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December 13, 2006

Video Games, or Not

Video Orginally posted at the Silicon Valley Moms Blog

Throughout the years, I have seen many families deal with the issue of whether to have video games or not. Many with multiple kids end up buying some sort of video games, and try to implement limits in their use. I always thought I would never buy them, just like I held out to that last possible moment with my first son to introduce him to TV. Well, that moment is here and I had to decide whether to introduce video games into our house or not.

My oldest son is 8, and he has his own laptop that was assembled by his uncle from used parts. But since I pulled the wireless card because of Internet use concerns, he just is not excited to use it. I always seem to have multiple kids over my house at a time, and we have lots of gross motor play toys/activities to keep them busy. I don't have help during the day, and have just started working at home. Sometimes I need a break, some quiet activity to settle down the group. I have arts and crafts, project supplies, board games, blah blah blah. I know the anti-TV radicals would say stick to the project activities, but I have seen that does not always work. Or maybe they can come over to my house and try to entertain 3 - 6 active kids for hours at a time, especially on rainy days! So I came to the conclusion that some type of limited screen time was acceptable.  But deciding what type of screen time was the hardest decision. 

  • TIVo gave me the control to record TV programs that I found acceptable, then my son figured out how to use TIVo. I looked into KidZone, but have not had the time to set it up.
  • Laptop use is out because I pulled the wireless card. Unless I want to start buying lots of computer games. Or figure out a way to secure internet access.
  • He has an iHome and iPod software on his computer which allows him to play his iPod music in his room. He loves playing music, but that does not always interest his friends.

The last choice is (yikes) video games. Some of my son's friends have race car and Star Wars video games, which I think are fine. But what happens when I introduce them into my house? Will they be attracted to the video games over the important social and gross motor skill activities? I became completely paranoid that this would lead to a future of sedentary activities for my sons... They would become a couch potatoes and it would be my fault for buying that first video game....

Then I came to my senses. First of all, my sons are the most active kids I know so introducing some down time would not change that. Then I realized that my mental health hinged on having small chunks of time each day that I am not in charge of entertainment activities. I embraced having that time to myself and headed to the store.

The first time I chickened out and purchased a 9 in 1 combo game table to put in the garage. Which is still in the box.Leapsterlmax

Then my husband decided to go to a family event with my oldest son, so I decided that the time was right to buy a handheld gaming system. I purchased the Leapster L-Max. I gave it to my son yesterday, he opened the box and set everything up on his own, including figuring out how to plug it into the TV. My 4 year old twins sat next to him while he played the educational games (math mission, nascar math, spiderman spelling & reading, etc).  They cheered their older brother on while he solved the math, reading, and spelling problems. Although he complained of doing homework, the nascar math had him praticing addition and subtraction without even realizing it. The games had a cool surfer dude that appeared to say "awesome" after a game is completed correctly. The math mission even had a reward system, each correct calculation earned a dollar value that was assigned depending on how many correct answers were completed. The console has a pen which is good for fine motor skills (ok, that may be a stretch but any writing activities are considered good pratice in my house).

My three boys were sitting and learning while I cooked dinner. Not so bad for a video game, even if my 8 year old calls it almost a gameboy. Any other thoughts on video and handheld games?


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