Mindless Video Games versus Parental Sacrifice and Playing Pretend

My eldest child is turning six on Monday. My sister called me and said that the aunts and uncles are planning on going in on a gift together, how would he like a portable video game console (ok, she actually asked if he wanted a “Nintendo or whatever”- the phrase we both commonly used, as we started with Nintendo as children, and stopped playing back when Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis were still the go to consoles).  My first thought was that he was too young for video games; my second was how quiet and relaxing it would be to fly home from Montreal next week if my incredibly energetic, curious, and chatty son had a handheld game to keep him occupied. The crayons, coloring books, mini action figures, snacks and other items failed to hold his attention for the 3 hour flight plus airport waiting time when we went last month, especially after waking up at 5am. After remembering that my brothers and I began playing Nintendo at the age of five, I started to consider her offer.

As I perused the game consoles at Target, I was put off by both the cost (who spends $150-250 for a console, then $30+ per game for a 5 year old??? Oh right, the countless parents desperate for some peace and quiet so they can work, clean, read, take a shower, engage in anything remotely entertaining for themselves) and the violent array of games, which my superhero-obsessed son would have surely wanted. I called my sister back and told her to get him a costume, superhero figurines, puzzles, etc. instead, since he absolutely loves to play dress-up and pretend.

I’m sure that I won’t be able to keep him from the gaming world forever, but I can push it off as long as possible, and limit the amount of time he spends playing. For now, I can limit his possessions to those that encourage creativity and physical activity. I can also opt for an educational game console instead of a straight video game console when the time does come. Parents get a lot of blame for content type and usage when it comes to technology and media exposure, and rightfully so. It is very easy to get swept away in what is easy, especially in a generation where our plates are enormously full with work, school, children, the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment, and so on.

I credit my studies, in both psychology and communications, for opening my eyes to the dangers. Unfortunately, though spouted in the news from time-to-time (usually after a school shooting, when people are frantic to place blame away from the parents, schools, community, etc.), this information doesn’t seem to be substantial or moving enough. Elementary school kids have cell phones, iPods, iPads, DS3s, countless video games, movies, and so on. My son has already asked me for both a cell phone and an iPad. I want him to be technologically savvy, especially given the enormous role that it has in our lives. But I want him to (pretend to) scale tall buildings, shoot lasers out of his eyes, and webs out of his wrists even more, at least for now.

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