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Taming the Gaming 'Monster'... or Pet?

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, June 29, 2007

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 8 No 51 June 29, 2007
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2007 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!
If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!




Notes from Heather
-- Taming the Gaming 'Monster'
Helpful Tips
-- Special Writing Paper
Winning Website
-- Homeschool Arts
Reader Question
-- Our Readers on Gaming Limits
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Taming the Video Game 'Monster'

While some parents struggle with a feeling that they are helplessly
stuck with a 'monster' in their home, which they feel they have no
control over, others welcome all sorts of gaming opportunities as
opportunities for educational growth or innocuous leisure time.
While some, seemingly in fear or simply from conviction, have banned
computer-type games from their homes altogether, there seem to be
an equal amount of families completely at home with gaming. Con-
trary to finding these occupations a threat in their lives, they
have achieved balance and harmony and really don't see any issue or
problem with 'gaming'. Then there are others who are simply caught
in the middle, unsure of the potential consequences of this modern
day phenomenon -- and searching for answers and clear direction.

I think those of us in the latter situation (myself included!) can
certainly benefit by reading others' experiences, as well as their
tips for negotiating individual time while providing for quality
family time sharing favorite games 'in moderation'.

What I have done is select and edit a mix of input from our readers
as well as those of the HomeschoolingBOYS.com email group. More
will appear in this Monday's issue, as well. [Additional reader
input can be found near the bottom of this newsletter under "Our
Readers' Responses".] Thanks to everyone who contributed!


"I might be an outcast on this topic, but I have three boys, 6 1/2,
almost 4, and 9 months, and we have lots of video games. We have
a gamecube, a Nintendo DS, lots of plug-and-play games (the ones
that individually plug into the TV), and my kids have their own
computer that they share. My kids also have their own TVs and DVD
players with lots of movies. I don't have a time limit on any of
these. Now you are probably expecting me to say that my children
have behavioral problems and trouble with attention spans, but it
is exactly the opposite. They are very well-behaved and love doing
school activities. They have tons of friends that come over to
play the games with them even, kids of all ages.

Now I know that my children are not older. But here are a couple
of advantages from my opinion.

1. My 6 year old son can program the DVD player for us.
2. My 6 year old son knows how to Google anything he wants to
know about (we have strict search filters on).
3. The same 6 year old chats with his other friends in town and
family members on IM, which has given him great typing skills,
and better spelling in a fun way.
4. My 3 year old can program the DVD player for us.
5. There is a lot of reading involved with some of the video
games. You are forced to read it if you want to beat the level.
You can't get around it.
6. Because of reason #5, my three year old recognizes the words
from the games and knows what to do and where to go.
7. Most important, my husband is a senior level programmer and
Network security engineer for different government agencies and
private companies. The technology is here to stay. No matter
how much we fight it, I know that my own young children will need
these skills if they want to succeed in the business world. So
they are comfortable with all of the technology around our house
and other people's houses as well.

One thing I should mention. My kids have Nintendo, not a play-
station or an XBOX. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE. Nintendo only makes
games that do not have blood or arms being cut off." -- Cheryl


"I have banned video games from my house indefinitely. My son
is going on 6, and I have seen some of his peers addicted to
them at that young age. On the other side, those that don't
have them don't think about it - they do something else." -- Jackie


"We have 4 boys and they love to play games. What has worked
well for us is we limit them to playing game on weekends, and only
if they have earned the privilege with a great attitude, chores done,
school work done, treating their brothers with kindness, etc. They
know that the it is a privilege and not a right, and it can be taken
away if the necessary stuff is not done with the proper attitude.
Let me tell you -- a couple of weekends without it and it is amazing
how the attitudes change." -- April in NC


"So far, I don't want them in the house at all. That may be relaxed
when they are older. My oldest daughter is 9; oldest son is 6. It
also greatly depends on temperament. My 6 year old son is the type
who will be transfixed by a gameboy if a friend has one. Since we
do not allow them he reads instead and usually doesn't really want
to go outside - he'd rather read. I don't think I'd have as much
trouble with my almost-5-year-old son. He prefers to bounce and be
active. They are opposites. Oldest daughter would be a problem too.
The TV has been turned off this week because they gave me some
really bad attitudes when after a movie (Barbie Swan Lake, so it was
a pretty gentle movie) I told them to go outside and they nearly all
threw a fit. If I have this much trouble with the TV, how much
trouble will there be with video games? I'm not willing nor ready
to go there at this time." -- Anna


"I realized I'd rather my 11 year old son played video games than
zone out to TV. Depending on the game of course, he has to use
problem solving and critical thinking.

I used to worry about him not reading, until I realized he reads
game cheats. He researches his games online and looks for info to
help in his game playing.

He was motivated enough to work and save money to buy his own Wii.
Now the entire family plays together. The Wii system has games
which are very active. I've broken a sweat playing tennis!

Chores get done simply because I ask him, 'What time would you
like to unload the dishwasher?' I give him the choice as to when
he wants to schedule his chores and if his chosen time of 10 am
comes around and it's not done, I don't feel like I'm nagging when
I remind him of his promise. I guess over time we've built a rela-
tionship of respect where my husband and I have never had to use
threats or punishments.

