It’s the very beginning of summer vacation for my children – now 15, 12 and 8 – and that means that the favorite Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Xbox can be pulled out of the closet and hooked up to our TV system for fun and games. Yup, during the school year they’re completely off limits and sit untouched for months and months. Used to be a big deal but being firm about the issue means the kids just know that’s the way it is, and they never complain about it. Amazingly, truth be told.
That’s one advantage to us being in a small local community of like-minded parents, though those with older boys in the house (16, 17, etc) seem to have a harder time with the zero video games during the school year idea, whereas for those of us with younger boys (G-‘s 12, and the only boy amongst my kids) it’s just the way it is, and since I’d never allow televisions in the children’s bedrooms (what a terrible idea, in my opinion!) there’s really no way for them to sneak the big-screen games in except at friend’s houses.
Anyway, it’s summer and one thing I’ve learned about parenting is that it’s a ton easier to come up with agreements in advance rather than argue on a daily basis about whether they can play, how long they can play, etc. This year my son and I have already discussed the situation and from his initial idea of two hours/daily of video games, I brought the discussion down to reality and told him that the deal will be 60-minutes of play per child per week.
That’s it. One hour/week for each child.
Now they’re smart and realize that if they like to play the same multiplayer game, then they can effectively have two hours by coordinating their time. Further, I have a special rule that if we all play a game together, like Wii Sports Resort, then it doesn’t count against any of their time. At that point it’s more social anyway and I’m good with it. Oh, and if they visit friends, as long as the friends agree to video games then outdoor sports, I’m good with them playing at those houses too.
Of course, I have zero control over what happens when they’re with their Mom for the 3 days/week that they’ll be there this summer, but to be honest, I’d much rather stay out of that loop anyway, and let that transpire as it will. Best to let sleeping dogs, um, errr, nevermind. 🙂
Anyway this is the first year that other devices rear their little heads too: A-, now 15, just got an iPhone, and G- has an iPod Touch. Both of those are nice little gaming systems that can be easily hidden and discretely played when you think they’re reading or in the bathroom. So we’re going to have to wrestle with that, but our initial discussion has produced a tentative agreement of 45min/day of handheld gaming time, not including days when they use their video game time.
To me, that still feels like a lot. When I was a kid, we were out and about all summer, biking, having adventures, reading, playing baseball, basketball, pool, swimming, bugging our parents, doing science experiments (I could tell you stories about when my buddy Ivan and I hacked car CB radios to work in our rooms so we could chat at night, even though we were about a mile apart, but that’s another posting). Not inside playing video games, not doing things that were solo. Yeah, then again, if there were really cool video games available, we’d have probably been playing them. So I’m not a complete luddite!
I’m curious, though: How do you handle summer video game time, if at all? Is there a quota? Do you set a timer? Do they earn the time by doing chores? Or are you at work and just hoping that they don’t start up a meth lab or become a terrorist or throw a party for 500 of their closest Facebook pals? 🙂