Technology surrounds today’s kids. There are TV’s and computers at home and iPods for everywhere else. It’s too easy for parents to stick their kids in front of a screen to entertain them. When playing video games kids are quiet, they are not running around, and they are not making messes. Some of the games are even educational. It seems like the perfect toy.
However, kids need to move their bodies. Their brains are wired to need motion and active play to make important connections. Playing video games doesn’t help with any of this. Plus, kids need to play with other kids to learn social skills. Video games don’t get angry and punch you if you do something to get on their nerves, other kids will.
At our house we’ve had a chronic epidemic of the game Minecraft. Every dinner time conversation, every free minute, and every playtime activity has revolved around the game. My kids were on the computer, MY computer, every minute they could to create and manipulate their miniature worlds.
Don’t get me wrong, Minecraft is a great game, it encourages creative thinking, spacial reasoning, and problem solving skills. No one gets blown to bits in bloody combat and the goal isn’t violence. It also, thankfully, doesn’t have really annoying background music that so many other games have.
But too much of anything is bad. Just ask my daughter who managed to eat over a pound of Easter candy yesterday. Some years I ration the candy, this year I decided to let them discover exactly why eating too much candy isn’t a good thing. Evil mom tactic? Heck yeah.
We definitely had too much Minecraft and screen time in general around the house. The kids were getting increasingly crabby as the tentacles of addiction began to take hold. They physically craved their iPods and you could see the discomfort it caused when they had to be parted with them. Before school iPod and TV had to stop because it caused too much drama and anger when I had to make them turn off and get ready to go.
Taking things away makes me the bad guy and I hate being the bad guy. So I came up with a brilliant strategy. I gave them lists of things that needed to be done before they would be allowed to play iPod. Now, instead of saying that they can’t do something, I now can say, “Of course you can do it, when you finish your _____________.”
These lists are simple and have things on them that they already need to do. They don’t take long and make it so I don’t have to nag. The morning list has things like brush teeth, do one chore, and make bed. The after school list has things like do homework, and reading time.
My kids have already found one loophole. Since they know I won’t force them to do their lists by a certain time on days where we don’t have things scheduled, they will engage in creative play with each other. Eventually they’ll want to play their iPods and the list gets done but until then they go off and play on their own. This morning they’ve spent almost two hours playing mega blocks because they’re not ready to do their work. There hasn’t been a word said about iPods and everyone is happy.
Which means I’m happy as well. I’ve been able to spend time on the things that I want to do, including writing this post. I don’t mind that my family room looks like a bomb hit, they are playing creatively and with each other and I didn’t have to ask for any of it!