Summer vacation has ended for the young ones, and the grind known as the school year has returned. For some kids, this means slight changes to their daily routine. Earlier bedtime and homework to do are the two main culprits. For others? The changes are far more drastic. Some aren’t allowed to use the tv after a certain hour. Some aren’t allowed to play their video games during the week at ALL. So I’m here to talk a little about my approach with my kids, as well as how I was raised in regards to gaming. Then we can examine the question.
Let’s start with me. My mom had a simple policy. She didn’t care what time I went to bed, watched tv, or played video games until. As long as the grades were maintained, I could play. So gaming became my motivation to succeed in school. If I wanted to play as often as I would like, I had to do well. And I did. You may be thinking that this was a perfect scenario for all involved. But it wasn’t. See, all that free time to play meant I would finish games a lot faster than the average kid. And there wasn’t a lot of money in our household. So most of the time I would find myself playing the same games over and over again until my mom could buy a new one. So in retrospect, a time limit may have shortened the wait between games for me. Something to think about when dealing with your kids. Another thing to consider is social growth. I wasn’t allowed nearly the same freedom outside the house as I was inside. So most days I opted to stay inside and play my games. As you might imagine, this was a bit lonely. I didn’t play any organized sports as a kid, or make a lot of friends. It simplified things for my mom, cause she knew I was inside and safe. But trust me, it had a huge impact on what kind of adult I would become. I’m not saying don’t let them play. Never. Just think long and hard about the positive and negative effects of your approach.
Sequel? Or Reboot?
So let’s talk about what I settled on for my game tykes. I started them out with a Nintendo Wii. For a full year they didn’t even touch it unless I was around. Then something clicked, and they suddenly wanted to play it everyday. All day. My first instinct was to just go with mom’s rule. But I thought about it a little more and decided not to. I started them out with a 2 hour a day limit. What I learned is that most days they didn’t even reach the limit. It also didn’t stop them from wanting to do other activities. I thought I was home free for now. Then the 3DS happened. Ever since they got their handheld systems for Christmas, they want to play them every waking moment. At first it wasn’t a problem, but it quickly became one. They would start to ignore their mother in order to keep playing, Harmony would have trouble focusing on anything that didn’t involve it, etc. So obviously something had to change. The obvious answer is to once again limit their playing time. Tying their gaming habits to their behavior, as my mother did, is also helpful. But enforcing these rules is paramount, and as parents sometimes we struggle with this. Think about it. Who wants to buy game systems their kids don’t use? You wasted your money. Who wants to hear them whine all day because they aren’t allowed to do something? Most of us don’t. So there are times where we will ease up for our own selfish reasons. So this is how I was able to move towards a solution. I found that giving my kids things first and telling them how to keep them works better than taking them away and telling them how to get them back. So instead of taking the systems and saying “do this, this and that to earn them back” I took the opposite path. So now they can play from the time they finish homework until its time to take a bath at night. How long that is depends on when homework gets done and how they are acting. The more rowdy they are, the earlier bath time occurs. I feel like giving them some sort of control over the situation makes them think a little about what they choose to do. Its not a perfect system by any means, but if they lose out on gaming time they know exactly why. I think it’s important for children to understand why things are happening. Of course these things are fluid, so if the situation dictates an adjustment one will be made. Constant monitoring of your kids habits is the most important factor in determining when they may be gaming too much.
So What’s The Answer?
So back to the original question. How much is too much? It’s a tricky question to begin with, and I don’t think there is a clear cut time barrier one can break through. It’s not as simple as limit a kid to this much time gaming and you win. Other factors, such as the content of what they play, can heavily influence your decision. You may not want them playing Call of Duty for hours a day, but hours spent on a puzzle or logic based game may be encouraged. Also, you may feel differently depending on your upbringing. As referenced earlier, I wasn’t limited at all. Others may have had heavy limits placed on them, and that upbringing will likely tie into their decisions with their kids. Friends may change your mind as well. You may not want them playing for long stretches in solitude, but you might feel better about it if they are spending time with their buddies. In short, there are many things to consider when trying to find out what is best for your kids. The best advice I can give is you with your first instinct, and then make adjustments along the way as you see fit. Sounds a lot like general parental advice lol. Anyway, you know the drill. Sound off in the comments if the spirit moves you. In my next installment of Parental Advisory I’ll talk about the pros and cons of gaming for kids. See you there.
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