The Peer Pressure I Will Not Succumb To

“30 minutes a day.”

“1 hour a day”

“Only on the weekends; and only for an hour or so”

These are the statements I’ve heard from parents concerning playing video games.  I totally “get it” – but I don’t limit my 12 year old son’s playing like that.  Yes, he has to finish his chores (if he has any that day…I don’t always do them every day either). Yes, he has to have his school work, if any, done. Yes, he has to practice his guitar.  But if he’s doing his work at school and what he needs to do at home – I don’t over monitor his ‘screen time’.  He mostly plays driving games – but even that is not a justification that I’m using for my more ‘lax’ philosophy about gaming and screen time.

Every time I think of imposing strict rules about gaming – I think of my own childhood.  And I think – what if people felt the same way about my favorite pastime that they do about video games? What if my parents told me that I could only read on the weekends or for just an hour a day …or even worse, 30 minutes per day? That’s actually worse than being told I couldn’t read at all….it would give me the taste of reading without the satisfaction of a meal or a snack.

Gaming is an escape – but so is reading. And we could argue about the pros and cons of each pastime – but the point for me is not what he does it is how he feels about it. He identifies himself as “a gamer”. He’s tried soccer – we all hated it. He takes guitar, he has friends – he does all the things that kids typically do, but he has a passion for gaming. He doesn’t even care to play RPGs (Role Playing Games), violent games or on servers with others- he likes to play his games on his own machine.

My son is much like me regarding passions. I like – nay – I love to read. I have to read.   Now, I was not what you’d call ‘the bookish’ type. I had/have extrovert tendencies. So unlike many reading introverts, whose parents probably begged them to ‘get some fresh air’, I was socially active (well, to some extent). I always had a best friend, played at their houses and they played at mine…but my own time was time for reading. In the mornings, in the evenings, on the weekends, in the bathroom, in the mornings at sleepovers (I was the kid that got up at 6AM on a regular basis), in the car, waiting at any kind of appointment. I was never without a book. I could read for 6 hours straight. And often did. But it was not frowned upon because our society sees reading as an intrinsic ‘good’. And I was lucky in that. I always think about what it would be if it wasn’t. My own dystopia nightmare would be a world that banned reading. It makes me shudder to even think it.

So every time I think of imposing limits on my own child’s passion – I think about what that would have meant to me if my parents did the same. And it puts me in check.  I’d have been miserable. I hated sports (and as an adult, I am very active), I was not interested in clubs, band, or anything of that nature. That was not me and that is not my child. Taking away reading and/or gaming did not and would not make either of us suddenly want to take up a sport, join a club or become socially different.  It would just make us miserable and desperate to do it on the sly.  I’d rather my son played games in front of me then take to sneaking around and lying.  I cannot in good conscious take away something that he has a passion about just because of the pressures of society. So for good or for ill, those are my reasons.

About Rutabaga the Mercenary Researcher

I'm a research librarian for Public Television, story teller, bike commuter, baker, music fiend, lover of reading & books, mother, wife, friend - and many more descriptive adjectives and nouns.
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42 Responses to The Peer Pressure I Will Not Succumb To

  1. You make perfect sense – far better to be supportive and to know what your kid is up to! All kids have something that they’re passionate about and it’s a huge boost to self-esteem to have the support of the grown-ups who are around.

    • Thank you! I’ve had some kickback from people hung up on the comparison btwn reading and gaming – but that really is not the point; more that we need to show support for passions ~ I love it when my kid feels good about what he excels in!

      • One of my former school friends illustrated this point – her parents were both artists. One day she’d picked up a descant recorder and learnt a simple tune, which she played for them. She got a “very nice, dear” in a distracted way, which knocked her confidence in any form of music from that point on. She may not have been brilliant, but in an ideal world, she should have been allowed the chance.

  2. My nephews are polar opposites – one is a sports nut and the other is a book worm / video kid. I’m glad you are letting him enjoy his hobbies and not forcing him into something he doesn’t want to do.

