Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Video Games: In the Screen Zone

Should there be an adult imposed limit?  I feel unease sometimes when my intense kiddo gets hooked on a game and it's an every-spare-minute kind of thing.  During these times, his hyper-energetic body is still for hours.  I've been keen on allowing him to develop self discipline.  I'm very consistent regarding getting his responsibilities addressed first, so I don't have a challenge there.  My goal here is to review and make sure there are no concerns that would indicate a need for intervention.

• I notice that his concentration has improved and that he does turn the Wii/computer/iPhone off if given enough time (often hours).  That tells me he is capable of noticing, at some point, that he's tired of the screen time.
• He is particularly captivated by a game where there is a story.  These games are different in that they are often played with my husband and last six or more hours (Zelda, Myst, Riven).  In these cases he directs my husband and thus he can move his body more, plus there's the whole positive of interacting with Daddy.  I don't see any issues with sleeping or excess energy after these episodes.  He is jazzed with the story and will gladly tell anyone about what he's figured out with Daddy.
• "Experts" recommend minimal "screen time" as a health issue.  My son doesn't have any weight issues.  His ability to concentrate and focus has been improving.  While he is physically still during video-game times, he is highly energetic at other times and doesn't seem to lose self control more after long sessions.  His energy level just has more of an active/quiet swing instead of a medium active constancy.
• Video games seem to help my son foster persistence in fine motor activities.  While he may go off to college unable to tie his shoes, he is passionate about improving his skills on these games.
• The graphics are rapid, flashing and un-natural (causing some kids to have seizures).  Un-natural does not necessarily mean damaging.  Again, I'm not noticing any negative physical consequences from extended screen time.
• There is inappropriate material on video games which can correlate with aggression.  We do not have television and thus all video / video games are intentionally purchased / known to us.  So, those games with gushing blood, beating up policemen etc aren't among his options.
• Video games can be highly educational.  He has expressed occasional interest in mathematics, vocabulary, and typing games.

While I might prefer a more equal ratio with other activities, I don't want to set an artificial limit unless I can show the need.  (Regarding setting limits, this is a great post from a friend about the "Life, Limb & Rights Principle.")  As I've been thinking about this issue, I've found many more of the positive aspects of video games came to mind.  When my son was younger, we did have a half hour of screen time limit because it just seemed to consume him.  He'd zone out and seem to lose the ability to disconnect.  While it can take awhile, I think he has that ability now.  He'll get up and leave these activities.  Nurturing those skills of self perception and control will serve him well and I judge them as more valuable than a consistent activity flow.  So... I'll continue to turn over my phone when he wants to play "Angry Birds" (the one that has captivated all his after-school free time for a week)!  It's good to pay attention to these Mommy feelings and figure out if there is a real reason for concern or just a mistaken response.  My conclusion, in this case, makes it much easier for me share in gleeful smiles without any nagging worries :)
Intently playing while I wrote this post!

Writing down some of the clues to figure out the game's mystery.

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