Do I hate video games or not?

I hate video games. I hate the glorified violence and sexuality in many popular games. I hate the way kids get obsessed with them for hours on end. I hate that only 1 or 2 kids can play at a time, making it a nightmare for parents to promote sharing and taking turns. I won't even go into all the studies that link excessive screen time (computer, gaming and tv) with obesity. So when I see kids engrossed in any small handheld gadget with an electronic screen, it usually turns me off.

Whoooa!! Can you say uptight, judgmental mama? Okay, let me backtrack a little. I realize we're not living on an island. I know that eventually my kids -- my sons especially -- will be under a lot of peer pressure to play and own these devices. And I think that parents who criticize other parents for letting their kids get obsessed with handheld gadgets should be careful to look at their own lives (two words: Crackberry, iPhone). So I won't say that I'm going to ban all video games.

To be precise, I don't hate all video games, just the useless, violent ones. In certain circumstances they can be a good form of entertainment for kids and adults alike (Wii, anyone?). I certainly don't think it's bad parenting to allow kids to play video games -- as long as the content and usage is monitored properly by an adult (and not an adult who is secretly dying to play Grand Theft Auto or Mortal Combat). Surely parents can choose which games their kids play. Surely they can limit the number of hours spent in front of a videogame, make playing contingent on finishing homework or chores or outdoor play, ban videogame playing during playdates.

I like it even better when the video game doubles as an educational tool. If my kids want to play video games, especially at this young age, then better make it an educational game, right? Companies like Leapfrog make products that strike a great balance between electronic learning and video gaming. Nintendo makes some great educational games for DS and Wii. The Wii is even being incorporated into some classrooms. Hey, this is the 21st century: if Sesame Street taught me to read, why can't the Leapster2 do the same for my kids?

And let's face it, these videogames can be such a welcome distraction for kids and parents in many situations. We could certainly have used a Leapster2 on our summer travels, when we were stuck in one line or another (airport, museum, amusement park, you name it). We did have drawing materials and small toys handy, but the Leapster2 would have been one more tool in our arsenal against boredom and whining. Now that we have a Leapster2, I no longer have to dread the day that I have to schedule my annual gyno exam on a day that the boys are with me. At least they'd be staring at their video screens and not at me.

Now my kids have joined the ranks of those kids sitting with their games, furiously twiddling their thumbs to the sound of electronic beeps and chirps. But I know I'm in control -- and I know that other parents can be. And that makes all the difference. I'm honest enough to realize I've planted my toes at the edge of the proverbial slippery slope. With the right products and the right attitude, we'll make it all the way down without getting too much mud on ourselves.

Bonggamom raves over the Leapster2 over at Bonggamom Finds.


Anonymous said...

Oh god you are so wrong.
1 The last video game I played can host up to 16 people, if only one person can play that might be because you bought a single player game.

2 LEAPSTER??? I would rather do homework for 3 weeks strait than have a game that was MADE to teach you things. (note I am not stupid at all, I'm probably smarter than you) Leapfrog is not a game company they just want a ride in the cash, so they make "SMART GAMES" so parents buy them.

3 Wii- boring most of the time......98% of the time. Its great for when you have a party and have very small... turns.

4 Violent video games are fun and addicting because it allows us to do the things that we are never going to do in real life (blow up buildings, fly in spaceships ect...)

5 You have to agree that video games are better than tv and sponge bob. Last time I saw him, he was with Patrick moaning "DUUHHHHH" He really was.

I hope this helps.

bonggamom said...

Dear anonymous

* I don't know how old you are but Leapster is meant for ages 4-7. If you are older than that, no worries, no one is going to force you to play it. I am sure the Leapfrog company is not interested in you.

* You spelled "strait" wrong... the correct spelling is s-t-r-a-i-g-h-t. If your spelling skills indicates your intelligence level then I'm afraid my 7-year-old is smarter than you.

Anonymous said...

I must agree with you with most everything you said.....accept the "you being in control". I had the exact same philosophy as you and monitored/controlled my boys' use of video games and video type machines when they were small. It worked beautifully...until around age 13yo. By then they have already had their neuro-circuits rewired to only get stimulated by electronic devices so as they got older, everything else got more boring. Sure you can take them all out of your house but it is too late by then, damage is done. They forget at a certain age how to entertain themselves with anything else because everything else is "boring". Now my boys are 15yo--homework is a constant battle, going outside, drawing, writing anything that isn't an iphone, x-box, gameboy, wii, playstation bores them senseless. Ever wonder why ADD/ADHD diagnosis is skyrocketing? Are we getting better at catching it? Are we over prescribing meds? Nope, our kids dopamine receptors are understimulated with anything besides pixels and colors on screens. Do yourself a favor and get good ol'fashioned coloring books for your kids. They do not need the other junk.

