This is an ongoing debate in our house. My youngest son is incredibly attracted to video games...ok addicted if we were to allow it. He is incredibly good at Xbox, Wii, app games, computer games and there is something to the strategy and focus he can devote to these. Yet the worry is there ..will he start to blur the line between fiction and reality, will he become anti-social, live in his room, because a psycho, drop out ...or will this lead to Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Zuckeberg brilliance..gaming billionaire - topple Google?????
The rule is that he is not allowed Xbox or Wii during the week - limiting to weekends. They watch very little TV during the week since they leave early in the day with 2 working parents and get home in time for dinner and homework. The hour or so left after that is all they have to unwind and start again. My older son likes TV but video games bore him after a while.
For every study that tells me how I am failing my child by letting them play these games there is a counter study saying that playing them can increase strategic approaches. I admit it - I watched TV as a kid. My parents both worked and I got home to an empty apartment, much like many or most of the kids around me, did my homework and then watched TV (especially in the winter) until my parents got home. My Dad worked nights for a while, then owned a deli, so he got home at best really late. My Mom had 2 nights of late hours so got home after 7 on those nights. I did my homework, they checked it, I never thought to really rebel against that (well in high school I often did much of it between periods and lucky I have a good memory from class lessons 'cause my study skills..well they sucked - how I maintained honors classes and a good average is not something I can easily understand in retrospect). I watched TV especially as a kid from an Eastern bloc nation, where TV time as a whole was limited and with the exception of some outdated shows from the States were devoted to drivel exalting the pathetic dictator in charge. I watched the 430 movie after school, the after school special movie, General Hospital and cartoons. There was no cable (did anyone under the age 30 just gasp if they are reading this?!) so really the exposure was at most to some heavy petting in an Elvis movie that ended with a song.
I was fine - I was able to go to college and beyond - I have a successful life and I never once even entertained the idea of trying to order something from ACME to drop on someone's head - because I understood that TV and movies were not real. My friends were all fine and they too have never re-enacted a scene from Tom and Jerry ...though we do exchange movie and TV show lines with some frequency ("she's a round..she's a flat", "you talkin' to me?" "shut up..shuttin up").
We played, unsupervised and unscheduled outside, in what was by far a much nastier New York of the late 70s and 80s. We played video games ... in candy stores or arcades for quarters with smoke all around us (and smoking ourselves most times .. it was an art to balance a lit cigarette on a video game without burning the plastic, yourself and getting to smoke most of it...all while handling that joy stick and button until that Pac Man met Mrs Pack Man and they had Pac babies, all Space Invaders were vanquished, Caterpillar was dismantled and Qbert turned every cube a different multitude of colors). I never thought I actually knew how to drive just because I excelled at Pole Position.
My husband did not do the arcade or candy store (he is a sports guy and grew up in a part of Queens where unlike me you could not walk to such places -- I pity him as much as others pity what they think is my missing out on having a backyard or grass...still do not love either do I am partial to our deck). So my dilemma like every other parenting one is how to monitor and help the boys play these games (it is a social connection ...especially with the online gaming which is another blog all together). We have opted not to let them play games that so realistically involve killing or theft or you know skill sets they will never need....they disturb me at how real they look. We have opted to monitor their game time. We have opted to accept the reality that just because it does not appeal to us does not make it the wrong thing to do. I have opted to be a Mom...who makes decisions with her boys in mind but as the parent whose guidance they need....