I truly like having my own laptop to work on. And this cool stick-thingy that brings our internet connection out of the Ice Age is the bee's knees. But generally speaking, I am not a fan of technology. Newer, faster, shinier rarely appeal to me as better.
My kids do not all have their own cell phones and Facebook accounts. At our house, one has to be registered for a college course and commuting to campus to qualify for a cell phone - and even then, they only get a very basic package. No texting allowed. (BTW, here's a tip for parents who are frustrated that their teenagers spend all their waking hours thumbing away on a cellular device, oblivious to the living, breathing people standing at their elbows. DO NOT get a cell phone plan that includes unlimited texting. Instead, get a basic call plan. Texting costs extra - $1.00 a pop on our particular plan. And if the kids text, they pay the toll. If they accept texts from friends - cha-ching, another dollar. They quickly communicate to their broader circle "No texting!" And, amazingly, they are able to make eye contact with the people standing next to them in line at Wal-Mart or the bookstore. Sometimes, they even engage in conversation!)
Okay, lay off the cell phone/texting thing, Camille. The real reason I'm writing is...gaming systems. Last year for Christmas, my kids received a PlayStation. Initially, the rule for using this device from the pit was simply - gaming only on Friday afternoon, after all schoolwork was complete, and on Saturday afternoon after chores. Sounds simple. AMAZING how incredibly difficult it has been to hold the line on that.
Months before the PlayStation made its advent in our house, I polled several "with it" parents to get their thoughts on the matter. Interestingly, not one parent that I polled - not one - responded favorably. One mom even went so far as to say that getting a PlayStation was the worst mistake her family had ever made. It was a constant source of struggle and frustration between the parents and kids and turned every afternoon into a whine fest at their house. But that won't happen to us. We can do BETTER...
This year, we added a Wii to our collection. Same rules: use restricted to Friday and Saturday afternoons, after school and chores. The Wii, I was led to understand, actually involved physical activity, as opposed to sitting on your bum in front of the TV working only a hand-held controller. I am ooberly NOT impressed with the reality of Wii. I haven't yet seen anything on the Wii that comes anywhere close to the wholesome exercise my kids get hiking back on the farm or climbing trees or building forts or clearing brush.
I am very sad to see what we have lost by embracing these technologies, sadder to see what we've "gained" by them. When I tell one of the kids that the dogs need to be walked, I'm likely to hear, "Just a minute...I'm almost to a new level in this game." When the games are off and an afternoon seems long, it's much more common to hear "I'm bored." And the games themselves are a disappointment to this mom, for the most part. Seems there are two basic categories of games: the utterly stupid (okay, that might make a silly party game for an occasional youth night...maybe) and the graphically disturbing. I can't see how pretending to play baseball or tennis on a TV screen is preferrable to everyone actually heading outside with gloves and a bat. Someone needs to enlighten me - I am obviously missing something here.
Sure, this is a parenting issue as much as - or more than - a gaming issue. I am the Mom. Even if it's a hassle, I can insist on the boundaries being maintained. But this isn't really a fight I wanted, and I'm not sure yet if or how I want to engage. Going backward would be even more difficult than holding out against these gaming systems in the first place. This parenting job is hard enough already, without inviting technology in to make it even more difficult.
In closing, if you are a parent who is considering purchasing a gaming system for your family, I would advise...DON'T. Insteaad, buy Legos or kites or tennis raquets or a box of 100 magic markers. If, like me, you have already made the mistake of bringing a gaming system into your house, what advice would you offer? Post a comment - if it doesn't post the first try, hit "post" again, and it should work the second go. How do you consistently control game time at your house? How do you avoid the slide into ever increasing gaming? How do you keep gaming something positive, instead of allowing it to become a source of conflict? How do you ensure that your kids spend time doing the beautiful things they did before gaming, once gaming is an option? Help me! I NEED your input!
3 weeks ago