I wonder what the science says. Some of what I've read is that video games are healthy, others things I've read point in the opposite direction and blame video games for criminals being incarcerated...and everything in between. For those of you parents out there with kids, what are your thoughts as Atheists? 

I have a 6 year old. All of his friends play video games. I caved and bought him one, and now I regret it. It's all he wants to do now! I have set limits, but it has become a fight. As it is he is a strong-willed child and at times he is very aggressive, even without video games. He really likes them (too much.)

Honestly, I'm thinking about taking them away - for good.

But before I do I wonder what other parents think or have done. Anything would help to inform my decision. Particularly scientifically based findings...thanks!!!!

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This is a complicated question because of all the variables involved. As a teacher I've been asked this question many times - here are some things I usually tell parents to help guide and inform their decisions.

- There seems to be relatively good evidence that any screen time is not good for children that are 3 or younger. For older children limiting screen time is advised. But this of course can have the opposite of the desired effect - it can for some kids make them want to play more. You have to figure out what works best for you kid. Some kids don't need any restrictions and after an initial binge will self regulate just fine - other kids need help regulating their screen time.

- Setting a timer for a predetermined amount of time then using a game save feature so that they don't lose the game. Include you kid in the discussion about what the time limit is going to be - ask them what they think a reasonable amount of time per day for video games is. If you include them in this discussion you'll more likely get compliance. Clear consequences for not following the agreement should also be discussed - again ask your kid what they think the consequence should be if they break the agreement. You might be surprised at how reasonable your kid is. This can help teach them how to self regulate instead of just being an imposed rule system by an authority figure.

- Pick one day a week as a screen free day. If your kid struggles to figure out what to do on this day help them plan some ideas.

- Think about what your child enjoys doing when they aren't on screens. Find ways to encourage these sorts of activities so that video games don't become their only form of entertainment. Often kids latch onto video games when they are bored or stuck in the house all the time.

- Introduce them to a variety of types of games. There are many video and computer games that actually teach kids real skills like coding, video making, graphic design, photography, ect... Code.org is a great website that teaches the very basics of coding. Both my 1st and 3rd grade classes loved it! They have stuff for all ages.

- Keep the violent video games out of your house - at least for now while he's young. At some point (middle school) you'll probably have to give in to some extent on this one. From what I've read it's not video games (including the most violent and sexualized ones) that are the cause of problems - for very few people video games exacerbate or bring preexisting problems to the surface, in other words they are a symptom of deeper problems for those people.

- Get your kids outside as often as you can and try to hold back on the hawk-eye supervision all the time. For some kids the thrill and risk taking in some types of video games is attractive because they don't get to do anything that feels thrilling or risky to them in real life. Especially kids today as this current generation is the most "watched" generation yet.

I found this website several years ago: parentingscience.com it has articles and advice based on research about almost every common question parents ask and is kept up to date. References can be found at the bottom of each article. 

Hi Belle,

    Video games promote hand-eye coordination (eyes on the screen, hands on the controller; much like touch typing) and problem solving. They can also help foster creativity by providing an environment in which you can explore with no real world repercussions. Becca's rules are probably a good place to start. I would also add to look carefully at the box before buying a game; to my knowledge, all games are rated so make sure you get games rated appropriately.

Keep in mind that as your son gets older, he may get into more complex games (speaking from my own experience). The more complex games require you to save so that you can resume the next time you want to play... I can't tell you how frustrating it is when someone says "just turn it off, you can play again tomorrow" when you just spent a couple of hours making progress through the storyline. It demonstrates a complete ignorance of the complexity of the game and a lack of respect for the gamer's time.

I have been playing video games for years. FPS and D&D mainly. I can remember playing Pac Man in the 1980’s and I am sure my generation never ended up dancing to repetitive music while running around a room trying to munch as many pills as possible………...wait a minute!!

LOL!!! I grew up in the age of Mario Bros 3 and the Nintendo, and was furious with my parents for refusing to buy me one, but in hind sight, I am happy they didn't. I spend the majority of my childhood riding my bike (WITHOUT A HELMET!!!) around the neighborhood, and wrestling the neighborhood boys, roller skating miles a day, and by the time I was in middle school I could still beat all the boys in arm wrestling. I like to think that my athleticism was in many ways due to the fact that I didn't spend my childhood sitting on my ass. And I am now able to play ALL sports, and in turn, teach my son.

I think it was probably a good decision on my parent's part, and I think I might just emulate that for my son. I think you can never get enough physical activity as a youngster, and I think that the more me and my son do those things together, the greater odds he'll be not only dancing to repetitive music, he'll be break dancing off the stage, impressing all the girls, lol!!!

He's already a ladies man ;-)...Even at 6 he already has little muscles like a little man. I'm going to have to keep a leash on him...I really have my work cut out for me!

Suffice it to say, I have decided I'm going to take away ALL video games from my son starting tomorrow (the first day of 1st grade.) I will keep you all posted how it goes. It's going to be brutal for a few weeks, but I think it will help my son be more focused, less aggressive, and more active..

I'll let you all know what happens!!! He'll be the only kid without video games...He'll hate me for it...but I do think it's the best thing for him. He's only 6 years old!! And I know "everybody else does it," but I guess if everybody else wanted to jump off a cliff would you do it?....I'm starting to sound OLD!!!! Thank goodness I don't have any gray hairs yet! KNOCK ON WOOD!!!!!

I worry that you may be trying the video game equivalent of abstinence only education.

Well, gee, wouldn't it depend on the game? 

Is it a game that just reinforces good hand/eye coordination or sharpens problem solving skills? Or is it a game involving killing women, children, and cops?

Are you suggesting games like GTA don't incorporate hand/eye coordination and problem solving? I can't think of a game that would require you to stop and look down at your controller (i.e. not promoting hand/eye coordination). In fact, the best exercise of hand/eye coordination comes from games where you dont have time to look.... like alot of FPS games and other fast paced action games.

I'm guilty of a little oversimplification, but hopefully you saw past that to the point I was making.

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