MOVarazzi

Sunday, March 17, 2013

919. Don't Hate Me Because I'm Amish

Forgive me for turning nostalgic here.  I grew up in coastal California, 1970's Pennsylvania, and rural Alabama.  But the most significant part of my childhood was spent in We-Will-Not-Own-Video-Games Land.  That’s right:  my strict mother ruined my youth by not allowing Pac-Man. 

While my friends were Velcro-ed to their Nintendos, I was out climbing trees.  While my buddies were getting good at Frogger, I was catching real frogs.  While my pals were perfecting their serve on Pong, I played ball with my cousins in the backyard.   
Yeah, my mom totally knew how to kill my fun.    

She resisted buying any kind of gaming system, telling my siblings and me that there were better uses for our time and money. 
And you know what?  She was right. 

Now that I am a mom, I am following in her wise footsteps.  We do not own a wii.  We do not have computer games.  We do not even have an iPad.  (And my iPhone is surprisingly free from Angry Birds or any other kind of app.)   
How do my sons spend their free time?  They read, draw, kick the ball around, and argue with each other … just like I used to do with my sister and brother.  They are actually getting really good at reading, drawing, and kicking the ball around (and arguing about whose turn it is to kick the ball around).  The problem is that other families we know are much more tech-accepting than I, which presents a delicate conundrum:  my sons constantly want to go to their classmates' houses to play video games.   

Who can blame them?  Video games are clearly designed for elementary-aged boys, so my sons are right in that target demographic.  The lure of flashing lights, cutting edge graphics, and realistic sound effects is too sweet to ignore.  I do not 100% forbid video games, I just prefer other activities.  However, I don't want to be "that" mom who is forever imposing her obsessively rigid guidelines and stomping on all the harmless fun.   
But. 

I don’t want my sons playing video games on a playdate.  Why should they?  The whole point of going to a friend’s house (I thought) was to engage with the other child and develop social skills, not to hide behind a plastic joystick.  I want my kids outside!  I want my kids to invent their own games!  I want my kids to build a fort out of pillows and blankets and couch cushions!  I want them to bicker and argue and have to decide who is right and who is wrong, and not be forever looking at technology to distract them. 
So I will be printing up t-shirts this week with my special message: 

Save the No-Tech Playdate.  

Let me know if you want to order a few.  I will be silk-screening them in my garage. 

MOV
P.S. Even if you never comment on my blog, I would LOVE your comments on this topic!  Seriously, both sides of the issue.  If you are a gaming junkie, step forward and tell me about that.  Good things?  Drawbacks?  Are you happy you have spent time in front of a computer game?  Has it improved your life somehow?  Or would you turn back the clock if you could and spend those hours differently?  I want to know. 
(And yes, the irony is not lost on me that I am sitting in front of a computer right now-- but I am WRITING.  I applaud other writers, and also readers.  I like the creative process and support anyone who tries to be creative and pursue an outlet like that.  I know gaming can be an outlet, but is it a useful one?)

22 comments:

  1. I'm a recovering gaming junkie. I used to be very into World of Warcraft, which is perhaps the most addictive game on the face of the earth. But when I realised how much time I spent making a little digital person run around and kill things, I decided it was time to retire my avatars. Now I spend all that time on blogging and catching up on my fanfiction reading, so I don't know if that's really any better :D

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    1. Ahhhh, blogs. Yes, I love to read them. My personal cyber addiction lately is etsy. Etsy is like porn for homeowners who like pretty things. I could spend HOURS on that website. DAYS maybe.

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  2. This is an interesting topic because I have 2 grandsons, one who is allowed video games and the other one who isn't necessarily not allowed but encouraged to be outside more, the difference between the two boys is very interesting.. My video game grandson is more computer savvy (he also has his own iPad) and knows what's new in the land of video games and movies coming out, computer stuff. He's very verbal and is comfortable in "adult" conversations. My outdoorsy grandson knows how to pitch a tent, where to hike, what plants to stay away from and the difference between the different frogs, snakes, the stars, etc., and he'd much rather be outside than talking to adults. My techie grandson likes it outside too and he's very active in sports but he clearly prefers the land of video games. What I find amazing is that they're both only 6 yrs. old.. Great post.. I was an EverQuest fanatic and yep. I called into work "sick" because I'd been up all night playing or because I didn't want to stop playing!

