Periodically, we ask our members for their best advice and words of wisdom. This time we posed a question about computer and game use, and received a ton of responses!
Question: Many families say that their kids are overly involved in video games. While there can be some educational value, what would you recommend to parents who want to curb their kids' video obsessions?
Find other activities to interest them in. Go outside! I know parents will say their children do not want to hang out outdoors. Try short hikes. Geocaching is a fun family activity that gets everyone outside. volunteer at the local animal shelter or local soup kitchen. Pokemon go gets them out and they still have video gaming. Take them to the local dirt track car races. Expose them to everything you can and then see where their interests lie. There are many low cost alternatives. Your local library should have passes to museums, Squam Lake Science Center, Boston Museum of Science etc, that you can check out. Bring them to the Ag fairs, a local farm. Once their brains are re-wired away from electronics I bet you will find a super cool human that you like to hang out with!
Simple things that many parents have never done. 1. I'm the Dad therefore I make the rules. 2. No means NO. 3. Don't buy them things you don't want them to have. 4. ENGAGE with your children. You had them for a reason. Share what you enjoy doing and encourage them by participating with them. 5. Play catch, hide and seek, read to them, take them fishing or hunting, on a hike or for a walk, go to the playground, plant a garden. 6. Remove the video games from your house. 7. Be the ADULT in the room. 8. Remember that YOU caused this problem by purchasing the game and allowing excessive engagement.
Ann Marie D
In this new age of video gaming as a parent I bought my own gaming console. I play with my teen son, adult son and my grandkids. I play and learn the games they love. It is not easy, I have a huge learning curve, but the bonding that results is priceless. By playing with them it really provides a different viewpoint of why they enjoy it. It provides a different viewpoint of all the benefits that can come out of it. It also provides discussion topics about communication, how to be respectful etc. If there was something that you really enjoyed doing, let’s say dancing, painting, woodworking, and you were spending hours at it and someone that had never done that couldn’t understand why, how could you explain the ‘flow’ you feel, the sense of achievement, the goals you reach, the creativity you feel.
For me we will play, we are in separate rooms each on our console with headsets and talk and discuss what we are doing next, you can guide them off the gaming when you are playing together. “One more game and then let’s go do…” I also suggest board gaming, we are huge board gamers, there is a lot of diversity in games that are very attractive and relatable to video gaming.
I made my kids stay outside this weekend. When they finally got to use their tablets/systems they weren't as interested in them.
For us my kids get 1 hour on Saturday and 1 hour on Sunday. We do not allow it during the week because we encourage other creative outlets. Also telling them it’s okay to be bored. My son is so drawn into the video games that he has a hard time detaching and can get very emotional. We have found setting the time limit and him being able to see the timer on his console has helped tremendously.
For us, it was lead by example. Steer them towards a passion that doesn't involve electricity. Family games of cards, dominos, board games, family hikes/walks. All are things that can "replace" daily screen time. It's hard to tell a kid no tv/games while you stare dead eye into the phone or play your own games.
We go with "computers are tools". You *could* also use a band saw all day, but eventually you run out of things to do. We use the W's to determine
Who: who needs the computer
What: what are you trying to accomplish
Where: where are you 'going' to do that (app, web, game)
Why: Why is this tool your best choice?
When: When will you begin and end?
How: How will this benefit yourself or others?
What- Helping others, especially fellow homeschoolers, moms, people of my community, game schoolers, game creators
Where- Facebook-specifically GSHE, NH Moms, Latitude, Buy nothing, component Studio, gameschoolers
Why- Many people are on FB/it is 8:30 and I'm not going anywhere people are for AT LEAST 2 more hours
When: 8:30-9 (though I am going to try to finish by 8:45
How: I hope this benefits others!
Finding balance. Also, educate yourself about what video games your children are playing. I am a parent who was 100% against video games and had to educate myself a lot about them, especially as my husband works in the industry as an artist. Video games have actually been a lifesaver for my sons, whose dearest friends live cross country and who they don’t get to see more than once a year. Connecting with them via co-op games has been vital in their friendship because they know once a week they get to talk to their friends and engage with them. They usually play games that involve problem solving and team work as well as communication skills, but they also know if any of them act out online they lose the game privileges. Not all video games are created equally well. Check what is appropriate for your children. You might also want to steer your child into the direction of programming, animation or level design to find a different outlet that still connects to games. Trust me, the industry has many job opportunities and it takes an average of 3-5 years to make a successful game. Also, my kids did take an online safety course to be able to spot unsafe behavior online and report it.
Although I was totally against them ,we compromised. When the boys (4 of them) were young or HS age, we allowed video games on the weekends after chores. Now that they are 17 and up they play online together or have a great time playing Mario Cart and other games (I still will NOT allow blood or gore!) when they get all together. There is a time and place.
I limit screen time, and summer is nope nope outside.
Video games have actually been a way for us to all interact and play together - it’s just not on a board at the kitchen table. We can even play all together when we are not all together.
