Thoughts on video-gaming and young children – There goes the TV

(An intermission from my “The Story of the boys” of the past few weeks ….for obvious reasons…..)

Sometimes when I think about it, I think, “Wow, for having 5 boys in the house, we really haven’t had any significant injuries or damage.” But as of this moment, the cost to my checking account is adding up.

It’s unpredictable, really, when Super Tall Guy will lose control and let a Wii remote go flying.

So here are some thoughts on video-gaming.

There are definitely some studies suggesting improvement in eye-hand coordination, spatial reasoning and critical thinking skills. And, from my medical perspective, peer-reviewed scientific studies have found video-gaming linked with better skill in laparoscopic surgery, a field which has cut down complications and recovery time for many types of surgery. This is good.

As I lay on the couch the other day (at 6:05am), trying to pretend like I was going to get a little more sleep, and The Little Guy puttered around while Super Tall played Star Wars Wii, I had a brief moment of thinking how persistent he is while trying to accomplish something in video-gaming. Super Tall will try the same level over and over until he’s successful. And this seemed like a good quality to be practicing, yet in my reflective process I couldn’t figure out if that translated to persistence in any other activities for him. He certainly doesn’t persist in practicing his handwriting and he expects to be an expert in a sport without practicing it….. Hmmm, maybe not so good.

Video-gaming does offer a social component, though. It requires the skill of asking another person if they’d like to play, negotiating the game to be played and arguing over who will be which character, and navigating the consequences of accidentally making each other “die” on a particular level. It also helps in social situations to be able to talk about the games you play, “Guess what? We ‘bought’ the Emperor on Star Wars Wii!” or “What level are you on Donkey Kong?” Developing social skills is a good thing. Yes.

In our house, though, there’s a tendency for these social-skill negotiations to crumble and some “shouting” and name-calling to commence. At this point, a parental figure often steps in with the threat of “You keep yelling at each other and I will turn this thing off.”

I walked into such a threat yesterday morning after returning from the I-can’t-survive-a-full-day-with-5-boys-if-I-don’t-get-a-mocha-in-my-system run. It seemed innocent enough. Kathy repeated that she had warned Super Tall and Mr. Ornery already about getting mad at each other about the game. And then she proceeded to say, “Okay….turn it off.” I had just walked into the living room and in my mind was thinking, “Now, this is a great time to start talking to Super Tall about how we calm ourselves.” (Having just read an editorial in the New York Times about a new strategy to teach children to calm themselves and, having thought it was the topic I most needed to help Super Tall with, I was ready to start addressing it).

I think I literally opened my mouth when my brain switched gears to “Oh no, he’s not really going to….oh he did….oh, he’s dead meat!!” Super Tall jumped up and ran to lock himself into the second floor bathroom. I ran and pounded on the door and yelled, “You better open this thing up or you’re in serious trouble.”

Well, he’s in serious trouble for sure. My Amazon log indicates that April 2, 2012, was the last time I purchased a flat-screen TV due to the effects of “de-pixilation” from a thrown object (and then that TV was stolen and we replaced it in September! Two years….three TVs….). I’m still seething.the TV2

“Why in the world did you do that?”…. “I don’t know.”

“Guess what, boy! ‘I don’t know’ is NOT an acceptable answer!”

I’m still working on what will be his “consequence”! The “natural” one of course is “no more TV”….you know, until I buy a new one (for the other kids). But it has now extended to “no more screens” (including the DS handheld games that have been in time-out for 3 months and were scheduled to return to him April 1). And, most definitely, absolutely, 100% (until I change my mind) “no more Wii until you’re 18!! …or 21….or sometime around there…..some time long after Wii’s become obsolete! And that’s final. Until I think of something else I’m going to add!”

You see, in our household….at least on my “side” of the household….video-gaming is NOT good for young children!

Addendum (3/31/14)

So, I’m putting Super Tall and The Little Guy to bed when Little Guy points to the window and asks, “Why is that broken?”  Good question. “So, Super Tall, do you want to explain why 2 days after breaking a TV by throwing something that you have now DSC_4010broken a blind by throwing something in your anger this morning?!? Do you have an answer other than ‘I don’t know?’ Do you have a plan for changing this?” Do I have to surround you with only soft toys? Sigh. We’re going to work on this….definitely going to work on this.

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