    • Oddly, my husband was a sports nut and I was bookish one… now we’ve sort of switched – he’s into video games (not to a crazy extent – but he loves to play sports video games) and I am more ‘sporty’ – who knows what our interests will turn to – but we need to be able to do them!

  3. Amy Reese says:

    Hi Denise!! Good to see you, Babycakes. I let my kids play video games, too. They play the multi-player ones. Their argument to me is that their games are social and that’s a good thing. For some of the games, it does require team work and problem solving. Anyway, I’m like you. It makes them happy. Someday, they probably won’t even like them and they’ll be on to something else….or NOT! Whatever. It’s fine with me either way.

  4. TheLastWord says:

    As a boss I’ve said this: I don’t care when you come and go. We agreed that you had certain things to do and deliver and we also agreed on a timeframe. I care about that agreement. Organizing your time is your responsibility. Keeping the agreement is both our responsibilities.

    Artificial time limits is a sill way to go about destroying someone’s self worth and getting your deliverables.

    • That’s a great philosophy – and I’m fortunate to have a place where we believe that also – it makes for much more motivated people and gives them a sense of self worth – You sound like my kind of boss!

      • TheLastWord says:

        yeah, but I’ve had very bosses like that myself!! So made for some interesting scenarios! Shielding my team from my boss became a full time job in itself in a couple of cases…

        And some team members did not appreciate it either… Oh well!! Watchagonnado?

  5. tobiahbarneylovesmath says:

    You go girl.

  6. A.J. Goode says:

    I have a 16 year-old who loves gaming, and I get a lot of “good advice” (i.e. criticism) from people who tell me I should limit his screen time. But he’s smart, he’s happy, and he knows when to turn off the XBox and come downstairs with his family, so I don’t see a problem.

    I’ll admit, I was worried when his dad got him the headset so he could play games and chat with people all around the world. I was afraid he would withdraw from talking to real people, but I found out that most of the people he talks to online are actually kids from his school. He could practically holler out the window and chat with them as easily as he talks through the headset.

    Contrary to what I was afraid of, my son has become MORE social and less shy through gaming. I think you make an excellent point in comparing it to other forms of escape such as reading.

    • A.J. – Thank you for commenting. I think quite a few of us see that it is not all bad….and we had the same worries about server play -but he goes with his friends and they ‘meet up’ there and skype with each other. This year my son has made more friends and improved his social skills – and even skyping has taught him how to wait his turn to talk (he’s a chatty cathy for sure) – and so long as he, like your son, knows when to turn it off – I cannot get my undies in a bunch over it.

      I’m sure the reading comparison will get me in trouble with someone…but both gaming and reading are about imaginary worlds that we like to transport ourselves to – and I can’t take that from him.
      Thanks again!!

  7. rossmurray1 says:

    What would you do if your 13-year-old took to watching episodes of “Friends” over and over? Like all 10 seasons? Asking for a… oh, never mind.

  8. Robin says:

    I struggle with this too, and am kind of holding in your court, tentatively. My son just loves Minecraft and seriously would play it all day. I have found he’s less interested in things he used to love–like nature and going outside–because he’s preoccupied with these worlds. BUT…technology is good for the kids in so many ways. His comfort at the keyboard helps him with projects & tests at school and helps him with problem solving. Sometimes the games show him things that inspire learning off-line. As long as he gets his work done and spends some time on a walk, or outside, and making sure he’s not a couch potato during all of his home time, I think I’m over the timer too….my major concern is that he’s not sitting all day–so as long as he can make room for both, I think the passion can stay. Thanks for your post, making us all think this through is a good thing.

    • I am amazed at the hold that Mindcraft has over kids (and not in a bad way) – it looks so simplistic and boring…but it does inspire them to build and have attention to detail.
      I wonder if some of that less interest is just due to getting older- he may come back to those things after a bit too – we just don’t know.

      I was so ready to be over the timer – that just caused everyone anxiety. That obsession about it was taxing.

