Computer/video game time - so conflicted! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 01-26-2012, 09:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm hoping to hear how other hs'ers handle video/computer game time sanely, because I feel like I'm not doing a very good job of it right now.  We don't have actual video games at our house, but we do have a computer; ds1 (age 7.5) has always enjoyed watching various videos on YouTube, from Legos to fighter jets, and playing games on certain websites like PBSkids.  I never had to do much limiting before because it seemed like his interest would run its natural course and he would move on to other things after a week or two of playing/watching.  The situation has changed now though.  I don't know if they have improved the free games, or added substantial content to the Lego videos that you can access on YouTube, but the bottom line is that Ds1 would play on the computer all day, every day if I let him.  Nothing he's been watching lately has been remotely educational or instructional. It's been a few weeks now and his interest has not waned. Quite the opposite in fact, to the point where he anticipates his "computer time" each and every day, and chooses computer time over other activities that he used to enjoy.  In response, I've limited his daily screen time to one hour.  Part of me hates setting limits and conditions though, because I feel like by doing so, I'm setting up computer time as the ultimate reward.  However, am I definitely not okay with seeing him sit mindlessly in front of the computer all day so what other choice is there?  The other thing is that more often that not, after an hour of playing computer games or watching Lego Ninjago videos on YouTube, ds1 is whiney, demanding, and has that attitude of 'now that you've made me turn off the computer what am I supposed to do with myself?' 

 

On the flip side to all of this, it seems to be completely normal for boys this age to be obsessed with video games.  While I have no intention of ever buying a gaming console, I don't want ds to feel like he's missing out completely on the seemingly-universal teenage gaming experience.  Also, computers are so much a part of society now that one could argue in favor of the importance of exposing children to computer technology (I'm trying to be objective here).  Then again, we do some schoolwork on the computer, so maybe that's enough exposure.

 

I'm really at a loss here...


~ Meredith, mom to dd(Jan '02), ds1(May '04) and ds2 (June '07) ~ :
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#2 of 16 Old 01-26-2012, 03:16 PM
 
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It's appropriate for you to be the parent and set limits.   Don't feel bad about that.  I do not believe in the universal "they will self limit" idea. Some kids will, and some never will.  You know your kid and if you do not see the self-limiting happening, it is your responsibility to step in.   With homeschooling, it's especially important for parents to monitor and control the recreational screen time, because it's possible for entire days to fall into that hole, with no school getting done.  

 

One hour a day is perfectly reasonable.   He is not a teen - he is seven.  If he cannot accept that limit cheerfully, I would cut access down to 30 minutes or eliminate it altogether.    I had to eliminate video games entirely for about six months once.  When they were returned, it was on the condition of a much improved attitude and behavior.  Whenever I see it becoming too much of an addiction and/or producing negative behavior even after it's shut off, I take it away again for a while.  I do the same for TV shows and Youtube videos.  It sounds like they have some similar interests - videos related to Star Wars, TV shows are Bakugan, Ninjago, Star Wars, Bey Blades or Thundercats.  We also have an Xbox for the Lego games, but their access to it is very controlled.   Today I let them have one hour after school was done, then I shut it off.  DS2 ended up parading around in his Darth Vader costume instead.  Cutting off the screen is good and leads to good things once they know that sulking, whining and tantrums will not get the screens back .


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#3 of 16 Old 01-26-2012, 03:55 PM
 
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I agree with PGTlatte.  Yes, there is, as you put, a "seemingly universal teenage gaming experience", but your son is WAY younger than that.  He is only 1/2 way to becoming a teen so I wouldn't even consider what teen boys are doing in comparison with your son.  I don't think your son would be missing out on the experience of a computer if he has limited time each week to use it.  You are not keeping him completely from it so he does have exposure and understanding of the computer.

 

In our home the computer that the kids mostly used is not in the general living area of our home, it is in a back bedroom that we use as an "office".  I think having it out of sight when you are in our living/dining/kitchen/playroom area is helpful because the kids don't think of it as much.  We have our tv in this office as well. 

 

I wonder about having certain days of the week that are completely computer free days.  Then he would have a few whole days per week that are computer free.  Maybe 3 days per week would be computer free, 3 days a week he would have limited computer time, and maybe 1 day per week when he would have unlimited computer time.  It is just an idea.  Maybe it would give both of you what you are wanting...he would have one unlimited day per week and you would have 3 days without him on the computer at all.  Maybe both of your needs could be met. 

 

One of my 5 year olds and I had a struggle with computer a few months ago.  He was just as you're describing, whiny, thinking about the computer constantly, etc.  I talked with him about how he and I never have struggles when we play board games together, but computer games seem to bring out the struggles between us.  I explained to him that our relationship was more important than computer games and I didn't want to have these struggles with him anymore so we were going to take a break.  He was very upset at first.  I told him that we could try again in a few months and see if it was better.  We took a break for a few months from computer games and now he plays 1-2 times per week and I set a 20 minute timer.  We don't have a schedule set up for him, he just asks a few times per week and I make a decision in the moment.  Generally his twin sister also wants to play so they each get 20 minutes on the timer and they watch the other play as well. 

