If Only My Kids Could Regulate Their Own Video Gaming Habits

May 06

No video games from Monday to Thursday. Of all the family rules I have ever devised, this is the one that I treasure most, and try hardest to maintain. You can read about when I first instituted it here. It requires serious vigilance because this unpopular rule is under constant attack by its detractors (my three sons).

But like any sympathetic ruler, I offer generous rewards for their compliance. In return for their 4-day screen drought, I let them play without restriction during the weekend. Well, that’s a slight lie (what good ruler doesn’t do that once in a while!)

That’s what I had said in the hopes that they would learn how to moderate their own video gaming exposure if given the freedom to do so. Unfortunately, that never came to fruition. They would play for hours and hours, if given the chance. I’d no sooner let that happen to allow them to drink soda pop for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

When I observe they have been feeding off the IV of screen animations for too long, I will often erupt into a fit of exclamations that go something like this: “Turn that thing off! Can’t you find something better to do?” “Have you noticed how beautiful it is outside?” “Don’t you have a book to read?”

I don’t expect a response, nor do they have any desire to offer one. In fact, they’re quite skilled at ignoring me altogether (the dissidents). As their ruler (read: threatener of eliminating all things they love), I am eventually granted my wishes: they rise from the couch, release the game controllers, and march toward their new activity.

Why do video games irritate me more than any other activity? Certainly, I don’t resent my kids their copious amount of leisure time. They’re kids, after all. I never complain if they are playing a game of Monopoly for an hour. Or reading a book for two hours. And if they play outside, well, my entire body beams with parental pleasure at the joys of childhood.

I suppose a large part of my anxiety is a result of their inability to monitor their own screen time and balance it with other activities. I can’t think of any other activity that absorbs their attention so completely and for such long lengths of time than video games. Despite what my kids may think, I would be happy to let them play carte blanche all weekend long – if they could just figure out how to self-regulate the amount of time they spend playing.

In fact, once they’ve proven that ability, I will comfortably eliminate my rule completely. But I don’t see that happening any time soon. Just this afternoon, I hinted that perhaps they’d rather play a board game or go outside than continue playing on the computer. They ignored me, as usual.

It wasn’t until I forced them to shut their devices down, and they had to fill the growing void of boredom that results after an hour or so of screen entertainment, that they followed my advice and got out a board game.

Limit kids' video games

Play as long as you want, boys.

“Isn’t this better?” I asked, beaming. They nodded. Then lost interest in the game ten minutes later in search of something else to do. Now if only they could exhibit an attention span as short as that when playing video games. Then we’d all get along just fine.

More Posts You Might Like:

Welcome to the Screen Years, er, Tween Years

Get Comfortable With Saying No

Family Battles over Video Games

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5 comments

  1. I must admit that I was irritated when I traveled half a day to spend a week with my teen nephew who could barely look up from his ipod to say hello. The only time he put it down was when Dad brought home a new desktop computer. I believe it starts at home and there isn’t much I can do as an aunt.

  2. Danielle /

    You’re right, and I agree that it comes down to manners, as well. Parents need to teach kids not only to moderate their video gaming habits, but to help them recognize when it is inappropriate to be staring at one’s screen when you should be engaging with your company. Good point.

  3. :) Nice blog post!

  4. A great post, one I just might have my daughters read. One, so they know I’m not the only Mom like me out there. Two, because you said it without getting upset (which I can rarely do when explaining things to my children, particularly with my eye-rolling tween).

    Life’s about balance, and the electronics have taken over this generation. Now, I just need to teach myself how to monitor my online/social media usage.

    Glad I found you through Blogathon.

  5. Huh. I DO resent my kids’ copious free time!

    Jenny