New Mexico mom Rebecca Christie has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for starving her 3-year-old daughter Brandi Wulf to death in 2006, while playing World of Warcraft. The Holloman Air Force Base woman is not alone in neglecting her children to play video games.
Christie's ex-husband Derek Wulf pleaded guilty to child neglect and will be sentenced on June 15. The USAF sergeant said he would often come home to find Brandi wandering hungry and his wife playing computer games online. There was an overflowing cat box and the house smelled of cat urine.
Little Brandi would sometimes eat cat food because there was no food. The child only put on 1 pound in the last year of her life. Christie called paramedics on Jan. 26 when Brandi slipped into a coma. The child died weighing 23 pounds. Christie had an older child who had been removed from the home earlier due to neglect. Police reports showed 15 hours of uninterrupted video game play and chatting with other users.
In Reno, Nev., in 2009, Dungeons and Dragons kept Michael and Iana Straw from feeding their kids. The couple pleaded guilty to two counts each of child neglect when their two children, a 22-month-old boy and an 11-month-old girl were found severely malnourished and near death. The baby girl weighed only 10 pounds and was found with her hair matted with cat urine. Both children had numerous infections. These children are both thriving in foster care.
At the time, the Reno prosecutor said video game neglect was rare. In 2010, Shannon Johnson of Fort Upton, Colo., left her 13-month-old son Joseph alone in the tub while she played Cafe World and chatted on Facebook. The baby drowned. Medical records indicate Joseph died of brain injury and cardiac arrest. Drowning isn't instantaneous. The child was in distress for some time, while his mother obliviously played video games.
Neglect isn't the only crime associated with children and video games. In April 2011, a mother in Osaka, Japan, was charged with alleged murder when she suffocated her 3-year-old daughter. The child had thrown out her mother's video game system and equipment. The mother and her boyfriend admitted to taping the child's hands and feet and placing her in a plastic bag.
When my kids were young, I had all I could do to keep up with them: feed them, clothe them, keep them clean, happy, safe and healthy. Between house work, yard work, errands and family activities, parenting is a never-ending job. For awhile, I taught night school and took graduate classes for my master's degree, I worked round the clock. I never thought of it as a big deal. It's what you do when you love your kids.
Are video games to blame? No. Nobody's holding a gun to users' heads making them play. There were fewer video games, when my kids were young, but there were other distractions. Parents looking for ways to avoid their children and responsibilities, will find them.
Video gaming obsession is an addiction no less potent than alcohol, pornography and gambling, maybe even drug addiction. When parents have these addictions, innocent children suffer. The only way to break the addiction is to stop playing or learn moderation. Video game obsession is a form of child neglect.
Marilisa Kinney Sachteleben writes from 22 years parenting and 25 years teaching K-8, special needs, adult education and home-school.
- Family & Relationships
- Crime & Justice
- child neglect
- video games