“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.