I never Nintendo'd for this to happen...

>> Tuesday, 20 April 2010

I've never been much into computer games. The whole gaming revolution pretty much passed me by; as a child I much preferred to get stuck into a good book, as a teenager much the same, (discounting my text books, obviously, which I shunned completely), and as an adult, well, face-to-face interaction always seemed preferable to sitting hunched over a keyboard. (Although blogging seems somehow to have escaped that embargo.)

Anyway, when I had children, I was determined that I wasn't going to raise two pale-faced sons who never saw the sun, and that instead they would be Proper Boys, running around outside, digging up worms, sometimes (retch) eating them, climbing trees, playing football, and generally living a 1950's dream that does not - in reality - exist.

So no computer games for us, golly gosh no.

Despite all evidence that my master plan had failed and that Husband and I were in fact raising city boys ('Yuck! My hands are dirty, mama!'), this mindset continued until recently. I ignored the fact that rather than build dens and get messy, both my sons are addicted to television (or were, before we arrived here and didn't have one which, thanks to one person in particular - you know who you are - has been a lot less traumatic than I had expected), overall we stuck to our guns and kept computer games out of the house at least.

Then, shortly before we left for Russia, a friend took me to one side and said; "I know that you don't want the Boys to become totally immersed in computer games but really, it's important that they have some exposure to them, otherwise they are going to be odd ones out. It is possible to do these things in moderation, you just need to keep any eye on it."

Interesting take, and food for thought, and once we arrived here it became apparent that this friend was right. We found ourselves surrounded by balanced, normal families, who dipped in and out of the game culture as they felt like it, and really, given the fact that 5 months of the year here are not conducive to out-door pursuits, I began to think that perhaps something to take the heat off me during long days at home when it was minus 25degC outside might not be a bad idea. There are only so many 1950's -style airfix planes and ships in bottles one can build, after all... especially on your own whilst your kids are playing at being Ben 10 or Transformers.

So, when Boy #1 did so well with his skiing recently, braving all weathers, being a generally all-round good sport, and most amazingly just getting on with it without moaning and complaining (which any mother of a 6 year old boy will know is a miracle in itself), Husband and I caved. He had been mentioning a Nintendo DS as a potential birthday present for some time - not in a nagging way, just in a 'wow, wouldn't it be amazing if...' way (he's nothing if not canny, my son) -and we decided that with a summer of flights and car journeys not long off, it was time to reward him.

And so the Potski Familiski has finally entered the 21st century in terms of technology. We didn't give him everything he wanted, you understand; Boy #1 was hoping for a Ben 10 game but I looked into it and didn't like the level of casual violence, so he got a Mario Kart game instead. And so far so good; he's loving it and will even - gasp! - share with his brother. He even asks me to play from time to time (although I suspect this is just for the humour value when I lose horribly). But this new toy has brought about a new question for me.

How much time playing is too much? Or, on the flip side, how much is enough? At the moment we've set a limit of 20 minutes in the morning and the same in the afternoon for the Boys to play with it. That seems to me to be enough to give them the chance to play a couple of games without eating into 'real-life' time, but then I started to wonder if it IS too much. Or, on the other hand, are we being too proscriptive, and should we just let him play with it as much as he dam' well pleases?

I thought technology was supposed to answer problems, not create them...


TheMadHouse 20 April 2010 at 08:15  

I was like you, in fact I still am a little. The boys and me and MadDad now have a wii, which we all play together and we allow Maxi and Mini 30 mins on now and again. We have said no to a DS yet, they are only babys. We dont allow use in the evenings after 5

sharon 20 April 2010 at 10:14  

I think you are about right for little boys but that will change as they grow older. Mine, being substantially older than your boys when computer games hove into view, had different attitudes towards them. Elder son not particularly interested and could take it or leave it, but the younger was - and still is - hooked and would spend hours playing if he had nothing else to do. However he watched very little TV and was selective about movies so it was a bit swings and roundabouts. I did veto the more violent stuff to the point of confiscating his friend's game which had been lent against my express instructions. Another stipulation was that homework and chores had to be completed first and I wasn't above removing power cords (and the internet cable when that became part of our lives) when I felt it to be necessary.

Belgravia wife - sort of 20 April 2010 at 12:36  

Get him hooked on recording his voice and playing it backwards - mine are more than happy to do that and haven ever been terribly fussed about the games. Next time I see you will be over dinner and as for the wine - Pinot Grigio = Italian, Italian = Mediterranean, Mediterranean = Good. Crack on xx

Rachel M. 20 April 2010 at 13:55  

As they get better, it will take longer to finish a game! And they will be driven to play until the game ends, after that is the point of the game to see how far you can get before dying :)

Sounds like fun, we didn't get our first game system until 10 as kids, it all works out in the end.

Troutie 20 April 2010 at 18:14  

How much time do you spend on the computer? Too much or too little?

My son won't be there for a while yet. But one day when I tell him that he should be outside playing tennis rather than on the computer, he might well point out that I should take my own advice!

And I hate tennis.......

Sorry...I've been no help.

Iota 20 April 2010 at 20:24  

Aaaah, welcome to the slippery slope. I've been meaning to do a whole post on this, for ages.