We are always there when he chooses to buy his games so we know he
isn't playing those offensive to our beliefs. We've also talked
about why certain games are better than others and about moderation.

There is an online game called Runescape that I'm grateful for!
From playing Runescape, my 11 year old son has been motivated to
learn many new things, including keyboarding. We've had discus-
sions on commerce, bartering, cooking, the science of fire building
and chemistry. He actually bought a chemistry book and plans to
teach himself over the summer!

For our family, gaming as been more of a positive than negative.
I actually enjoy that we are home together playing, rather than me
having to play Taxi Mom." -- Dawn


"My 2 oldest boys ages 8 1/2 and 6 don't own or play any video
games. They do occasionally play games at the Veggie Tales website
but that's all they play. At this point I don't feel like they
are missing out. I am reading the book 'Endangered Minds' and that
confirms my beliefs that the less media time the better. Too much
visual stimulation seems to be changing children's mind and they
are unable to think analytically. We greatly limit media time in
our home (only 30 minutes of computer or TV time per day max) and
we make sure to have conversation that exercises their thinking
skills." -- Susan in PA


"I have 3 boys, ages 12, 14 and 16. They all enjoy playing video games
and computer games. It isn't a problem around here... most of the time.
They know that in order to get to play games, they need to do their
chores and school first. They get 45-60 minutes of game play a day, but
they don't necessarily play everyday. Their attitudes also play a large
part in their playing. If they argue and fight with their brothers and
it goes on and on, they will most likely lose this privilege the next
day." -- Pam C.


"I have a 13 year old boy who enjoys video games. We have rarely have a
problem with them though. Maybe it is just my interpretation of addic-
tion. I've never given it much thought. All of his games are rated E
except for a few that are rated T. Usually he tires of a certain game
after playing it for awhile and then voluntarily puts the Playstation
away for a week or two. He also enjoys reading, putting puzzles
together, playing board games, solving the Rubik's cube and playing
electric guitar. He likes to be outside too, but doesn't play long out
there because there are very few kids for him to play with in our
neighborhood. My daughter is 16, so she does not often play with my
son anymore. They enjoy watching movies together or playing guitar. He
has several friends that he spends time with on a regular basis, though.

I don't use the video games or television as a baby-sitter, by any
means, but I don't restrict them as many of you do. This may be because
I have a smaller family and there aren't lots of siblings to play with.

When my son is bored, I simply say to find something constructive to do,
or I'll let him pick something from my Honey-do list. That usually cures
him of his boredom. He does often choose the video games, but only for
awhile. He actually prefers interaction with people, and wants to do
whatever involves being with us. So, if he is playing a video game, he
often likes someone to watch him, or to join in. I, actually, have
been 'banned' from playing the motorcross/monster truck type games
because I have so much fun I won't share the control." :-)
-- Sherri


Do you have input? Please send to: heather @ familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip

Special Writing Paper

"I went to a teacher supply store and bought a tablet of paper that
has made handwriting easier for my son. It's from Frog Street Press,
and has a blue line on the top, along with a tiny sun. The middle
dotted line is red, which they suggest calling 'the fence'. The
bottom solid line is green, and has a little flower at the end of the
line. That's the ground. So you tell your child that some letters,
like 'o' only go up to the fence. Other letters, like 'k' go all the
way up to the sky. Still other letters, like 'p' have roots that go
down into the ground. The mental picture, along with the visual aid
of the three different colored lines, has helped my son a lot."

-- Linda in Colorado


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas @ familyclassroom.net

Winning Website

Homeschool Arts


This site is dedicated to the teaching and instruction of the visual
arts online -- to all that would be interested, be they a beginner,
intermediate or advanced student. This is an AWESOME site!! Free
lessons, homeschool-friendly!

-- Cindy - www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

Last Issue's Reader Question

Last issue I invited our readers to write-in about their experi-
ences with video games (PC based and otherwise) in the home. In my
'notes' at the beginning of the newsletter I shared many of the
comments I received. Below are more answers that I didn't include
above, but I thought you'd be interested in reading! And for those
who would like to comment further, please do read this issue's NEW
question below. Thanks! :-)

Our Readers' Responses

"This is a great question. Taming the video game monster is a fight
we can win with consistency and clear rules. We noticed at an early
age that our oldest was quite taken with computer games. Because of
this tendency, we put strict rules in place early on which has alle-
viated much of the stress. The boys are allowed 30 minutes a day of
'screen time'. They are allowed to choose to use it on computer
games, GameBoy or TV. The freedom of choice gives them a measure of
control, while still keeping to the rules we've established. Funny
you mentioned Roller Coaster Tycoon. It's one of the boys' favorites.
I doubt they realize how much they are learning when they play, but
I love it!

I think the key is controlling the time so their days are well spent.
I see it as helping them learn to control and use their time wisely
until they are mature enough to make wise choices on their own.

Looking forward to hearing how other families tackle this monster!"
-- Angela in TX


"Our family has chosen not to purchase a video gaming system. We
have bent this rule slightly to allow a couple 'Plug and Play' game
systems - a Star Wars one and a Pacman-type one. These are control-
lers that plug into the TV directly. We do allow PC games as well
and one son has a Gameboy that he purchased himself at a yard sale.