 

Thank you for bringing up this conversation.  I think it is something a lot of parents struggle with and I look forward to hearing other suggestions and situations. 

 


Mama to Ainsley (7/01) , Finley (10/06) and Jade (10/06)
 

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#4 of 16 Old 01-26-2012, 04:49 PM
 
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At age 7 my kids got 45 minutes of computer a day.

Be the parent, set limits.
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#5 of 16 Old 01-31-2012, 11:04 AM
 
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Interesting discussion


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#6 of 16 Old 01-31-2012, 11:55 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everyone for your feedback.  I really like the idea of a few computer-free days.  I think I may have to do that, IF I reintroduce computer games at all!

 

Right now, Ds is in the middle of a 2 week break from the computer (the results of one of those whiny, post-computer time 'hangovers') and I have to say that it is SO NICE.  Ds is not focused on when he is going to have his computer time.  I feel like he has been more pleasant overall and less whiny.  We have played many games of 'Sorry,' and he has made and completed several Star Wars-themed word searches from this word seach maker on the Internet (I did let him on the computer for that).  Honestly, I'm tempted to put the whole computer game experience on hold for a few months to a year because this has been a really good, computer-game free week. 

 

I'm not sure if I should try - again - to find a happy middle ground or just tell him straight up that computer time has a negative effect on him and that we'll try again when he's older. 


~ Meredith, mom to dd(Jan '02), ds1(May '04) and ds2 (June '07) ~ :
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#7 of 16 Old 02-01-2012, 02:59 PM
 
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The surgeon general says no more than two hours per day of screen time.  The new generation is so addicted to gaming it is causing some children to have severe social issues.  There are children that do not want to play with friends and can only talk about gaming.  Some of these kids have a hard time later in life.  Still, it's a hard thing to constantly enforce, but it must be done. 

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#8 of 16 Old 02-01-2012, 06:16 PM
 
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Originally Posted by misskitty View Post

The surgeon general says no more than two hours per day of screen time.  


Yeah, but I'm not sure you can extrapolate that recommendation, which is for children who spend 6 hours a day in school, to homeschooled children. By the time schoolchildren get to and from school, and possibly after-school care, do homework, they have precious little time to spend with family or to run around outside or engage in unstructured imaginary play or to pursue hobbies or just chill out. To take a three or four hour bite out of the precious evening hours for TV and computer-gaming seems like a really bad idea. I can see a two-hour guideline for schoolchildren. But for a homeschooled child who spends maybe 2 or 3 hours a day on structured learning, with family, the considerations are all different. All bets are off, Dr. Surgeon General.

 

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#9 of 16 Old 02-02-2012, 07:18 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post


Yeah, but I'm not sure you can extrapolate that recommendation, which is for children who spend 6 hours a day in school, to homeschooled children. By the time schoolchildren get to and from school, and possibly after-school care, do homework, they have precious little time to spend with family or to run around outside or engage in unstructured imaginary play or to pursue hobbies or just chill out. To take a three or four hour bite out of the precious evening hours for TV and computer-gaming seems like a really bad idea. I can see a two-hour guideline for schoolchildren. But for a homeschooled child who spends maybe 2 or 3 hours a day on structured learning, with family, the considerations are all different. All bets are off, Dr. Surgeon General.

 

Miranda

 

Being homeschooled certainly doesn't make gaming "healthier".   It still leads to the same problems.  IMO it can actually make it more of a problem, because you can have a homeschooled kid who already spends less time with other kids each day and has more free time each day to spend on gaming.  What I have seen in my own kids is wanting to rush through school work and then wanting to spend hours and hours on a game, and talk and think of nothing else and lose all other interests.   I know there are some kids who can self-limit - I have met them.  But mine do not fit into this category.  If I don't set the limits, the games take over their minds.  Two hours per day would be way too much, too often for my kids.  IMO giving any child more than two hours per day on a regular basis, homeschooled or not, is a very unhealthy idea.


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#10 of 16 Old 02-02-2012, 08:25 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PGTlatte View Post


Being homeschooled certainly doesn't make gaming "healthier".   It still leads to the same problems.  IMO it can actually make it more of a problem, because you can have a homeschooled kid who already spends less time with other kids each day and has more free time each day to spend on gaming.  What I have seen in my own kids is wanting to rush through school work and then wanting to spend hours and hours on a game, and talk and think of nothing else and lose all other interests.   I know there are some kids who can self-limit - I have met them.  But mine do not fit into this category.  If I don't set the limits, the games take over their minds.  Two hours per day would be way too much, too often for my kids.  IMO giving any child more than two hours per day on a regular basis, homeschooled or not, is a very unhealthy idea.

