Thursday, February 11, 2010


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!


emily said...


Sorry, i have no help for you, having no children or videogame systems.

But i love you!

Actually, this comment is a leetle bit convicting to ME. You know the "Woman After God's Own Heart" book i told you about? One point that Mrs. George makes in the book is about how you spend your time -- that just because something is harmless, or even good, doesn't mean it's the best use of time. Her simple phrase was "Good, better, best" -- as Christians, the things we fill our lives with should be moving from "good" to "better" to "best."

So ... compared to Harlequin romances, reading Janette Oke may be GOOD ...
but reading Flannery O'Connor or Edith Wharton or anyone who will make you THINK would be BETTER ...
and reading the Bible would be BEST.

Not that I think Mrs. George advocates only ever reading the Bible, listening to sermons or Christian music, though .. just encouraging us to be mindful of our time. Because it can slip right away from you.

Case in point:

Online Tetris! Hey -- I'm not gambling or looking at girls in bikinis. That's GOOD, right?

... reading Tim Challies's blog would probably be BETTER ...

... and (darn it) cleaning the bathroom and putting away the dishes and getting dressed before my husband gets home would probably be BEST right now.

Darn it.

Anonymous said...

I like what Emily had to say. Compared to a mindless, violent shoot 'em up, I suppose a Wii game imitating a sport is good(but kind of lame). A strategy game requiring active thinking is even better, and a game that tells a story and engages the gamer(reader?) to use their brain and think about the consequences of decisions being made is best.

My favorite games are like my favorite books- they get me thinking about ideas and stimulate my imagination. Like any other form of media-books, TV, Hollywood, internet- there are good and bad games. There are games I wouldn't ever play (Grand Theft Auto). Likewise, there are books I wouldn't ever read or movies I wouldn't ever see. The game that Emily got me for my birthday- Mass Effect 2- tells an incredible science fiction story and invites the gamer the take part in how the story plays out.
Wait...mass effect 2? Isn't that the game that R-OK Senator What's-His-Name roasted on FOX news for allowing the main character to possibly kiss an alien? How soon we forget that Captain Kirk was smooching aliens on TV back in the 60's, long before Mass Effect came on the scene. Unlike TV or movies, the gamer can decide not to view that content, while in TV or movies or even certain books it is already too late by the time you have viewed it.

That being said, I still probably enjoy historical strategy games the best. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you want to look at it) you can only play them on a PC. Strategy games lend themselves more to a mouse and keyboard than to a controller. If you lament your Wii or Playstation, try one of those.

Ok, I'm getting off my soap box now. I just had to defend something that I enjoy, and show you that it isn't all bad.

Jenny said...

Um, okay. It could be worse.

Since I've been sick and the weather is icy, Owen has managed to rub a blister on his thumbs.

Playing the Wii.

He just waits for Grandpa to fall asleep (do you KNOW Benny?), then pops it in. It's amazing that a four-year-old can do this, but can't seem to dress himself or sort the silverware.

But Mama's feelin' better now! Watch out, little kiddies!

And I think your post plus the lovely comments left by your children will encourage me in my battle. THANK YOU!

Mercedes said...

We bought the wii fit two Christmases ago and my husband lost 15 pounds just adding the stretching routine from its workout archives! It does have some benefit for family togetherness when played together as a family when other activities are not possible, like a board game would. We don't make it to the bowling alley, but we can have a crazy tournament with the wii bowling. This is the only gaming program we own for the tv, and it was a reluctant purchase. I say no to many requests from the kids to play. It gets played less than 2 hours a week.

Anonymous said...

That stuff about being out on the farm instead of playing the wii on thursday afternoon is strange. You directly said that chainsaws and guns are dangerous and no dangerous stuff while you weren't home. What's worse, saws and guns, or wiis and playstations? I would rather be rabbit hunting or cutting wood but couldn't. And being outside without guns, saws, fire, horses, or moterized vehicals dosn't leave you much to do.

Christian gal issues said...


Love this post!! We have SO FAR not fallen into the video game family. My husband has always hated them, and I have been known to get addicted to stuff like that, games.

Having said that though, we have all played the Wii and the Wii fit is a lot of fun. The trouble, I think, is more like you said, having the staying power to just put it off for two hours a week.

I also agree that the games do breed bordem. It is hard to find the part of your brain that makes up fun when you have been entertained all day. You fall into that trap of "So who or what is going to keep me busy now?"

When my kids cry bordem I have them clean the toilet. Usually stops them in their tracks!! HA!

Great post and thanks for your post on mine. You write so well! I appreciated your comments. Always do.

Camille said...

Um, Nate, I'd rather you be out on the farm with saws and guns than inside in front of the TV - but you're right, not when there isn't an adult at home to get you to the hospital if needed. And I WAS home, BTW, while you were perfecting your Wii batting swing - I was writing this blog post!

Camille said...

(Nate, I guess that makes us BOTH techno-boobs. Alas!)

The Westmorelands said...

camille, i think you make many good points! i agree! i thought i would comment here, though, that i am married to someone who played a lot (and i mean, A LOT) of video games as a kid and into adulthood. he still loves them, though he doesn't have as much time for them as he once did. even with all the gaming he did as a kid, he managed to graduate at the top of his class in high school, get a scholarship to college, and earn a post-graduate degree. he is a wonderful husband, father, and ruf campus minister. i am NOT disagreeing with your points, but i thought knowing that about justin might assuage some of your fears. you are such a thoughtful mom, and you encourage me to be a more thoughtful mom, too! thanks!! :)

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