiction?

What do you think? Would you ever call the cops on your kid? Is a person socially or morally justified to call the police for active gaming addiction? Or has poor parenting led to this extreme measure? What steps should parents take to intervene for kids who are video game addicts?

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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