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    1. Wow, that is interesting that you have 2 grandsons that are so different based on how they spend their time. Curious if the 2 of them as cousins get along and play well together?

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  3. My brother grew up in front of a computer - he had the Commodore 64 when it was cutting edge. Now he's a well-paid software designer. So I guess that worked out. That said, 100% of kids want to play video games, but somewhat less than 100% will make a good living one day with computery stuff. I shy away from too much screen time, but partly because I know they get way too much - and rated M for mature - game time at their dad's. I totally agree about the play dates, though. Younger kids, especially, need to socialize and be active and use their imaginations when they get together. I don't see the point in them playing video games the whole time. But then again, I never played video games as a kid - maybe if I had, I'd realize how awesome they are to play during a play date. So basically, I'm no help.

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    1. That is funny about your brother, Robyn. I wish I could say, "I spent all this time eating ice-cream as a child, and now I am a well-paid ice-cream tester for Ben and Jerry's".......... but, alas. (If that were true then I would most likely weigh 500 pounds.)

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  4. My husband and I go through waves--we have high level WoW accounts, his is way higher than mine though--but we pretty much only play for a few weeks when a new expansion comes out. We own a PS3 that we mainly only use for Netflix now, and we have a 360 that we play on once in awhile. I prefer reading to playing video games most of the time, although sometimes I will check on my farms and misc FB games, and end up lost in them for a couple hours.
    I used my Christmas bonus this past year to buy Kindle Fires for my 4 year old and 2.5 yr old. They like the preschool games I have on my account for them and they love Netflix. But we limit their access to a few hours a day and since they love playing outside and running around the house being toddlers they don't complain, so I'm not worried, yet.
    I would probably encourage your boys to have their playdates at your house more often-it will help limit their access and it might increase their friends' interest in non-techie stuff! Good luck!!

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    1. if the playdate is at my house, then how do I get anything important done????????? you know, like taking a nap?

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  5. My own mother had a similar philosophy, but we would go over to friends' houses and play pitfall harry and frogger etc.... I think it's OK. We still had a lot less "screen time" than our friends, but weren't totally ignorant of popular culture. It seemed like a good balance to me.

    It's hard to control what goes on in friends' homes and I'm not sure how another mother would take the request for no video games. Maybe a good middle ground is to suggest games they could play or ask your kids to bring over a ball and bat or whatever else they are into. Or just ask the mother to limit the video game time instead of ban it altogether.

    BTW - I'm of two minds on this. Part of me things the more we forbid things and make the an enticing forbidden fruit, the more kids want to to them. My child has TV severely restricted, but when the restrictions are off (vacations, international plane rides..) he literally cannot stop watching. His friend who has the TV on all the time, could take it or leave and actually PREFERS to go out and play. I wrote a post on this topic and had some interseting discussion in the comment section...
    http://www.mamamzungu.com/2013/01/am-i-inadvertently-turning-my-child.html

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    1. I see what you mean about the forbidden fruit thing. Hmmm. I am off to check out your blog post about this same topic. Thanks for the link!

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  6. I love this! I never had a system as a child, and did for years as an adult. There were months that would go by where I was obsessed with getting to the next levels on Tomb Raider or on making the perfect society on Sims. But I am an adult and can (most of the time) figure out when I need to stop and do real things outside.

    I hope that the trend you are pushing becomes real and kids play outside again. I miss the days of dodging kids playing in the neighborhood or walking around...

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    1. Yes, I am trying to get my kids outside. The older one loves being outside, but the younger one has to be convinced (that being said, he is happy once he finally gets out there).

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  7. We had an Atari growing up but its use was regulated. I spent most of my time outside. Today we have a Wii and an old Playstation 2. We don't have cable so I think the trade off is acceptable. I also regulate the use of the gaming. We are a major gaming family though - I'm not talking just video games, although that is a part of it - we have board games out the wazoo and play regularly with them. My girls play outside, well the younger one does anyhow, the older one has become quite the antisocial girl! Like a.eye said above, as adults we are better at regulating our tech time than children so I don't have too much of an issue with the girls playing because I know that I monitor how much of their time is spent with the tech.

