Before we had kids, we were “those parents” that thought all video games were evil. We said, “Oh, our (unborn) children will never play video games. That would rot their little brains right out of their heads.”
Then we actually had kids–all boys to be precise. We kept up the anti-video game stance for quite a while, and I’m okay that we did. But then I read an article, written by a mom who was further along in her mothering journey than I was.
She pointed out that sometimes forbidding something makes it very, very enticing. Sometimes it’s better to teach control and self-limitations than total abstinence. This mom also explained that she wanted her boys and their friends to spend time at her home, and often boys congregate where there are video games and food.
By having video games in her home, she was in control of what kind of games they were, and how long they were played. This rocked me back on my heels a little, and after a lot of thought and consideration, my husband and I decided to allow video games in our house.
Now honestly, if I was the queen of the world, I would probably wave my magic wand, and do away with video games. Then I’d Men-in-Black style erase any memory of video games from children’s minds, so they wouldn’t know what they were missing. But, sadly, I’m not the queen of the world, so we’re making the best decisions we can about video games.
Here’s what’s working for us: my boys get 30 minutes of screen time per day, period. They almost always choose video games for those 30 minutes, rather than TV. However, especially during the school year, there are some days when we’re too busy to have screen time, so they don’t necessarily get at-home screen time every day.
There are few exceptions to the 30 minute screen time rule–if we have a snow day or it’s someone’s birthday, they might get extra video game time. Once in a while we have a family movie night or watch an MLB game together. Occasionally on a rainy weekend afternoon, my husband will sit down and play two-player games with them.
The most beneficial part of allowing video games into my home is that they are the most powerful thing to take away for a consequence. I’ve also decided to let them earn extra minutes this summer as a reward for memorizing multiplication tables.
I don’t like the idea of routinely rewarding reading with video game time, because I want my boys to read for enjoyment. However, no one that I know recites the multiplication tables for recreation, so I’m okay with setting up a tech-based reward for them memorizing the tables inside out and upside down.
Keep in mind that my oldest is almost 11. This is what our family does, and it’s working for now. This system may not last forever, and we may have to make changes as our family grows and changes.
How does your family handle video games? I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips, however, please remember that every family is unique, and there is no one wrong or right solution–what works for one family may not work for another. Please keep all comments and opinions respectful and polite.