Notes from a Geek Mom: On Video games

My son is 9 and loves video games (what 9 year old doesn’t?) Here are some tips for other parents.

I firmly believe that downtime and rest time is important for kids and adults, and if the choice is video games, that’s OK. Because, heck, I do it too so I’d be a hypocrite if I banned it.

Watch with him:
– Without commentary, without “tsk”ing, watch him play. At the end make some comments and learn about the game. This is an opportunity to share something he loves with you. Why did he choose that avatar? What does that mean in the game?

– Playground rules apply. No swear words, treat others kindly, etc. Video games (sadly) cannot be a babysitter and really bad behavior will ensue if we let them alone with them. So, yeah. I overhear/eavesdrop and have half an ear there just as I would at the playground talking with other moms/dads. There are consequences if I hear swears or bullying, etc.

Set limits with him, and help him set those limits. Some ones we use:
– Before play, set the playing time.
– Game time vs. real time (how many minutes of soccer match?) Most misunderstandings stem from this, right now.
– Help him take timeouts for food/peeing (bio breaks)

Aside from individual gaming bouts, help him understand how much time per day he is playing. I don’t offer other ways of spending his time because as a 9 year-old he really doesn’t have that ability. I do help him transition and we do other activities, and he’s usually 100% into them (after some grousing). I don’t try to compare or bring it up. Don’t be a hypocrite- how much time do I spend on the computer or phone a day? Am I modeling poor time management behavior?

– Google Home was a game changer for me in setting limits and enforcing them. You can schedule outage times for internet per device, and that helps him transition off of the video game. I no longer remove the tablet physically but now set the time and he has to ask for extensions. I’m flexible, but he now knows he only gets one or two “more time please.” Based on in-game time (they don’t have a concept of out game time, I’ve realized) or some milestone in the game. We negotiate for a bit. It helps him (and me, as a gamer) slowly transition to “real world.” It’s important that YOU are not on a game or other task, and you are futzing or in his eye sight doing things – this helps him transition to real world.

– It does matter “which game” but I’ll get into that in another post, it’s much longer.

As a kid who loved LOVED my (mom’s) computer, and it let to great career and helped me excel at Math and creative outlets, I don’t demonize screen time or computers. I can’t help but be part of the popular parenting movement that’s concerned about it.

I’ll post more tips!