According to sheriff’s deputies in Citrus County Florida a father has been charged with smothering his 16-month-old son because the child’s crying was interfering with the man’s ability to play video games on his Xbox. Cody Wygant, age 24 claims that his son’s incessant crying interfered with his ability to compete in his game and thus in the wee hours of the morning he covered the child’s mouth and nose with his hand until he became “lethargic” and then put him into a playpen under some blankets. Some may say that the Xbox video game technology is to blame and that the smothering occurred because of video game rage.
Some five hours after Wygant had satisfied his entertainment needs on the Xbox and with a marathon session of the television show Fringe, he checked on his son. By that time, the child had apparently suffered respiratory failure as was evidenced by his blue color and failure to respond. When medical help arrived, it was determined that the child was not breathing and he was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
Wygant is also the father and primary caregiver of a 3-month-old daughter who has been removed from the home and is in the custody of the Department of Children and Families. The relatively young father has been charged with third degree murder and the willful neglect of a child and is being held without bail at the Citrus County Jail. Wygant’s girlfriend, who is the mother of both children, has said she was not at home when the alleged smothering of their son occurred and has not been charged with any crime.
Sheriff Jeff Dawsy has said that he is baffled by the killing and that he finds it “inconceivable” that a father could “kill his own son.” Dawsy has expressed his condolences to those impacted by the death of the 16-month-old child, named Daymeon, and relief that the sheriff’s department was able to act swiftly in the name of justice. While criminal justice may be served, it in no way ameliorates the horror of a father smothering his infant child. The act itself is horrific but the reality that the child lost his life over something as trivial as the inability to play video games is both shocking and disconcerting.
While many will be quick to blame video gaming for the death of little Daymeon, it should be noted that the father Wygant is the one responsible for the crime, not Microsoft’s Xbox technology. Wygant is not exactly an upstanding member of the community. He has a lengthy criminal history in the state of California that includes the act of rape and trespassing and had just recently moved to Florida in 2013. It appears that Wygant had a very low frustration ceiling and possibly a proclivity for violence. It is likely that he could have been provoked by the child’s crying in any number of situations that might have resulted in a similar outcome.
While some people do indeed become addicted to video gaming – to the point where they accord more value to virtual reality than actual reality, their personal character aspects or physiological chemistry are what cause them to do so and the technology itself is not to blame for any resulting maladjustment. If the technology was responsible, all gamers would become addicts and they do not. Many gamers hold down jobs, are good parents, good citizens, students, friends, spouses, in other words they run the full gamut of people with normal social interactions and behaviors.
Maladjusted behavior, although clearly extreme in the case of Wygant and the smothering of Daymeon, can come from any addiction, from video gaming, drugs and alcohol to cigarettes and pornography. Those with an addictive personality or physical chemistry that predispositions them to addiction will find ways to “medicate” sometimes to the point of self-destruction. In addition, their addictions are likely to have a negative impact on others in their environment.
The case of Wygant, a man whose remarkably misplaced priorities resulted in the smothering of his own child who was simply crying from an innocent need for attention is both sad and shocking. However, it is Wygant, not the Xbox, who is accountable for the horrific actions of a father killing his own infant son out of personal rage and frustration, not rage caused by the Xbox video game technology.
Opinion By Alana Marie Burke
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