06/07/2016 01:27 EDT | Updated 06/08/2017 05:12 EDT

The Best Way To End Video Game Addiction: Pinball

Parents these days have a great and real concern about video game addiction and internet addiction (including Facebook Addiction Disorder) by teens and young adults. As someone who mentors young adults, this is one of the major complaints from parents that I hear about on a weekly basis.


Addiction farms? (short term gain, long term... not so much)

Abstinence? (good luck on that one)

Therapy? (works for 10%... most are in the "other camp")

Pharmacology? (really works wonders... for the parents)

On-line life coaching? (Well, you know what I'm going to say about that, don't you?




The biggest problem parents have in helping Millennials rise above their computer-based addictions is getting them out of their rooms and doing something physical.

I have found that three groups do really well by having a properly maintained pinball machine in the basement. (I'll get to how to choose it and the importance of the right one later on).

The Three Groups

Group one: The kids who won't leave their rooms. Using pinball to get them to take breaks from computer time really works!

It gets them out of their rooms, has them standing and the interaction of real-life physics, eye hand co-ordination and the randomness of pinball brings back something that virtual life has yet to be able to simulate... the thrill of physical games.

The negotiation: Look Skeeter, (you didn't think I'd use my real clients names did you ?) your mom and dad are thinking of taking away all your computer privileges (wave of panic on Skeeter's face) and I don't think that this is going to make anyone happy. (Skeeter sigh of relief). I think that what they want first is to create times where you do pull yourself away from being on the computer 24/7 and get out of your room. What about if you had a pinball machine, like the ones you played at my studio to have as a 15 minute break roughly every hour of computer time that you do? (Skeeter thinking).

Would that be a good thing to try?

Ken's note: At this point, rent a pinball machine for a week. If it works, then get one.

Group two: The kids who play video games everywhere! Their room, the dinner table, in the car, at school ☹

These kids are hard core and it is not just about getting their eyeballs away from a screen, it is the sense of community they share with their real or virtual buddies who they spend screen time with. (Peer pressure in Millennials is a very powerful thing. It isn't so much trying to fit in but caring and wanting to be there for each other.)

For them, it would be having a pizza party day once a week (gluten free and organic? Good luck on that one). Invite friends in close proximity and having a pizza pinball afternoon.

The Negotiation: How would you like a pizza hangout with your friends? They can play video games after the pizza. (Don't tell them the timing of this or they will just wait until the pizza arrives). All you ask is they get an hour or so of pinball time and then pizza time, you have begun the transference of social time to an active physical time not connected to screens (and yes pinballs after 1991 have dot matix screens but that is not a problem).

If this works, then go to the group one procedure and try to add that once a week, then build on it.

Group Three: Teens and Young Adults with Asperger's Syndrome who spend too much time on their screens.

It's so important for us NT's (neuro-typicals) to understand that our world is filled with constant stressors that kids on the spectrum have to deal with every moment of the day: Smells, sounds, inexact verbal directions, confusing non-verbal cues... all of these take constant mental and emotional tolls on their psyches. Getting lost in their favorite video games, on-line areas of research or on-line reading is a way for them to bring back some de-stressors into their lives. The problem is getting them to transition to something else.

(Did I hear someone from the crowd call out pinball? Huzzah!)

The Negotiation: Your dad and I are concerned that you are spending so much time (whatever their de-stressor is) and we understand that you need some of that time. We'd like you to try to break up that time with a few things. Maybe put down the screens when we are having dinner and try to engage in our conversations. If the conversations are too long, you could have some screen time for, let's say 10 minutes, and then come back to the conversation again. Also, we'd like you to have a ratio of screen time and maybe pinball time. One hour of computers and two games of pinball. What do you think?

It would get you doing something physical, it is great for eye-hand co-ordination and maybe you and I could play a game together once in a while?

Don't push it. They have to feel comfortable with something new. When it works, I have found that pinball has many, many benefits for my clients on the Autistic spectrum.

Pinball tips.

Buy a used one but make sure to find someone who is good at fixing them first. There are three main types of pinballs that I have found speak to Millennials, they are EM's (electro mechanicals - 1970's), solid state (late 70's to early 90's) and DMD (ones with a digital matrix display) 1991 and on.

In the style of the DMD's there are games that have "great flow" and games that have "deep rule-sets". These are the criteria you have to judge upon to get the right game for your family.

Ken's collection:

Super Soccer 1975; Card Whiz 1976; Surf Champ 1977; Terminator 2 1991; Star Trek Next Generation 1993 and Lord of the Rings 2003.

Btw, if you have a Simpsons Pinball Party, Adams Family, Twilight Zone or El Dorado looking for a new home, I'm always looking for a new/old one ☺

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