These games are allowed only on a limited basis. The time on elec-
tronic games must be earned and is totally at the discretion of my
husband and I. TV and DVDs are on the same system - children must
ask and the shows must be approved before watching. Many a day
goes by that no one in this house watches TV or plays an electronic
game. I know that our culture seems to accept these things as normal,
but we are not the kind of people who accept cultural norms without
question." -- Lisa in MI


"Great topic! When our kids ask to play with our PS2 system, I tell
them to grab the timer and set it for 30 minutes. This is their
allowable time per day. Our kids know that playing their PS2 is a
privilege. So if they forget to set the timer or go over their
allotted time, then they lose their playtime the next day. Many of
the games are two-player, but we like to have tournaments with the
game DDR (Dance, Dance, Revolution). It's great exercise, especially
on cold and rainy days -- and it teaches coordination. When my kids'
time is up on the PS2, they run to the computer. Eventually, I will
get a timer for this too.

Their favorites are Spider Solitaire, which is a wonderful strategy
game (they are all trying to beat my high score), Roller Coaster
Tycoon 2 - which teaches them entrepreneurial skills, and American
Girls Premiere - where they create and produce plays. I think I'm
going to incorporate computer games into our school more next year
because I have three levels of grades to teach (10th, 7th, and 3rd).
When I'm working with my high school student, it's too hard to have
the others working on school because they inevitably have questions
and this throws me into a frenzy. Having the younger ones play a
computer game will buy me some time with the older one." -- Noreen


"My boys have been exposed to way too much video games, the card
games (ie -- Pokemon and such ilk) and computer war games. Unfor-
tunately, my husband has strong views that they teach strategy, etc.
Well, I wasn't able to change my husband's views and I wasn't about
to change husbands, so we worked a compromise. All that stuff was
'special privilege' stuff. It all had to be earned one way or
another. There's getting school work and chores done, of course.
There was also extra game time for doing extra chores, etc.

My present-day 13 year old son has to do them without too much of
the wrong attitude, or he loses. He's also lost going to the
Pokemon group at the library for the wrong attitude towards his
younger brother, day care kids, and me. They love playing the
games with their dad and his friends late on Friday and Saturday
nights. Since it is with their dad -- they lose that for the big
stuff -- lying, hurting someone, etc.

The strangest rule was one I had with #3. He couldn't play the
computer -- even school games -- until he had a shower. This was
while he was a teenager. He still tells me how that was the worst
thing I could do to him. Now, he's in the army in Tennessee and
sometimes feels the need to take 2 showers a day!

A note for those who have kids who can't take much frustration.
#2 had ADHD, was very bright, but had a low frustration level. So
when he tried to play games and lost his temper because his
brothers were winning or he couldn't solve the puzzle, we'd gently
lead him away, saying that this is not how games are played and
when he calmed down we could talk about what was bugging him. He
lost many turns but eventually he'd ask for help on the computer
games. As an adult, he still doesn't like to lose to his brothers,
but he can cope without a complete meltdown... most of the time.

My 4 oldest still enjoy playing games of all kinds. They don't go
out and beat on people. They're law abiding young men who work
for a living and mostly have the values I want them to have. On
Fathers' Day, 4 boys (including the one in Tennessee and the 13
year old boy) and their dad got together on the internet and
played some strategy game. I heard from several of them of how
much fun they had." -- Carol and boys (10,13,24,25,26, and 28)


"We have 2 boys, ages 8 and 12. They only play computer games
every other day. We don't have video games to worry about. They
only get 30 minutes each. The youngest plays on M/W/F and the
oldest on T/Th/Sat. Sunday is left open. If one does not get to
play because of being gone, he plays first the next day. For
example, if the youngest can't play on Monday, he plays before his
brother on Tuesday. Also, if there is a problem, like a game is
slow to load, or we have computer problems, then they get a little
extra time. But we stay as close to this schedule as possible.
Also, the oldest is working on his own blog, so he spends extra
time on the computer that does not count toward his 30 minutes.
We also use the special days to settle arguments. For example, if
they fuss about which video to watch, we simply ask whose day it
is. If it is M/W or F, then the youngest gets to choose what to
watch because it is his 'day'. This has helped to keep the peace."
-- Ginny in Kentucky

Answer our NEW Question

Next issue we will pick-up with answers to the following question:

"For those parents who have older children... if you could do it again
would still introduced video games into your children's lives based
on what you have experienced thus far? Is there any benefit other than
using them as a 'reward' system? Would you agree that most kids could
not 'self-limit' game playing? My son is 6 and I am looking for advice.
WE have always thought we would not introduce this into our child's life
because of my husband's brother (started playing at age 9 and is now 20,
obese and flunked out of college...still playing), but it is so popular,
I don't want him to feel like an outcast. He is quite responsible and
unusually self disciplined. Does anyone have any real POSITIVE experi-
ences with these games?" -- Laura


Would you like to help answer this question?

Send your email to: HN-answers @ familyclassroom.net

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