kids and gaming

Real play for boys
Real play for boys

I often feel as though this whole parenting gig has me overthinking pretty much everything. And then I look at the world, and what it’s become, and I have to remind myself that the life of a kid has become seriously complicated. As parents we struggle against this complicated, fast-paced, technology obsessed, hyper-consuming, information overloaded, crap food driven world. There is a lot to overthink, and I’m swimming upstream through most of it.

I’m a bit of a screen Nazi with my kids, and so far I haven’t seen any evidence that this is a bad thing. TV had very obvious detrimental effects on my eldest son when he was little, and I made a decision back then to ban all screens. This decision morphed into a two hour movie night every Friday, which has been a happy compromise. Movie night has become a lovely tradition, and is also an exciting and relaxed way to finish the week for our little family. I’m also a little more relaxed on holidays and special occasions, where a bit of extra viewing might slip in. I guess I envisaged that this phase would last for ages. That technology wouldn’t infiltrate my kids lives further for quite a while, but in todays world, that is simply not possible. I know it’s going to haunt me for the next decade or so, or at least until I’m no longer one of the grown-ups in charge.

The other night the boys (aged nearly 6, and 7 and a half) had a discussion (with their Dad) about when they could start playing Mine Craft. My first thought when I heard about it, should probably have been to research Mine Craft and find out exactly what it was. But my actual first instinct was NO. A screaming, never, ever, ever NO. Now I understand that I am truly swimming upstream on this one, but I’ve since had a great conversation with another Mum, and I’m feeling slightly better about things now. I tip my invisible hat to her, for her inspiration on the topic.

She had this exact scenario in her home, and her answer was that before any of her children could play online games, they need to be able to read. Properly read. Fluent, flowing reading of chapter books by interesting and engaging authors, not just simple ‘learning to read’ books. She feels that books will take over her son’s world, stimulating his imagination so deeply that computer games will pale into insignificance. And not only that, if he does want to play a game, and he can read…the screen time he uses for gaming becomes part of his allocated two hours a week.

I may simply be delaying the inevitable, but I am going to adapt this plan in our house, as my own gaming saviour for the time being anyway. I’m not just saying no, I’m not overthinking it (much), and it seems like the right thing to do. Until the next technology challenge, I almost feel at peace with this one…

Linked with Essentially Jess for IBOT

12 thoughts on “kids and gaming

  1. That is a great idea. My girls do have screen time but I try to be sure that it is educational in some form and it obviously isn’t prolonged use. It is hard to avoid, especially when Miss 5’s homework is mostly on the computer. I do like this reading rule for the frivolous game side though.

  2. For three years we also had no TV and this was a while back before kids were given Ipads in Prep! Infact my kids were your kids ages at the time…However what eventually led us to change back to having, OMG now 3 TV’s in the house, (my excuse all my kids are now adults!!) was the sport. We left Australia and the Olympics was on… then we lived in Hong Kong and wanted to know what the BBC thought of world events.
    But I have to say getting kids involved in sports is a wonderful way of getting them out from behind a screen. Good Luck with it all!
    Wren x

    1. Technology tends to seep in via schoolwork very early these days, no matter how strict you are at home. I am a realist, I know they will get sucked right into it at some point. I definitely agree that a strong focus on sport is great to counteract all of the sedentary pursuits.

  3. Reading is far more entertaining than computer games in my opinion but kids will want to do what all the other kids are doing so it can be delayed but will keep coming back probably. Nevertheless, I would keep delaying their introduction to minecraft as long as possible! There was something on TV about that game last night. They can chat to other people (strangers) online as they play against other people which always introduces an element of risk. There was one kid that was being bullied on the game by other players. They recommended that parents learn and understand the game and play with them and that they only play the game in full view of a parent (eg not off in their room etc). Good luck! 🙂

  4. I’m pretty strict on how much screen time our kids have. Generally they get 15 minutes before dinner, and then can watch or play on the ipad after dinner, chores and preparations for bed are done. Usually they just end up in the living area with us. The older girls have their own macbooks for school so they do have more screen time, but generally aren’t glued to it by any means. We have always encouraged reading at bedtime and particularly Miss 9 would rather read than watch anytime. I think it’s just about finding a balance that works for you and your family. And it will change over time.

  5. My kids are only toddlers but already I can see how tech can become a problem, I have to ration out ipad time and try to keep the TV to a minimum. I’m hoping both my kids develop my love of reading – we read together all the time and my 3 yo already gets frustrated that she can’t read by herself!

  6. Im keeping very quiet about Minecraft with my son – as I know once he falls down that rabbit hole, it will become an obsession! He is almost 6 and is allowed the iPad for 1 hour Friday night, 1 hour Sunday night and 2 hours quiet time Sat afternoon. These are very strongly linked with his reward system for good behaviour. as he doesn’t really have a concept of money and can give or take tv, iPad (watching you tube videos about transformer toys) is my one currency that works! Minecraft is good for spatial awareness and other math skills – as long as you keep an eye on who they are playing at all times.

    Hello from #teamIBOT

  7. Oh you and me both. I’m always over thinking and stressing about every little thing with the kids.We’ve only recently gotten an iPad and the girls are already showing signs of addiction. I’m having to be very strict with it. I think the two hour movie night sounds like a great addition and I love the idea that the books will prove more interesting to them than games. Good luck!

  8. Yep I like this idea. I’m fairly screen time strict as well but it filters through regardless. Both of my boys talk with much enthusiasm about mindcraft despite never having played it here at home. Other kids houses however and yep, there they are. Reading fluently is so important, so, so important! To be able to do this beforehand? Yeah, I’m liking this…thank you 🙂

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