Did your kids get a video game system for the holidays? Did they spend hours and hours playing those new systems?
The topic of video games is a hottie! One the one side, we have the “limit screen time” crew, with all the various reasons. On the other we have “don’t set limits”.
This is the wrong discussion to be having. Video game success doesn’t depend on whether we set time limits or not.
This is where I stand on the video game thing – everything in moderation. (Even moderation.) I love video games, my husband does too and the kids do. We love a lot of other things too. Our position on the video game issue doesn’t even place us on the ‘set limits-don’t set limits’ measuring stick.
Because, most of the video game issues aren’t even about video games.
If we didn’t do anything else, the kids would play video games all day. If we didn’t do anything else, they’d run around the house all day. If we didn’t do anything else, they’d play in the back yard all day in the mud. There are a lot of things they’d do all day if we did nothing else. Here’s the solution: we do so many different kinds of things, it doesn’t matter if there is something that they would do all day if we did nothing else, because we are too busy to have time to spend all day doing one thing. That’s not the reason we do lots of things, but it’s a side effect.
Kids arguing over video games is one of reasons parents get frustrated with them. But arguing about video games isn’t any different than arguing over board games, or sports, or sharing paints. If the kids are at a point where they can’t deal, it’s time to change gears for a bit, and come back to it later. Kind of like a mom who finds herself screaming at her kids needs some time out with girlfriends or some centered time dealing with her baggage (hey, so maybe I’m speaking from experience here 🙂 What she doesn’t need is a self-imposed limit to 1hr a day with her kids or her kids to be taken away so she won’t yell at them.
Video games or no video games, it doesn’t matter to me. But it doesn’t make sense to blame the box, when people are arguing and yelling at each other. It’s not the game’s fault. There’s something else going on.
I want to share a story about my personal experience with video games, as a player.
My husband and I used to play a lot of video games together. When the babies were little, I’d nurse them while running my character around in Everquest, making money so that my husband could go on raids and buy “l33t” gear. It was this family thing we did together.
There was a turning point, where I realized that the kids were getting old enough that they couldn’t join us (because we didn’t have enough computers), and they weren’t happy just sitting on our laps while we played anymore. So I started playing board games with them during that time instead, and my husband still played EQ. A lot. What used to be a very social game for us, turned into an isolated one from my perspective.
But it was a hard call, because my husband’s friends were all in the game. Before, he could be with his family and his friends at the same time. And, he really enjoyed playing. (And, to be honest, it was hard for me too. I wanted to play, and had to make daily decisions on whether or not I was going to.)
Over time, we’ve made many adjustments so that my husband can play with his friends, but he still spends time with us playing board games, or other video games that we can all play together. Some games we’ve played were single-player games, where we rooted each other on, and took turns. Other games, we’d all play at once (can you say Rock Band? OMG).
It’s not the video games that was the issue. It was US, trying to deal with our own personal needs to 1) spend time with family, 2) spend time alone and 3) spend time with friends. And get it all worked out. That was our issue – I could have easily blamed EQ for all of our problems – it’s addictive or it never ends or it takes my hubby from our family. But because I had played for a long time myself before, I could understand that this issue wasn’t so black and white. It was not about the game. It was about figuring out why we play, balancing our time and understanding everyone’s needs.
Today, I don’t play video games very often anymore. I spend a lot of time writing and reading instead. This takes a lot of concentration and often it has to be done in isolation. I get grumpy when people interrupt me when I’m concentrating. I think about my writing a lot when I’m not writing. I get frustrated when I can’t say something the way I want to. These are all very similar feelings to what I hear about kids playing video games. But for me, it’s writing. Should I stop writing? Limit myself to a certain amount of time? Or should I just let myself write as long as I need to the exclusion of everything else? There’s a balance to be had. I write as much as I can squeeze in. When I’m frustrated, I take a break.
When I see my kids frustrated at video games, or legos or board games, I think of that. I think of how I feel when I’m writing. And try to help them find solutions where they can still do the things they love, and have tools to deal with the frustration that comes along with being passionate about something.