One tip is that games are designed for the player to achieve levels. They are often designed with a time-frame in mind. So it can be super-frustrating to a child to be given a shorter block of time - they'll almost achieve the target, but not quite, and then will have to start again next time. I once read that many games are designed with 30 minute slots,but I really have no idea if that's right, and it probably varies. If you are often greeted with "I've got to finish this level, I've got to finish this level, waaaaah...." then that could be a clue.

You just have to limit the time, you really do. And my advice would be to start strict. Always easier to get more lenient, than to claw back allowances later. My son's DS was originally for long journeys only, but now the school run (less than a mile each way) seems to have been reclassified as a long journey.

It does seem to depend a lot on the child. Our oldest is very take it or leave it. He plays, but gets bored, and is pretty self-regulating. Youngest boy is our addict, has to be limited, or he would never stop. On a transatlantic flight 2 years ago, he played for 10 hours solid (when we told him he needed a break from the gameboy, he turned on the in-flight entertainment and found another few games to play, and yes, we should probably have launched into I-Spy at that point, but long flight, three kids, and all that).

Love the title of this post. Also love the picture of you hunched intently over your airfix plane, while the boys run off to be Ben 10. (Haven't they discovered how delicious airfix glue smells yet?)

Tattie Weasle 20 April 2010 at 20:33  

Arrrggghhhhh we have a problem in out house in that The Boy has a Nintendo DS and if we ask him at the end of hisallotted time to finish it he gets vert aggressive adn we're onlyon Mario! I have taken it waway for the timebeing as he just gets TOO involved and I feel he gets too aggressive. However, hoping to reintroduce later this month for a long car journey! I'll tell you how it goes...

Anonymous,  20 April 2010 at 21:15  

our rule is an hour a day. This, however, does occasionally get broken for car trips, rainy days, or "Man, mommy could really use 20 minutes where the kids don't bug her"

Sparx 20 April 2010 at 21:34  

I was like you in theory, but we bought a wii when Charlie was a baby and he's been exposed for quite a while. We do ration the use - he has a gameboy as well for long journeys as we do a lot of travelling - but he doesn't seem bothered if we forbid it, he's happy as anything to play with his trainset or building blocks. Someone pointed out to me that kids also need some quiet time and this is good for that.

OK, wanna play Mario online with us?!!!

Mwa 20 April 2010 at 23:06  

I'm bad at rules, but my son tends to tire of games after a bit. I tend to let him play for about an hour, but he goes for weeks without even being interested in computer games. Thankfully. Maybe we have the wrong games. I do think restricting access piques interest. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But the opposite will often make interest wane.

nappy valley girl 20 April 2010 at 23:39  

I feel much like you did - I don't really want them to start playing Nintendo, Wii etc because I feel it's a slippery slope. Having said that, I have started to let Littleboy 1 play games on Nick Jr website - and I'm amazed at how quickly he's mastered the computer. I think I'm going to wait until they really start badgering for these things before I make a decision though - your friend is right in that they will feel left out if everyone else is doing it.

Potty Mummy 21 April 2010 at 09:11  

MH, not after 5pm? I like it...

Sharon, oh, I know. It's a slippery slope.

BW - do you mean the DS can do that? I foresee hours of endless fun if yes. Must remember to read the instructions (and book a flight -ha!- back for that meal)

RachelM, don't tell me that!

Troutie, you have and you haven't...

Iota, oh, I just can't wait! (And glad you like the title - all my own work, you know...)

TW - I'll be reading with interest

Anonymous - I thought that's what tv is for?

Sparx - a wii is next on my list, I'm afraid to admit - although that is more for me (the gyms here are astronomically expensive)

Mwa, I know you're right, but I can just see that if I don't restrict it Boy #1 will literally do nothing else...

NVG, wait, definitely!

Jo Beaufoix 21 April 2010 at 09:55  

I've been thinking about this one lately too. Miss M had a DS for Christmas, and Miss E is very much a fan. They do go through phases but at the minute we're in the middle of one and I am trying to cut them down. When they're tired they often turn to their DS's for chill out time, but actually I'm thinking this might be tiring them more.

I read recently on a games site that 2 hours screen time - I'm assuming TV, DS, PC, X Box, Wii etc all count as 'screens' - should be no more than 2 hours per day. That sounds a lot but let's face it, how fast does a couple of hours go by on the internet?

I'm just hoping the nice weather stays as at the moment I'm having no problem getting mine into the garden after school. I love it.

Kristine,  21 April 2010 at 11:08  

I only have girls, but especially the oldest one likes to play games like Wii and DS. Our rule (which is heavily influenced by my mum's rules when we were little) is that playing outside "earns" gametime. If she plays outside for an hour, she'll get to play for half an hour. Most of the time she ends up having such a great time outside that she stays out until bedtime, and the playtime does not "roll over " to the next day. It's a great way to get the kids to go outside, even when it's snowing or raining. Travel-time (long car-journeys, airports etc. is excepted from the rule)

As for violent games, she doesn't really show an interest in those, so that is not something that has come up yet.

Really Rachel 21 April 2010 at 11:17  

It's a tricky one that we are only just beginning to encounter with FP's early interactions with daddy's 'phone and tantrums when she has to give it back. There will definitely be rules, I just don't know what they'll be yet.

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