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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Kids in the Digital Era

Although I am not a huge advocate of video games, and have never been a big fan of them, it does seem that they have somehow slithered into our home.

We have never been big "gamers" or video game players and never got caught up in the XBox/Playstation phenomenon. I never understood the appeal of video games, and I had certainly witnessed relationships upon which gaming had taken a toll.

Cue forward a few years and we now have a Nintendo Wii set up in our basement. I most definitely fell victim to claims that it was "fun for the entire family", was something my husband and I "could do together", and was an excellent way for a family to keep "fit and active" all at once. I walked into Future Shop with my "I'm a sucker" name tag prominently attached to my coat and later left the store with $300 worth of video game equipment.

That being said, the Wii has been a pretty fantastic game for our family. It is something we like to do together and for the most part, is fun and relaxing. Thing 1 and Thing 2 are old enough now to really enjoy the game and in the past month or so they have really gotten the hang of playing it together.

Which is also exceptionally exciting for me, because this now becomes an activity that my first two Things can do on their own.

Add to this the fact that Thing 1 has a Nintendo DS and Thing 2 is now the proud owner of a new Leapster 2, and I guess you could call us a family of "gamers".

And I don't feel like a particularly horrible mother for any of these facts, because I think the key to anything good in life is moderation. The Wii is basically shut down and not used for six months when the weather is nice . . . we spend all our time outside and not inside playing games. It wasn't until December when the snow hit - and then at Christmas when the kids received a few new games as gifts - that the consoles were plugged in and away we went.

Now it is January and that biting, icy Ottawa cold has arrived with a vengeance. Our outdoor time is limited, as frostbite is not something I am interested in inflicting upon the Things. We play games, we do homework, we engage in crafts, we dance, we sing, we play, but inevitably there is still some time leftover. Things 1 and 2 arrive home from kindergarten every day at 11:10 a.m. - that still leaves a lengthy chunk of time that I have to fill with activities. So I have started allowing them to play video games during their afternoon "quiet time", when Thing 3 is napping.

So here is my question to all of you moms out there who can relate. Do you allow your children to play video games? (I know in our circle of friends, and in our neighbourhood, the majority of the kids have a DS or a Leapster, and most families own a Wii or other type of game console - although I realize that not everyone has them.)

And more importantly, what restrictions do you place on playing these devices? Do you remove the privileges if they misbehave? Do you set time limits? I am pretty firm now and I set a timer so that the boys never play more than 60 minutes - but I still wonder sometimes if this is too long.

Thoughts? Experiences??


Heather @ Cancer Mommy said...

We have a Wii and Kyler has the VTech Motion and the VTech version of the Leapster (that is only used for car rides). He is allowed to play the Wii 30 min in the morning and 30 in the afternoon. If he throws a fit about having to stop playing he is given one warning. If he continues throwing a fit his next game time is taken away. We've only had to do that once! K really likes playing Wii Sports Resort and I found a Diego game that is age appropriate. I think games are good, in moderation. It takes them fine and gross motor and the learning games help with their cognitive skills. I don't think of our Wii as a babysitter, because daddy or I always play with him. When the temp outside is 0 degrees you gotta do something!

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that my kids are still really young when you read my response.

We don't currently own a TV, so we don't have a video game system. My husband and I don't play any games. My daughter has figured out how to play 'Purble Place' on the computer, which she does rarely. I would like to keep it this way as long as possible, just because I find that my kid is pretty toxic after stretches of screen time, no matter the type. We'll see how that goes for me, though.

Loukia said...

My husband is a huge game - from wii, to xbox, to Playstation 3, to various DS's, etc... however, our 4 year old has no interest yet in the games. A few times, he's watched his dad play, but other than that, nothing. I sort of want him to get into it soon - as I notice other kids who are a bit older then him play video games at homes and he's often left out - but he is only 4. The Leapster is something I should consider, huh? Maybe that would be fun for him! Also, I don't see a problem with kids playing video games, especially educational video games, as long as they're not turning into couch potatoes, you know?

