I’m often a conflicted parent. The type who limited her toddler’s television viewing until discovering that a 20-minute Baby Einstein video would allow me to make dinner, fold a load of laundry or use the bathroom without interruption.
And despite my fear that I was ruining my child, he is now a highly functioning, polite and intelligent teenager. Whew.
My latest hand wringing involves video games.
At first, I prohibited them and was stressed when my mother bought those LeapFrog game systems for my kids when they were little.
Then along came the Wii and it seemed less frightening. Instead of fostering my nightmare visions of glowering, pasty-faced malcontents rooted into the sofa, game controller in hand, the Wii allowed players to romp, run and flail along with brightly colored and smiling avatars. I succumbed and we all had fun.
But I worried. Aren’t the games that kids play on those systems bad for you? Too violent or crude? It seemed easier to just say no. But I questioned the logic and rationality of that approach. Realized I may be having (yet again) an emotional overreaction.
Violent video games are often linked to violent behavior. But it seems that actual data hasn’t born that out. Maybe games are not the cause but more of a fuel to previously lit fires. But all video games have a tendency to become addictive and fostering an addiction to violence seems unwise.
According to some research, playing video games can have benefits. Surgeons who play video games are said to perform better at laparoscopic surgeries. Benefits for common folk can include increased creativity and problem solving. Apparently, games can even be used in classroom settings to facilitate critical thinking.
Either way, our house rule is no M-rated games ever. I explain this by saying, “Just because I’m old enough to watch any dang R-rated movie I please, doesn’t mean that I should.”
We must guard our hearts and minds and use caution and common sense. That goes double for the hearts and minds of impressionable and developing young people.
Better than an outright ban of all gaming is continued conversation and explanation of your family’s values. Tell your kids why you don’t like certain games. Why things like war and law breaking are not games. Consider letting boys satisfy their testosterone-driven cravings with sports games like Madden or NBA 2K.
My kids got a PlayStation for Christmas. Alas, there is more sitting and less Wii-inspired hopping around. But I’m still committed to determining which games are best to buy or avoid. I’m also committed to limited screen time in general. Too much of even the most innocuous games are still too much.
In the end, I’m trying to raise men. I’m certainly glad my husband doesn’t while away his hours in front of a video game screen. And hopefully, my future daughters-in-law and society will benefit from my (possibly overly cautious, but I don’t think so) parenting.