Anonymous said...

maybe if you dont want your kids to fight over who gets to play then buy a game that more then one player can play

leapster is dumb really my 4 and a half year old brother told my mom he hated it and that it was for babys

and most violent video games arnt that violent for example in many games you can chose what you want to be you can be a guy with a lot of guns and blow stuff up or you can sneak through buildings etc
i think that parents are over reacting to video games im 13 years old and play video games about 3 hours at the MOST and probably play video games for 1 or 2 hours
i have all As i have tons of friends and speend time going to movies hang out and just have fun with REAL and am in cross country wrestling and track i am in clubs like power of the pen (its a writing club were you have to write storys in a certin amount of time to a prompt) and news paper
video games are fun because you can do things that you would never do in real life
for example im never going to blow up a building in real life because i am smart enough to know the consaquences and know that real people would die
i dont even kill animals in real life i have been asked to go hunting many times but i would never take a animals life for no reason im a vegiterain and i have a great life video games are just a kind of way to relax
some people like to take yoga to realax i like playing video games you should let your kids play video games becuase if you are a good mom and have raised your kids well enough to trust that they arnt going to kill people and start selling drugs because they played grand theft auto then you are a bad mom because you have parenting problems and raised your kids so bad that you cant trust that they can tell the differnce betwen real life and virtual games

Anonymous said...

I do hate video games. I can't help it.

I have two sons that live with my ex-husband. They are 16 and 14 years old. They play video games all day long.

Their dad & I divorced last year and I received joint custody. They are supposed to be living with me 1/2 time.

I live on a farm. It's beautiful. There are tons of things to do outside, farm animals, a lake to swim in, places to hike.

My ex-husband introduced the boys to very violent video games that involve killing people. Both boys were previously diagnosed with ADHD. From all the research I've done, we've made an informed decision to NOT have these video games in our home.

And so were are at a crossroads, because my boys have decided to not come to my house because of it. They tell me instead that if they can't have their video games, which is 'their life' (from what they said) then they won't visit me, their mother.

I hate the fact that these video games have stolen my quality time with my kids. And I hate the fact that every time I get close to them, my ex-husband buys them another one.

Anonymous said...

I feel so sorry for you. Wouldn't know how I could live without my children because of video games.

Anonymous said...

>implying it's called Mortal Combat and not Mortal Kombat

Hahaha oh wow! You have no idea what you're even talking about.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone considered a 30 year old man doing this. Children, to a certain extent, I can understand their video game does expand their mind after all; but a nearly 30 year old man sitting on their rear all day doing nothing but playing point less games? I actually find it repulsive. It goes on in my own house, I want it to stop! It is so immature and worthless, what does that leave me to do while he is playing games...yeah clean, cook, or do laundry...that's REAL cute I tell ya.

Chrimbo said...

In response to anonymous coward...

Get a grip woman, if he was out playing golf you would moan. If he spent all his money at the movies you would moan. If he sat with his nose stuck in a book, you would moan. If he spent his time in the garage tinkering with an old car you would moan.

But your "quality time" with "Sex In the City" and "Lost" is completely different isn't it?

Have you considered he spends time in cyberspace to escape from you? You venomous harpie, take an interest in his hobby, join in, and stop nagging him.

Elaine said...

I have 3 kids and they all started playing games, as time went on they spent more and more time on them.
Then summer came and that was it they all cleared outside and played. Still play now and again but nothing to worry about.

Anonymous said...

Why are you crtitisizing someone for spelling when, as popular and as well known as it is, you can't spell Mortal Kombat? K-O-M-B-A-T, not C-O-M-B-A-T

Anonymous said...

Thank god for "useless things". If the world really did work as sour people imagine, and everyone only EVER spent their time doing "the most productive and useful things" the truth is, hardly anything would ever get done.

Most of human progress - which is measured in ways beyond how many cows you can milk in a day - is due to people farting around.

Computer games are so fascinating because they create and present virtual worlds, no matter how simple or complex those worlds are given the individual games. Kids love video games because, get ready, they're simply more interesting than whatever else the kids are being presented with. Society hasn't caught up with this yet. Games empower kids to feel in control of themselves - children, the people who are forced to both depend on, and be controlled by, the adult world.

Why wouldn't kids find such empowering worlds a better place to "live in"?

In the end, there is no such thing as "wasted time". Your time is yours to spend on what you choose. People can play computer games (or do anything else) and still be "productive" in the way that those who are behind the curve comprehend it. Even the most seemingly simplistic "violent" game stimulates in ways that those who don't grasp it can't see.