Pro's and Con's of Video
like how time on the computer is helping our son get more proficient at
keyboarding. He seems to be very comfortable on the computer and it is bound to
help him on down the line. However, we know there's also a down side to letting
a child spend too much time with technology. What are the warning signs of
crossing that line to the point where "playing" video games is actually
Your worries are well-placed, although there are benefits
to "plugged-in play time." Proficiency in electronic entertainment devices can
indeed prepare a young person use computers efficiently in upper-level high
school and college courses, as you wisely point out.
In addition, children and teens actually learn a lot from
properly-selected games that combine education and learning effectively. And it
is found that playing video games can be a useful distraction for young people
in certain situations who might otherwise turn to more destructive habits.
Examples: long-term illness, divorce, a parent's unemployment, being rejected
by a boyfriend or girlfriend, and so on.
But, as you also point out, there is a lot of potential for
harm if the child or teen overdoes "gaming" or other technological toys. Note
the major ones:
Obesity. The American
Academy of Pediatrics reports that childhood obesity increases as time spent
before a screen increases. One-third of American children are now considered
overweight; for physical health reasons, limiting techno fun is a must to get
our kids outside more and playing actively to build fitness.
The more time a child or teen spends playing video games, the less time that
young person has available for homework, interacting with family and friends,
doing household chores that build responsibility, and most of all, reading for
fun. Kids who are "hooked" on screen activities read little or no books on
their own time, because the words on the page aren't in color, making arresting
sounds and jumping all around. These kids find reading "boring." That is a huge
concern if you want your child to do well in high school and college, and be
qualified for a good career.
to Violence and Sexualized Content. As many as nine out of 10 video games
depict violence in some form. That's unconscionable, to be presenting that much
violence to impressionable young minds. Women and girls also tend to be
depicted only as hyper-sexed beings, which is a grave concern. It's not true
that every child who spends time with violent video games is going to "go
postal" and kill people or hurt females. But studies do show that these young
people have a significant increase in aggression and a significant decrease in
the ability to delay gratification. Those tendencies make them worse family
members, students and future employees, a tremendous problem.
Addiction. If you spend
your time "interacting" only with a machine playing on the computer, TV or
handheld, that reduces your experience in interacting with real people. If you
become addicted to anything, your other relationships and skills all suffer.
Just as alcoholics and shopaholics sustain tangible damage to their physical
bodies, relationships, finances and emotional health, becoming addicted to
video games can be extremely destructive to a child or teen. They tend to become
loners with low self-esteem and the problems compound and multiply.
But as with all other tasks of parenting, there is a way to
manage video gaming to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks. Smart
Limit time online or plugged in to one hour a day. You can
increase that to two hours on weekends and holidays. Make the child log in on a
"timeclock" chart posted on the fridge and punish "cheating" (false recording)
by removing all privileges for one week.
Require that homework and chores be done BEFORE gaming can
Keep all techno toys in the family room, kitchen or other
"mainstream" location in order to monitor kid time online or plugged in. DO NOT
allow computers, TV's or other electronics in your child's bedroom or anywhere
else that secrecy is possible.
Watch over your child's shoulder and remove any
Become familiar with the rating system on www.esrb.org and don't allow overly violent or
sexualized content to get in front of your child's eyes.
your child seems fascinated with electronics, and is withdrawing from you and
friends, take it as a warning sign that the child feels neglected, confused or
stressed. Increase YOUR attention and quality time with the child, provide
healthy and fun alternative activities, and lead by example by avoiding video
and Internet addictions yourself!
Homework: Read more good tips about children's
health from Harvard Health Publications on www.IntelliHealth.com, a partnership
between Aetna and Harvard Medical School.