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    1. I love board games and we have gone thru phases as a family where we used to have "Game Night" and play board games. Hmmmm, that reminds me that we should do that again. I am quite good at "Sorry." And "Clue."

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  8. This is certainly a difficult question. In the interest of full disclosure I will say that we have a Wii and an iPad. I think the point is to balance the desire for gaming with other activities. Right now our boys (ages 8 and 5) play with each other very well. Yesterday they built a couch fort and cave. They play with their Legos, animals, etc. The youngest loves to be outside looking for bugs under rocks. The oldest doesn't really enjoy outside that much, but that started LONG before we had a Wii or iPad. It's just his personality. That said, we limit their gaming time by use of a kitchen timer. During the week there is no Wii, no iPad and the TV does not come on. We play, do art or read stories. That's just the rule.

    I tend to agree with a poster above who said that sometimes when something is a "forbidden fruit" it becomes even more attractive. For our family, we feel it's important to have one foot in the "tech" world and one outside it. We strive for a balance in all things in our life. We all have to make choices and sometimes being more aware of the alternatives can help. Also, since I believe that all of life consists in making choices about our time, interests, energy, etc. Better to learn it now.

    Just my 2 cents. Take it for what it's worth and good luck!

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    1. The kitchen timer is a good idea, because otherwise time can get away from you.

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  9. I grew up playing video games and was really into them but I feel like I also got a good balance of outdoor time and sports in there too. However I do agree that it is important to limit the amount of screen time for kids. I think some can be OK but, at least for my kids, I rather they be running around getting exercise (if for no other reason than to tire them out so they'll go to sleep when they're damn well supposed to!!!) and interacting with other kids.

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    1. ha! yes, I believe in having kids collapse exhausted at the end of the day.

      (And FYI, if part of that "screen time" is watching re-runs of "House Hunters" so you can stalk your new neighbors, then I am totally onboard with that.)

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  10. We don't do much gaming. We only get a few channels on our TV (whatever our antenna picks up), but I am on the computer doing all sorts of things and my two year old does know what Angry Birds is (even though she can't really play it). So, I guess we are sort of a middle of the road family.

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    1. Lillian, middle of the road is a good place to be. Unless you are a squirrel. Then maybe not such a good place.

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  11. Children definitely need to experience playing house in the back yard before they start playing it on SIMS, definitely definitely. I was probably one of the rare kids who hated sitting down and watching movies/T.V./playing video games. My brother and sister and I really took after our parents who were always outside, so I guess they lead by example. We were always kept active WITH them so there was never any time to need a gaming console in our house. However in high school my brother saved up to buy himself an xbox because he wanted to "fit in" with his friends. Now he has friends in Germany, USA, Ireland, etc. so I think that's pretty neat, and at 16 he was also able to appreciate how technology can connect people. I think that the urge to "game" came a lot later in our house because of the active example of our parents. Even thought there are benefits to advancing technology, there is nothing wrong with wanting to take the time and smell the roses.

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  12. Welp. I was the mom who WASN'T going to allow those nasty time-waster games into my house. No matter how much the boys complained and wheedled and promised extra (unforthcoming) chores to be done by grateful recipients, I wasn't going to cave. And I didn't. What happened was this: The boys would announce that their friend had 'given' them a game. And now they were done with it after a whole day or so. And now they needed MORE games to go with that so-generously-donated console. I personally think the real name of the game donater was Satan. Yep. Like the proverbial camel-in-the-tent guy, he'd get the game in the door by hook or by...well...friend. And then I had no foot to stand on. Then we'd have to make trips to Bookmans to fetch gently-used games by the dozen. I protested the whole way, but the Hubs apparently has this invisible SUCKER DAD stamp on his forehead. So here we sit with games up the wazoo. And I'm not all that happy with wazoo games. But I totally can't toss all them ALL out secretly. And they start getting all suspicious of my attempts at game deconstruction for some reason.

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When you write a comment, it makes me feel like I won the lottery or at the very least like I ate an ice-cream sundae. (This has nothing to do with the fact that I did just eat an ice-cream sundae.)