Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Are Video Games Ruining Our Children?

My boys LOVE video games, but recently I’ve been taking a hard look at their role in our life, our home. Over the years I have heard reports, opinions, speculation, you name it. There are all different camps out there on the subject. Some families believe that it actually causes the brain to begin to process differently so that children have a hard time learning, others think that video games can give our children a feeling success as they set goals and achieve them. We have always chosen the way of video games for many different reasons, but I am once again re-evaluating the role they play in our home and thought today I would share our experience with you.

Let me start by telling you what “I” personally believe for my home, my children....., "Moderation" and "Balance" are KEY! I think video games make a wonderful "reward" tool. It’s something they can work “towards” when they have a lot on their to-do lists and something that can be taken away when they are not doing what they are supposed to. It’s an opportunity for them to practice strategy. They have to try and try again in order to be successful. They learn that perseverance pays off if you don’t give up.

What do I “not” love about video games? I don’t like how they sneak in and steal my children’s hearts. Rather than a “tool” they become the master. I don’t like to watch my children hurry through school and chores just so they can play their video games. They never take the time to enjoy what they are doing. The goal becomes to hurry up and get through it so you can play video games. I don’t love how when "I" am not diligent in putting boundaries in place how it steals my children’s creativity.

I have an amazingly artistic 13 year old in our bunch. He is SO gifted and loves to draw, build, play piano. He used to spend hours working on those things and then over the years we began to add one system after another into our home as grandparents and family members gave these as Christmas presents.

One day last week I looked over at my incredibly creative child and saw his entire face and body absorbed into the little black box in his hands. I decided to pull in and pray about it. Over the weekend we had a family meeting and told our children that we were going to start putting boundaries into place.

Sunday nights all video games go up and they don’t come out again until after our co-op classes on Friday afternoons. I knew that if I left it for a daily reward that they would never take the time to invest in their giftings. They would rush through their day, waiting for the coveted time that they could grab their games and lose themselves among the world of make believe.

Prior to Time4Learning I would have felt awful that I was pulling them away from multi-media. I personally believe that it is the way of of the future, and thus why we as a family are actively pursuing a more technical education. However, this is where the beauty of Time4Learning comes in. Though they have always LOVED schooling using this AMAZING
program, they are more invested than EVER. Though they've always loved the "Playground", it has now become as appealing to them as a Starbucks Pumpkin latte is to ME! (smile)

In just the week since we’ve implemented our new plan I have made several observations:

My children are just beginning to go the extra distance with their creativity. Yesterday my 7 & 9 year olds pulled out and old roll of packing paper and traced their bodies and cut them out. They got their art sets and painted features and clothes and took their life sized paper buddies with them everywhere. My 17 year old spent more than the "scheduled" 30 minutes working on his guitar lessons. My 13 year old who loves to organize started organizing his games in anticipation of the coming weekend.

What about YOU? I would LOVE to hear your feedback. What do you think about video games? What role does it play in your home? Do you have rules or boundaries or do you NOT? Let’s start a “Cyber” round table discussion...,


  1. It's a hard one since my husband works in the video game industry and plays games all night long!
    I've always had a rule for videogames: my kids have to read in order to earn video game time. 1 min of reading = 1 min of video gaming for the upper elementary and older children. For my 2nd grader, he has to read 4 chapters of his Geronimo Stilton chapter books to earn 1 hour of gaming. Sometimes he uses the time, more often than not he doesn't. But he knows he has to read to play. I have found my teens lying to me recently about having read in order to play. A month suspension from all games corrected that attitude. As far as what games they're allowed to play, I'm kind of ashamed to admit that my 2nd grader plays shooter games (his dad's influence) and loves them. But he also loves LEGO Star Wars and such and was horrified at the mock-up violence that he saw in a production of Oklahoma! last month so I guess he's still able to empathize, which is good.
    Now, I will not limit "educational games" like Star Wars Math but they have to be done after all school work has been completed satisfactorily and all homework (yes, my homeschooled kid gets homework) is done. I think different kids learn differently. While I don't expect them to LEARN from a game, I think that they can be a great SUPPLEMENT and support to our lessons. I use them as drills, more than instructors because I am the instructor. My 8th grader is home from public school today because he is sick. He's studying the Periodic Table in science right now so I found a game online for him to practice his knowledge of the Periodic Table. However, he asked me if he could play videogames and I nixed that because his teachers emailed me his assignments and he could be... reading! Or practicing his trombone or his bass.

  2. What I'm wondering is if you yourself have ever played video games. It is hard to make a decision based on something you have no experience in. If you haven't played video games before, you are being naive to an entire culture, that's the word you need to pay attention to. Culture. It's not just a simple toy anymore, unlike what the previous poster posted, video games could actually be the newest way to teach kids on how to learn.
    That claim may be a little exagerated, but think of it this way. Have you ever watched your children play good video games? Now this is another question. What is the quality of the video games you buy your kids. This is very important because good video games help kids learn. Ever seen your children play a video game. Not just look at the screen see a video game and go about your business. Sit down and watch your children play a video game. Hopefully not something like what looks like rock band in the picture. For instance they may play a game with a story and puzzles, alternatively called a rpg. The game doesn't exactly tell you what to do and where to go. You don't just push a button and it does everything for you. Your kids are required to think, and act in a short amount of time.
    For instance in a video game called "Uncharted 2: Amongst Thieves", not for your younger kids, but your seventeen year old will like it. In the game you are a treasure hunter, think indiana jones, and required to solve complex puzzles. Your only hints to solving the puzzles come from drawings in diary excerpts, so your children will be required to study these excerpts and their environments and make connections to be able to progress in the story. Nowadays a growing trend in videogames is actually being to develop your own game, in a manner of speaking. "Little Big Planet" is a game in which your objective is to make your character move the other side of the level. The thing is you can custimize your character completely and even make your own levels for other people and yourself to complete.
    I'm not trying to say that you shouldn't limit the video games in your household, but you shouldn't do so with the mindset that they are holding your kids back from what they can do. If anything it will help them be able to think in a different and less conventional way (a way artists themselves must think) and problem solve. There is a book I read "What video games have to teach you about learning and literacy" That reveals how video games actually help the players learn. Another game is called "Demon Souls" Once again not for the younger kids. The game is difficult. Each bad guy plays different. If you go into a fight with all the bad guys the same way, you will lose, because they require different strategies. So you actually need to watch their attack patterns and movements to find holes and then attack during that set period of time. If you need help in choosing "good" video games that challenge and help your kids don't be afraid to ask.


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