As our kids have gotten older, video games have become more and more part of our lives. It started the first Christmas we were in Canada when we bought a Wii – Mario Kart was very popular and one of my all-time favourite home video clips is of Josh, my son, playing Mario Kart - mainly because he still had an Australian accent at that point!
We upgraded a couple of years ago to a PS3 and I’m sad to say that the Wii has since sat fairly idle. We also bought 2 fairly inexpensive tablets last year because we made a huge mistake and booked flights back to Australia on an airline that doesn't have any inflight video options. [13 hours with 2 kids in a plane and no entertainment? No thanks.] We figured that the tablets would be handy to keep and that has certainly been the case.
Our default has been 1 hour of screen time per day for the kids since they were very young. Initially that was TV, now it’s mainly video games. We’ve felt it’s important to limit the amount of time they’re spending looking at a screen and we can tell when we let that slide, they don’t know what else to do with themselves. Between the tablets, the computer, TV and consoles, things can spiral out of control pretty quickly.
As gaming has become more prevalent in our home, we’ve tried to be fairly careful about which games the kids are allowed to play and frankly, it’s not too hard to find great games that are fairly clean and innocent, but still tons of fun to play. At different times, we’ve spent time loving Little Big Planet (including the Karting version – it’s loads of fun), Ibb and Obb and a couple of the Lego games (Lego Star Wars was a big hit for a while).
Josh loves any sporting games (and I love that he loves them – lots of quality Father-Son time!) and we’ve also spent a fair bit of time playing Minecraft this year – one of the most creative games I’ve seen in a long time, even though it looks like something I used to play on our old Commodore 64 (yes, I’m so old, I remember tape drives...)
At some point, we know that we’ll have to come to terms with games where fantasy pushes the extremes of the values that we’d like our kids to have. As that time approaches, we’re planning on having some good conversations with them ahead of time and we’ll be keeping a keen eye and ear out for any changes in behavior that come from those games.
In many ways, because video games have become so immersive and realistic, we’ll probably end up treating them fairly similarly to movies – are they age appropriate? Is it something we want our kids watching (or hearing)? Is it going to be disturbing for them?
At the same time, we’ll also want to use them as opportunities to allow them to open up and discuss things they’re hearing and seeing in the world around them – we’re not naïve enough to think that just because they don’t see these things at our house, they’re not seeing them anywhere. We hope that we can give them the chance to process with us before they have to try to make decisions when they’re out with friends or on their own.
How does your family handle screen time and video games? Leave your comment and share with others.