The Effects of Video and Computer Games on Kids

I know the effects that media and technology have on me.  I get irritable if someone interrupts me while I check my Facebook status and new stories. I ignore my husband’s questions while I am in the middle of a back-and-forth text message conversation. I tell my daughter, “I am working”, as I feverishly respond to an email on my iPhone. Does this scenario sound familiar?

Now imagine passing this habit onto your child. When you immerse yourself in these easily accessible gadgets, we model to our children and our loved ones what’s important. Does virtual engagement really supersede face-to-face connection?

I admit I am having an affair with my laptop
I am guilty of “working” and spending way too much time on my computer or phone. And to really work, my daughter may need to watch a movie, so I can really focus.

I read this article, Video and Computer Games: Often Not so Good for Kids. It’s nice to be reminded that spending quality time with your child far outweighs any educational show or  movie. As parents we already know this, but we also have to acknowledge that media consumption is also not so good for parents.

One of my favorite parenting books, Parenting with Love & Logic, provides insightful approaches to parenting.  Check out this article by the author of Parenting with Love & Logic, Dr. Fay below:

“Video and Computer Games: Often Not so Good for Kids.”
— By Dr. Fay

“My typically nice and responsible kid turns into a monster after he plays his computer games.”

If you’ve noticed this same thing with your kids, you’re not alone. Listed below are some thoughts about why this is so common, as well as actions we can take to protect our kids:

Understand that Electronic Games can be Extremely Addictive
Since most of these games operate according to variable schedules of reinforcement (the user cannot entirely predict when something exciting will happen) our kids get hooked into thinking that they have to play “just a little bit longer” each time.

Even educational games present these risks. To grab the attention of the learner, our kids’ favorite games are highly entertaining…and stimulating. Is it any wonder that kids who spend too much time glued to these games find everything else boring?

Real life is always a downer when you’re hooked on electronic uppers.
The symptoms of withdrawal also indicate the addictive nature of these games: Irritability, extreme moodiness, and attempts to get a “fix” even if it requires manipulating and mistreating those who love you the most.

Set Enforceable Limits
Children under 5 should spend almost no time playing video games, computer games, or watching television. Again, this also applies to educational games and shows. Older children shouldn’t spend more that 15-30 minutes per day engaged in these activities. Wise parents set the following limit:

I allow video games, computer games, or TV in our home
only when they are causing no problems.

Wise parents don’t hesitate to remove these items from the home when “problems” begin. For more tips, visit Love and Logic.

Replace Electronic Screens with Loving Relationships
“Kids don’t miss their computers and TVs near as much when they have parents who spend plenty of time with them playing catch, riding bikes, sledding, and doing other sorts of good old-fashioned things that build relationships.” – Dr. Charles Fay

Let your child’s favorite super hero be you! You are so much more entertaining then you’ll ever know. I challenge parents to play your favorite song super loud and dance with your child in a moment of wanting to give your child some screen time. Did you smile? Did your child laugh? I certainly hope so.

Do you think your family could live without TV? Check out this article to inspire a possible media fast in your life here.

Speak your mind…

Share with the Family Sponge community what you use to entertain yourself and your child instead of screen time. Do you see a difference in your child’s behavior when you let them watch TV? We want to hear it in the comments below.

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6 Responses to The Effects of Video and Computer Games on Kids

  1. Jenni McKay January 18, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    As a work-at-home mom running a business solo, I’ve struggled with letting my 2 year old watch some Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Word World (quasi-educational and very educational, IMO) while I keep my business afloat on the days I fly solo with him and his 4 month old brother. What I’ve decided is that it’s better to let him watch some TV and have him home with me than to limit his television intake and have him in daycare. (I do credit Word World as one of the variables helping him to already be sounding out words at 2, but I also credit the fact that my husband, my mother and I have all worked with him to develop his insane love of letters and words.) Sometimes I feel like I don’t really do either of my “jobs” as well as I could, but I just try to keep all of the balls up in the air and hope that my kids will some day appreciate how hard I work to be able to be there for every moment, even if I am distracted for a few of them. What do you think?

    • Jadah January 18, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

      Jenny, you are so right. I can completely relate on not doing either “job” well some days. Sometimes I am working, but not focused. I’m also not paying attention to my child. So those days I may slip into loser mode. 🙂

      Word World is on our rotation (S-hark is my favorite episode) and MMC teaches some pretty cool math concepts. My daughter has a love for letters and writing too (I’ve got to give Sight Words and Letter Factory props), so the fact that she is constantly learning even if I have to get some business work done, helps to ease my mind when I decide to let her watch a DVD.

      But what a joy it is to be able to be your child’s primary caregiver. My daughter has been in preschool full-time and part-time, but she is with me at home full-time right now. And just the other day someone asked her if she goes to school. She said, “No. But I get to spend a lot of time with my mom and dad. Well not really my dad because he’s at work all day. I like spending so much time with my mom.”

      I think the best thing is to set limits and check yourself. I find myself “escaping” beyond work into the realm of Facebook or a cool blog or “research.” I need to find the balance of “me time, “family time” and “work time.”

      I think your kids will be thankful for having you around. It also shows them what hard work looks like. Good luck with finding the balance that we as parents search for everyday!

  2. Rita@thissortaoldlife January 20, 2012 at 5:56 am #

    When my kids were young, I had no problem enforcing limits. No TV at all until about 3 (then only PBS), and limited computer (we did like Jump Start Toddler). Now that they’re teens, it’s much harder to enforce. And I realize I let them stay on screens longer than I should at times because I want to be on mine. Thanks for the (uncomfortable) reminder to stay tough and remember my priorities.

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