Oh, I agree with this. Homeschooled children generally have more problems with video/gaming than regular schooled kids. We see it on these forums all the time.
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#11 of 16 Old 02-02-2012, 08:32 AM
 
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Originally Posted by PGTlatte View Post

 

Being homeschooled certainly doesn't make gaming "healthier".  


No, but for a homeschooled child 3-4 hours a day of combined screen time certainly leaves more time for family, creative, social and physical activity than it would in a child who was at school all day. Not saying 12 hours a day of gaming is healthy, just that a strict 2-hour screen time limit suggested by the Surgeon General is not necessarily a valid time-limit for a homeschooled child. My kids do some of their schooling on the computer, use the computer for music composition, digital artwork, watch educational DVDs and often exceed the 2-hour screen-time limit with no gaming time at all. It's very healthy. My 9-year-old (my only full-time homeschooler) can put in 4 hours of screen time and still have a 3-hour play-date, family board game time, 2 hours of snowshoeing, cook dinner with me, draw and read for a couple of hours, etc. etc.. 

 

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#12 of 16 Old 02-02-2012, 08:46 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post


No, but for a homeschooled child 3-4 hours a day of combined screen time certainly leaves more time for family, creative, social and physical activity than it would in a child who was at school all day. Not saying 12 hours a day of gaming is healthy, just that a strict 2-hour screen time limit suggested by the Surgeon General is not necessarily a valid time-limit for a homeschooled child. My kids do some of their schooling on the computer, use the computer for music composition, digital artwork, watch educational DVDs and often exceed the 2-hour screen-time limit with no gaming time at all. It's very healthy. My 9-year-old (my only full-time homeschooler) can put in 4 hours of screen time and still have a 3-hour play-date, family board game time, 2 hours of snowshoeing, cook dinner with me, draw and read for a couple of hours, etc. etc.. 

 

Miranda

I agree that the combined screen time limit doesn't make a lot of sense for homeschooled kids who use screens for school.  My kids spend some time using educational programs - Reading Eggs, Brainpop, etc, or watching DVDs - Letter Factory, Bill Nye, or Schelessinger videos.   IMO there is no way these are in the same category as mentally consuming games like Lego Star Wars or Minecraft or zoning out watching the Bey Blade show which they then obsess about.    I have watched for the negative side effects and they just aren't there at all once I take away the gaming and the highly stimulating cartoons.   The educational stuff just doesn't produce these negative behaviors in my kids.  I apply separate limits.  I keep the educational screen time in moderation and balance it with other modes of work.  But I set hard limits for the gaming and junky TV time, because those are the things that I have experienced leading to problems. 

 

 


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#13 of 16 Old 02-02-2012, 10:20 AM
 
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Personally, I would not place limits on screens  (unless a child was struggling with the issue - then I might) , but I would set up the environment so there was much to do besides screens.  

 

I would also like to point out that everything has a season - we are deep into winter in many parts of the world - it makes sense that your kid might use screens more often at this time of year than other times of the year (my youngest certainly does).

 

Lastly, not all screens are created equal.  There is plenty of fun educational content online - perhaps you can gear him towards some of that instead of total free play?  Anything from insisting (you can go online if you like, but I want you to play on these sites) to "strewing"  - "Look what cool site I found!  Want to try?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#14 of 16 Old 02-02-2012, 10:35 AM
 
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Agreed Kathy, last year we homeschooled and DD1 was obsessed with screen time.  However as soon as there was something better to do.  Like I took out the paints or we were going build something out in the garage she was all over that.  I also set up her her own log in and from that I did set limits to her capabilities.  Her tool bar was full of educational and fun games to play. 

 

And again, this time of year being cooped up inside makes it easier to get on the computer.

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#15 of 16 Old 02-02-2012, 11:24 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I agree that not all screen time is alike, and I would always encourage the use of, say, documentaries, or looking at YouTube to learn about something unknown.  However, trying to look at it from a child's perspective, ds is not going to agree with me (at least I don't think) that Lego Ninjago videos are less virtuous than watching a show about wolverines.  I need to figure out how to talk to him about this issue in a way that makes sense to him, if that's even possible.

 

The question that I am debating is how much of the overstimulating/junky stuff do I let him access, if any, and how often should he have free access to the computer.  I like the idea very much of setting up his own login with quality (per my opinion) games to play.  I need to learn about how to set up account restrictions. 


~ Meredith, mom to dd(Jan '02), ds1(May '04) and ds2 (June '07) ~ :
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#16 of 16 Old 02-04-2012, 01:38 AM
 
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Where to start...

 

My first thoughts are, go with your gut and be a parent.  If screen time doesn't resonate with you, set what you feel is an appropriate limit and stick with it.

 

As for us, we have tons of screen time.  We do have about 2-3 hours of books learning during the day, some play time (sans tv,) but we like our tv and computer.  So they are on for quite some time.  I think the key to it all is a healthy balance.  What I find appropriate screen time may not be what you feel comfortable with.  Similarly, others may have more screen time than us.

 

We all crave down time.  For us, it tends to be in front of a screen -- where together as a family or as separate individuals.

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