      Thanks for sharing your story – I’m glad to see I’m not the only one with similar feelings.

      Neither is right nor wrong necessarily – but each is about how it works in our families with our kids.

  9. Paul says:

    We had a girl and a boy – they would be 25 and 27 now so gaming wasn’t as big when they were smaller. That being said the boy did game a lot and we did not put any limit on his time. He also had a pile of friends and would go out with them and he played both organized (hockey and baseball mostly) and pick up (B-ball and street hockey mostly)sports. He really enjoyed the games. His first language was French and his schooling was French but his English improved immensely from gaming – he liked the games that had histories and explanations that appeared on the screen. The gaming did not seem to negatively affect anything. I will tell you this , as he got older and other teens were getting into trouble, he spent spare time gaming. He would often have friends over to play and we encouraged that because we knew where he was and who he was with. We also got to meet and assess his friends – as they get older peer pressure contributes more to behaviour patterns. The one big drawn back to this was the food consumption, We would never let friends go hungry and would always include them in meals. (You would be surprised how many parents ejected visiting friends because of the cost of feeding them – teens eat a lot). When they were 15 and 17, my wife and I went away for a weekend – our first time leaving them alone. A neighbor kept an eye on them and we were always in cell phone range. We had stocked up at Costco before going and when we returned two days later they and their friends had eaten $350 worth of food. We didn’t say anything as the house was clean and there was no damage and they had done their chores – even the cats were healthy. What can you say?

    • Paul – thank you for sharing that. I have a friend whose son was also very much like that – his friends came over to have LAN parties (so they came with their computers to hook up) and everyone knew where they were and what they were doing. Kids have all sorts of interests and each has risks and advantages – even though the $350 worth of food would be PAINFUL! Better spent on that than bailing a kid out of trouble. Thanks again for your post!

      • Paul says:

        Yeah, that was a world record for food consumption. That wasn’t common as we generally prepared main meals. When we went away, we bought stuff that they could just nuke and that they liked- stuff like pizza pockets and individual yogurts (all that stuff is expensive). They normally only got that as a treat. They still ate a lot but it would be things like left over spaghetti. Teens don’t really eat,.. they graze.

        • My 12 year old is already a huge eater – I cannot imagine him as 16 year old eater…good thing I have worked in restaurants – I know about bulk 🙂

          I assume you’re from France if it’s your son’s first language?

        • Paul says:

          Actually eastern Canada. He’s an Acadian ( ) – from Northern New Brunswick. His Mom and Dad were from there (I’m his step-dad). Most speak some English although few write it. His Mom wanted him to stay bilingual and figured he got enough English in day to day life, so she enrolled him in french schools here in Ottawa when she moved here. Their Mom did her first degree in Parisian french in Moncton new Brunswick and her graduate degree in the English language. Acadians were originally from France back in the 1600’s and they settled in the maritime provinces. They are very distinct from our Quebec french – in fact they dislike them immensely. It was the Acadians who were expelled in 1755 by the British and transported to Louisiana – that’s how much of the french ended up down there – Cajuns ( ) . Many of the Acadians actually walked back to Canada with families and carts. Acadians have a very long and rich history here but there are few of them (maybe 100,000) so few hear about them. They are very friendly (except to Quebecers) and many either fish or work in natural resource jobs (forestry or mining). They are a cool sub-culture.

        • Wow – I love the history lesson!! I actually just learned some of that watching Good Eats the other night 🙂 I love overlapping knowledge.

          My Father lived in Ottawa and spoke French as a child, but his family is actually Italian – so even more culture heaped on to culture. I look forward to visiting Canada one day to visit my family – I’ll walk over an visit ya!

        • Oh Duh – French…Costco….CANADA!

  10. List of X says:

    You may be right, but what happens if your son’s grade or health stuffers, but he remains passionate about playing videogames?
    I’ve been there as one whose academic success had suffered because of too much reading at one point, and too much playing at another, and another hobby I was passionate about at a third time. Even I realized that I’m playing or reading too much, I still found it very hard to stop.