Our family plays a lot of board games, and it's transitioned to the online versions as they've gone away to college. It's a way we stay connected.
Fill their time with other stimulating activities to crowd out that activity. Taking something away is often less effective than adding something else. Look at days they don't play video games as much as they do on other days and see which activities they are doing instead and increase those more often. Expose them to new activities that could spark new interests and be proactive in fostering them. Create a reset month where you commit to 30 days or a week of field trips, outings, time in nature, exploring, hiking, art etc. Unplugging, as a family, is beneficial on a lot of levels. Have an agreement that each person will have 1 hour of device time a day, for a defined amount of time, a weekend, a week, 14 days and otherwise they will unplug. If the whole family does it, it can reset and build shared experiences, opportunities to talk about how it feels to be unplugged, etc. Shift them over to coding, digital drawing, photoshop, etc. so they are creating instead of consuming. That is still online time but the consumption, compulsion type aspect can be reduced.
Go off grid on vacation! We do. I have to say that meal prep is harder and such but so worth it for the inability to be reached electronically. It takes an adjustment at the start but when your cell phone battery dies you know you’ve succeeded. Bonus points if you don’t notice your cell phone is dead until you are headed home! Day to day, look for non-electronic activities to build a desire to do those things for balance.
Having a designated time of the day where there is no tech items. Like, maybe during dinner and afterwards start a new bedtime routine. Dinner without distractions, cleaning and chores, baths, reading, board games before bed, that type of thing. Then do like a weekend once a month without any electronics. If you start to limit it, most kids won't be as interested in them immediately after these breaks and it helps the brain reset.
Maybe more helpful- a designated time when playing games IS allowed and the rest of the time is framed as the norm without games. Also, if the window of time is missed because people are doing other things - in general saying, oh well. With that perspective it also helps de-elevate the amount of weight the family is willing to give to screens as the most important/center of the kids activity. We have set time limits, and enforce that game playing isn’t every day. We explain that it’s not the center of things. I don’t actually make an effort to take them out and do other things than we already do - they can figure it out! We have also seen people cover the screens with a cloth or something and put the gaming things out of sight. It helps it to be out of mind.
My son and I learn new activities together. Eg sailing, canyoneering, first aid/cpr, wilderness survival, wilderness first aid, map and compass, etc. Gets us both out of the house, models lifelong learning, shows him I don’t know everything, and we get to bond.
1000 Hours Outside challenge! Kids can download the app and keep track of their own hours. There are badges you acquire for each milestone, and space to journal and upload photos from your time outside. Sometimes a little friendly competition can encourage more outdoor screen free time.
I limit screen time. And no gaming until after our school activities. But video games are a privilege at our house, it's not an everyday occurrence. We also do electronic detox where for thirty days we put away our iPad and no gaming.
My kids will become obsessed with tv/video games if they’re allowed. We encourage boredom in our house because that is when creativity is built! Our kids need to be bored so they can discover things for themselves. As a family though we love to be outside, enjoy playing board games and reading together.
Once you take the screens away so much life opens up! You’ll wonder how you ever gave so much time away.
We schedule gaming time, it's not a free-for-all. We also have one screen-free month per year, occasional screen-free weeks, and at least 1 screen-free day per week. This applies to everyone in the household, kids and adults, so we can all remember how to live without electronic entertainment and instant information gratification. Also, we play video games with our kids. It's wicked fun, and we don't worry so much about what they're playing because we're familiar with it.
As long as there is a balance of all healthy things in my child's life - friendship (even if it's just one friend), time outside, quality time with us, communication with us, exercise, good eating, and consistent sleep hours - I don't concern myself with her involvement or hours spent on video games.
I watched a Ted talk I want to say about millennials and dopamine addiction from screens-blue screens induce dopamine production. It is very much an addiction. But it appears to be the cumulative effects. An article was in the 7th grade English textbook about how video games prepared a dictator for robot assisted surgery in adulthood. Everything in moderation. I like the outside challenge a lot. We have started purchasing board games that target skills we are working on (Wild Math has a resource list at the end of each chapter). They are like video games in many ways, minus the blue light. We have a family member who helps developers create their games and goes to conventions for board games. Many are super sophisticated that we don’t see in Walmart or Target. Never knew this until he came to the family.
We are also leaning toward Waldorf and Charlotte Mason styles of education which encourage handcrafts-gardening, modeling in various media, drawing and journaling, sewing, knitting, crochet, cross stitch, wood work, and literal building-last year our co-op kids built a small house (play house size).
My son knows that he has to maintain A’s and B’s to have free video game usage. He has all A’s.
We never had any restrictions on electronics until recently. My husband and I had a conversation that everyone in the house was too involved with some kind of electronics, our faces always in front of a screen (except dinner time). So we implemented some rules, on weekdays, we get 1hr per day of any electronic usage, and on weekends no electronics at all (with the exception of "appropriate" music = no Cardi B stuff). We are also teaching them that video games, TV, etc is a privilege, if they start acting up, being disrespectful, then they get that privilege taken away. So right now, my kids have no electronics at all.