When to Introduce Video Games
When my son Z was four we were given a Wii. It was a hand-me-down. No exchange of money was involved. The consoles have since been discontinued anyway, so it really shouldn’t be too big of a deal.
It was a very thoughtful gift and we still enjoy using it so I don’t want to come across as ungrateful in anyway. I just want to share my story for any moms on the fence about when and if they should introduce video games into their children’s lives. It seems like there is a big divide between the electronic game lovers and haters. I have met parents (and read many reports online) that exhibit both extremes.
I personally have never had reason to be anti video games. We got a Nintendo when I was 5 years old. I played it, but I certainly never had any addiction issues or negative impact so that was probably what has shaped my opinion. However, Z loved the Wii on a level beyond my expectations! He also loved games on the phone or the computer. From ages 4 to 6 I would say he was obsessed with Mario and Sonic.
He is a smart kid, which I honestly think contributed to his obsession. He would eventually conquer the games he played. Although it wasn’t without cost. There were many times he lashed out in anger when he lost. He would be grounded for treating family members aggressively while playing. He would have break downs and cry huge tears over games. It was painful for me to watch. He had a video game addiction and it was scary.
One day I asked a mom friend who has kids several years ahead of mine how she handles it. I knew she would be knowledgable because not only is she a homeschooling mother of 4 boys, but even her husband who is a successful business man has nights dedicated to playing video games with his friends (I know this because sometimes my husband joined in). My question to this wise woman is how she balances the gaming. I expressed my concern and explained that I didn’t want to pull the plug completely, but I didn’t know what else to do. She paused and thought out loud saying that I could consider setting some strict boundaries and rules with a timer and then she said something that kind of made me mad. She said
I don’t know. I can’t really give you advice because we don’t deal with that. The boys are so busy with school work, swim team, and church. They are outside a lot and yeah they play video games, but we just don’t have much time for it. We have a lot going on.
Ohhhhhh, well. Us too I thought sarcastically. Except I was really burnt up by her non-answer answer. I guess if my family were just as studious, athletic and dedicated to more important things then I wouldn’t be having this problem.
I can see why 4 years ago I would feel that way, but now I get it. I mean I really get it. Z is in school all day. We get an hour of screen time a day, if that. He has a lot of other commitments and things that he puts his energy into. So even though Minecraft and all that is fun, it’s not the obsession that it was. He’s matured more emotionally since then too. Don’t get me wrong, he still gets overly competitive in his gaming at times and I’ve caught him being rude and ignoring people while playing, which of course is unacceptable. Also, I have had to be really careful of any games online because I have learned that some of them include interacting with other players and I am completely 100% against that! He knows he is NOT allowed to communicate online under any circumstances whatsoever and I keep a close eye on it, but that’s another topic.
I have seen how there are good things that can come from video games. Z and his dad have really bonded over electronics.
He has learned a lot of problem solving skills. He’s pretty much already a techie mastermind in my opinion. I wouldn’t be the surprised at all if programing or computer engineering is in his future (like his dad).
So I am still not anti-video games. However, as I look back I can see how maybe we would have been better off waiting until last year when he was 7 to introduce gaming.
Keep in mind this just a personal testimony, all children are different. It’s not like I am one of those parenting experts or something.
Next up I have to worry about when he is going to care about having the latest and greatest (i.e. super expensive) game device. Or when the violent games become an issue. Yikes.
Sometimes I feel like I am in my own live action parenting video game having to get through unforeseen obstacles. I guess I’ll worry about conquering the next level when I get to it.