When my son was just shy of five, he had his first experience with video games when he discovered a Nintendo DS on display at a toy store. He started touching it and trying to see what it could do, and was just amazed. He wanted it right away. His daddy wanted to get it for him right away as well, but I vetoed it. A four year old does not need to play video games, I said.
Then he (very wisely) mentioned it to his beloved Uncle Jimmy. Uncle Jimmy, the single, successful bachelor, loved spoiling my son and one day arrived at our house with a shiny new Nintendo DS and three games. And so began the boy’s “addiction” to video games. He wanted to play it all the time, and would even sneak to do so when he thought I wouldn’t notice. He could have easily played all day long, if I had allowed it. At first amusing, it became a real problem.
Once he was in school full-time, I took drastic measures and made new video game rules for the entire family. At this point, we also owned a Wii and an XBOX (surprise, surprise, my husband was a closet gamer that only decided to come out of the closet when I was locked in by marriage). To ensure that my son focus more on school and not on his need to be playing video games all the time, I banned all video game play during the week. Video game play of any kind could only happen on weekends, and only if he had had a great week at school.
It was the best thing I ever did.
At first, he was upset, but when he realized those were the rules, he got over it pretty quick. We also began a family tradition of game nights on Sunday nights. As a family, we would either play a board game together or video games as long as we could all play together as a family. Thankfully, both the Wii and the XBOX have tons of options to allow several people to play together – right now the XBOX Kinect gets the majority of play at our house. The kids really love all the interactive dance and sport games which keep them on their feet, and I love that the little one can play just as well as everyone else. (Need help deciding which video game console will work best for your family? This article will help.
Bottom line is, I think everything is fine in moderation, whether it’s the television or video games. I think placing limits on video game play allows it to be an activity that they will look forward to rather than expect. With play being limited to weekends, it also encourages the kids to choose other activities in their free time – playing outside (what a concept), reading, crafts and using their IMAGINATION.
What a concept!
photo credit: heyckm.blogspot.com/