    • I was waiting for this particular comment – b/c I think about it too. He could play a sport and get hurt. He could be crossing the street and be run down; but I don’t think that should preclude him from doing these things – it means that we remain aware of these possibilities. I’m not advocating that he play 24/7 – extremes in all areas are still extremes and come with their own risks.

      So we will cross that bridge when we get there – if we get there. But my fears should not stop him from his passion. As a bike commuter – my husband fears me riding but he doesn’t try to stop me; he expresses his concerns and I try to use good judgement – that’s the best option. I try to do the same with my child. I express my concerns and he talks to me about his judgement.

      I don’t know if I’m right or wrong – or if there is a right or wrong – I have to go with my gut instinct.

      • Kim Barton says:

        I like what you said about sports. I hesitated letting my son play football because of the potential for injury, but he really wanted to, so he played. He ended up with a bad concussion. We made him quit that day. I’d never thought about gaming in the same vein as sports in terms of concern for the child’s safety. One of my passions has a big potential for injury (and I’ve been injured many, many times) but I’d pitch a huge fit if anyone told me to quit!

        I have asked my son to take breaks from sitting in front of the computer, to go for a walk with me, or even to just do something else. He’s usually fine with that. But then, I have to remind myself to take breaks from the computer when I’m writing.

        • I know what you mean – I played ice hockey – and injuries were not unknown for me either. And I’d be devastated to have been asked to quit playing. I think with gaming – it’s the stories of people dropping dead in internet cafes or having blood clots from DVT.

          Ha – I do that too with my kid – and I find myself spending too much time on my machine. Do as I say not as I do 🙂 – at the end of the day we want our kids to be well rounded and happy in their choices.

          That’s too bad your son was hurt – i’d have done the same- — brain injuries are serious business.

  11. I do have to limit my kid’s gaming (Minecraft) because he’s 6 and I do notice a difference in his behavior when he’s played for too long. At his age, he’d much prefer to live in a pretend world than the real world and too much Minecraft makes him a little nuts. With older kids it’s probably different. They can tell the difference between pretend and reality and they can seamlessly transition between.

    • Definitely agree – when D was 6, he had a very limited number of games and limited time. I do notice D will get a bit wacky if he’s on too long too – so we do have breaks of a few hours of ‘quite time’ – then he’ll read or kvetch – but age makes the difference.

      • I think when kids are old they should have the right to choose their hobby and what they’re passionate about. And it sound like D is pretty balanced. There’s nothing inherently wrong with gaming, in my opinion.

        • Right – we have to give children confidence to pursue their passions not the ones we’d like to have… I don’t want to make my child desperate, miserable and sly. I had a friend when I was young who was not allowed to read most anything (parents very religious ) so she just sneaked it …and that, for me, is far worse. Parenting is not for the weak of heart, eh?

  12. rainawareness says:

    What kind of paranoid parents limit their kid’s time for playing?

    • Many, many that i know of… I understand where they’re coming from; I just don’t agree. Now, if my kid was around the clock sitting there and totally not in touch with reality, we’d have a different problem on our hands; and it still would not be the video games – but something in my own child that would have to be addressed. Parenting is hard – but I like less over-monitoring than more.

  13. jaraedesire says:

    I have dealt with this one for many, many years………sometimes I feel like a failure because I wasn’t more strict about time limits and three days later as he is playing with a passion and joy that I haven’t felt in many years, I revel in his abandon!!! Thank you for being open and forthright with your view…….I count on you for that 🙂

    • I knew that couldn’t be the only one dealing with this situation – it’s hard for us to accept that our kids have a passion for something that is socially lambasted. But like you said, there is joy and passion – we don’t have to identify with it – we just have to recognize it.
      You are not a failure – you are seeing something in your child that he/she loves and being reasonable. Thank you for your comment – and your support. We need more of that among parents.

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