About 20 years ago, Barbara R. Craig, M.D., FAAP, was involved in a case in which
a young father who was addicted to playing violent video games killed his 1-month-old
The father’s confession was chilling to read, said Dr. Craig, director of the Armed
Forces Center for Child Protection, Captain, Medical Corps, U.S. Navy, Retired.
“His statements shocked me because rather than feeling remorse for the death of his
infant son, he was more concerned that the baby made him lose lives and bonus points
when he cried, and this caused the father to repeatedly not advance to the next level
of his online role-playing violent video games as quickly as he had hoped,” she said.
While this case may seem extreme, an increasing number of infants and children are
being neglected while their parents are distracted by texting, posting online or playing
video games, said Dr. Craig, a member of the AAP Council on Child Abuse and Neglect
and Section on Uniformed Services.
She will shine a light on this growing problem and what pediatricians can do to help
families during a session titled “Digital Distractions: Better Parenting Through Unplugging
(F4081)” from 4-4:45 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6, in room W414AB of the convention center.
It’s rare nowadays to find someone who has not used an electronic device connected
to the internet by early to mid-morning every day, Dr. Craig said.
“Anywhere you go, you see people using handheld devices often to the point of being
distracted with them and ignoring pedestrian or vehicular dangers, wasting long periods
of time when they should be doing something else or not paying attention to their
children,” she said.
While most parents can stop using digital devices when they need to take care of their
children, some can become addicted, Dr. Craig said. The consequences can range from
parents spending less quality time playing with and reading to their children to neglect,
injuries due to lack of supervision, physical abuse and even death. Children also
are at risk of gaming addiction.
“It isn’t all bad, however,” said Dr. Craig, pointing to evidence suggesting that
gaming can improve hand-eye coordination, reading comprehension and rapid decision-making
skills. Children also need to be adept at using computers for school work.
Pediatricians, therefore, can provide anticipatory guidance on the positive and negative
effects of using electronic devices, she said.
“There needs to be a balance between screen time, reading time and play time for kids,”
Dr. Craig said. “Parents who want to spend time online or gaming should do so after
the children are asleep.”