We don't have any gaming systems (hand held or otherwise). This was and is a deliberate choice on our part. While I am not attempting to tell you what to do, I did want to put out there some honest thoughts about the pros and cons we've encountered because of our decision.
This is one of those decisions that makes you unpopular as a parent some of the time. While it occasionally stings, we often remind ourselves that it can also be an indication that we're doing our job. Almost all of our friends' families have video games and it is sometimes hard to explain why we've chosen otherwise. Those families are dear to us and those parents are excellent ones. There is no finding fault- and that is made very clear to our kids. Instead, we talk about how each parent or set of parents are responsible for making the choices that they think are best. We already do some things that are pretty different from other families we know, so our kids have heard this talk many times. Sometimes, they finish our sentences for us, roll their eyes a bit and accept it. They don't have to like it or always understand it.
While homeschooling does prevent them from hearing the latest discussion about the newest and best games and systems on a daily basis, our kids do spend time with kids who have video games. If our kids are at someone else's house and they want to play video games, we have two rules. The first is that they are not to play violent games (no shooting and killing people) and, two, that it shouldn't comprise their entire time together. This is a rule between us and our kids. We don't put the responsibility to uphold it on their friends' parents. It's up to our kids to stick to these guidelines with their friends and we've told them they can always use us as an excuse if they're feeling otherwise saying, "My parents don't want me playing this kind of game," instead of, "I don't want to play this." We know they don't and won't always obey us so we do check in with them and ask. We don't punish if they haven't stuck to the rules, but we do give a little mini-lecture on the reasons for the rules and encourage them to follow them next time. This keeps the lines of communication open instead of encouraging lying for fear of a consequence.
A reality is that our kids sometimes feel left out. They don't know what their friends are talking about when gaming conversations arise. They might not know how to play a certain game or even if they do, they likely won't be nearly as good at it as the other kids. This leads to other kids sometimes not wanting to play with them or have them on their "team". This is tough but helping them focus on all the things they do know how to do that will serve them well in life sometimes helps. Sometimes it doesn't and it's just hard. We encourage our kids to ask their friends if they would like to play/do something else- sometimes this works and other times it doesn't.
So, what do our kids do? They do other things. They play with each other- board games, pretend, outside. They play by themselves- reading, swinging, drawing, riding bikes, playing with the animals, drawing, sewing, etc.. They do chores. They do school. They do get some screen time watching carefully chosen movies and shows (we deliberately don't have TV reception or cable) but these shows/movies have a clear ending point- we find that doling out screen time is easy this way.
Being different can be hard but it also can give kids courage to be their own person. One day, they might have a different idea than those around them. We want them to have the courage to follow their own values and convictions. Right now they're following ours, but it's still practice.
There are families that are able to make video games work- screen time limits are set and adhered to. Games are researched and approved or denied. Time is balanced. It can be done and I'm sure some of you reading this are those parents. I applaud your skills and energy!
In spite of this, Jamey and I have never heard another parent talk about video games in a positive light. Usually we hear parents express frustration with the choices of games their kids want to buy or play. We hear frustrations about getting their kids to adhere to their screen time limits. We also hear concerns that gaming is taking the place of actual interactions and relationships between kids and their friends and kids and the rest of the family.
We do not regret our decision. It's been years since our kids have asked to have video games. The asking stops. The understanding begins. There are endless opportunities for discussion. And it still stings sometimes.
But, as the parent, the choice is always yours. Don't believe otherwise.Pin It