by contributing writer Josh Kissee of Manbuilders.com
Dads, do your children like to play video games?
If you have video games in your home, then the answer is most likely a YES!
I know, I know. Many parents are firmly against video games and some don’t even have a TV in their home. I respect that. In our home, we have chosen to allow video games to let our children unwind from their active schedules and to have fun. That’s right, I said it and admit it, we allow video games.
A word of caution.
Once you open Pandora’s Box, it can be hard shut.
As a father of 5 boys between ages 6-12,I can tell you that there can be a STRONG desire for video game time once your children get a taste of them. For boys, the louder, bolder, butt-kickin’ games the better. Boys are built with a warrior instinct inside of them and games bring it out in a big way.
So whats the problem?
Auto-Pilot is the temptation. Setting your child in front of the TV is often a way for you to get a break causing your child to be parented like an airplane flying on auto-pilot. Let’s just be real here. You need 20 minutes to get dressed, make lunch, whatever. Many of us do it and I am not advocating any shame. In fact, this can be a way for your children to unwind and take a break from you too! Your child goes into “auto-pilot” mode and stops demanding your constant attention. It’s very effective.
Video games are completely different from TV time in their effectiveness to capture your child’s attention.
While watching TV will draw your child’s attention, video game play will captivate your child completely. You could truly set them in front of a video game for hours and hours! They would stop only to ask you for food and to use the bathroom. The entire world would dissolve into nothing. How do I know? I’ve done it. That’s why I am writing about it now and being real.
The problem that I have noticed in our life is that we can use video games all too frequently to get those “things” done that my wife and I believe to be a priority. The real truth is that there are healthier activities our boys could be doing instead of video games when we need a break to get something done or the boys need to unwind. Of course, many do not captivate their attention in the same way.
So how can you limit video game play in your family?
Set a Limit
Everything in moderation…including moderation. – Julia Child
On weekdays when our children are in school, we set a limit of 30 minutes and some days there is no game play at all. On the weekends we try to set a limit of 2 hours. If it is a nice day, we may not have any game time and spend as much time as possible together and have a really nice one-on-one experience.
Consider the total amount of “screen time” that your kids are receiving. If they are also watching TV or doing something on a computer, consider eliminating video games for that day.
Screens to Consider
2.Mobile Devices (tablets/smartphones)
3.Video Game Systems
4.Computers (Mac or PC)
A recent article in the New York Times reported that the average time spent with media in a typical day for children 8 years old or younger was 1 hour and 44 minutes for TV, DVDs, computer, iPod, or iPad.
Think about the total bundle of screens and work to set an overall limit. Do you have to use a timer or stopwatch? Of course not. I’m not proposing it be that rigid. Just watch how much time they are in front of screens and be aware.
Make It a Reward
I have no shame in this one. If they like video games so much why not make them a reward for completing other healthy activities? We have used completion of the following activities to serve as a prerequisite to game time.
2.Maintaining quality standards in homework (grades)
4.Displaying positive behavior
5.Spending a certain amount of time outdoors already
For Parents: Do it Together or Not at All
I grew up playing video games. I was not regulated and had free reign. While I respect my mother (of course I’m not going to talk bad about her!) for allowing me freedom, this may not have always been in my best interest. As a father, make a pact with yourself that if you enjoy playing video games that you will NOT play games without your child. If you play games with your child, use it as a way to bond together as part of many other activities that you use to spend time with one another. My older sons enjoy playing Halo on the XBOX. However, you will never see me playing Halo without one of them with me. If we do play together, I am cautious about how much time I spend playing and try not to exceed an hour of time. Why? I can fall to the temptation too and neglect my responsibilities.
How do you avoid the video game drop off in your home to keep your kids from going into Auto Pilot? Any suggestions or tips to share on dealing with video games? How would you bust down screen time in your home? Share the balance that you pull off in the home to help other parents as we wrestle with 21st century parenting struggles.