BeachMama said...

Well, our house is a huge gaming house. My Stepson (17) has been a gamer since he was a little boy. He actually gets paid sometimes for his online gaming characters. Hubby loves gaming, but only now and then. And J seems to love it but, like your family it was left off for many months until the weather got too cold and a new game arrived under the tree.

We have taken it away as a punishment and we have found that if he (J, not Hubby) plays too much or too often he gets crusty, so sometimes we take a break. We usually only play on weekends, but as a treat I let him after school if its too cold to play outside.

Everything in moderation I say.

Megan said...

i've really wondered as to the usefulness of the wii...i'm sure we'll get one at some point, but we like to wait until "everyone else has one" first, with most technological things :) we're always waiting for them to get cheaper :)


Jenn said...

Hy husband is a huge gamer, and my son (3) is starting to get interested in the games, although isn't really great at the controls just yet. We have some "educational" games on Daddy's iphone that he loves, and occasionally he'll play with his dad on the x-box. We haven't reached the point yet of having to set time limits, so far he's pretty good about shutting it down when we tell him to, but I imagine that time will come! However, we also don't have tv in the house, and with the weather being so fricking cold, I don't feel so bad about letting him tuck into a game for a 1/2 hour or more (which is also partially because I'm nearly 9 and a half months pregnant, and any time he's content is time I can sit quietly on the couch!)

Rebecca said...

My son is only 3 but it's hard to avoid some of the gaming stuff.

We don't have a game system (someday a Wii would be great!) and no portable things, but I do let him play the computer. I figure that mouse/keyboard/navigation is an important tool no matter what.

In the am he can play for a bit and during quiet time. But really, it depends on the day - some days we are too busy and he doesn't notice. Some days when the baby is having trouble falling asleep, we spend all afternoon upstairs where the computer isn't (but mine is - ha!) and he plays in his room etc.

Moderation is key. I do take it away as punishment (ever say 'no computer/tv for the day at 9 am? it hurts us all ;)

Even with moderation though, some days he's on it more for various reasons, we all have those days

Shannon said...

My kids are both too young for video games (though I just bought him a Little Leaps by Leap Frog but apparently they don't sell the games anymore...grrrr...I digress) but I don't (won't) mind them in moderation. I know though that I could not be married to a guy who played video games. We have a PS2 and it's been used maybe 5 times (aside from me using it for Dance Dance Revolution). When my kids are old enough, I won't mind them playing but I do know that they will NOT have their noses in a DS (or similar) unit for hours on end. Drives me crazy to see kids sitting in a restaurant etc. and not talking with their family. Same goes for teens texting. No way.

C! said...

We don't have any games like that, but we have talked about getting a Wii...but with the employment situation last year & the likely move this year, I think we'll wait. I agree with you - moderation & supervision is the key. I do not understand those that let their kids play hours a day and play games that are filled with aggression or violence. I think we'd have a lot of fun with the Wii games and maybe next Christmas! (But I'm hoping we're moved & can get a puppy as "the" gift for next year...but we could do that as a birthday gift instead & still get the Wii!)

OHmommy said...

Both my older kids got their DS this xmas and the toddler got the leapster.

We have a routine we follow and what they do in their bed rooms during "quiet time" (after homework and before dinner) is up to them. It's about an hour. So far so good... they have plenty of options.

Finola said...

Our daughters had the Leapsters and for this Christmas we bought them the Nintendo DSi which has a camera function. They play games, but also take pictures and load music onto them. We are all very impressed and I think they are great - some limitations, but in winter, why not?
We are thinking next year at Christmas we may get a Wii or some other system.

Jenn said...

We do have a wii, our daughter got a leapster for Christmas and that's it. I love the wii fit programs! We let our daughter pick what she would like to do for her 1/2 hour time slot (she's five) either the wii, her leapster or a computer game. I do find even though the leapster is aged 4-8, she's has been flying through the games, so I may consider a DSi in the future.

Nishant said...

like your family it was left off for many months until the weather got too cold and a new game arrived under the tree.

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