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Real World Interaction Needed

I am a train nut. Some of my earliest and fondest childhood memories include model trains. I was about six years old when my parents (or Santa) gave me a train layout for Christmas. It wasn’t a Lionel set, but a set of cheaper knock-off, Marx trains. My uncle, my mother’s brother, who lived in a big house in Cedarhurst (222 Rockaway Turnpike, built in 1840, which the town foolishly razed), had a huge Lionel layout in his attic. It was my dream to one day own a layout like it but, alas, after he lost interest, his son, my cousin, sold it all for pennies on the dollar (it would be worth many tens of thousands today).

I still remain a model railroader. I have an HO layout in my basement that is probably the sixth iteration of my ideal layout (Sandy destroyed my masterpiece). In model railroading there is a term the “armchair modeler.” That is someone who designs a layout and has big dreams that never get fulfilled. I never really understood how someone could have dreams of a big anything and not follow up, but this pandemic nightmare changed life as we know it, and not in a good way.

My wife and I retired from private practice last year after serving the Rockaway community for 37 years. She and I looked forward to travelling the country and visiting relatives but unfortunately, along came COVID-19. So we, like you, were stuck at home. I have never been a computer expert (I used a slide rule in high school and college [yes, with a plastic pocket-protector]).

Lo and behold, I discovered computer games. I found train simulator games like “TrainSimWorld” that are very realistic. After playing for a while, I had the thought that I could actually drive a real train. But when I caught myself thinking that, I realized that real locomotive engineers undergo months, if not years, of practice and training. Then came the “AHA” moment. I have an adult mind (some may beg to differ). Pre-teens and teens do not. Their brains are still developing, which makes them more susceptible to believing the unbelievable, for example extrapolating a violent computer game into real life. This may explain the rationale behind some recent mass shootings done by unbalanced young people.

I believe parents need to monitor and be aware of what their children are doing online. I now know how hooked one can get on these computer games. While the games I play are not at all violent, many of these games place the players in war-like scenarios where it’s kill or be killed. I now understand how a vulnerable child or teenager can lose all connection to reality by getting engrossed in these games and acting them out, only in real life. Parents need to get their children away from the computer and out of the house so they may interact with other children. Social interactions are an important part of normal childhood development and are finally possible again with the lifting of pandemic restrictions and re-opening of in-person learning.

Please direct questions and comments to editor@rockawaytimes.com 

By Peter Galvin, MD

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