We often receive questions asking about all forms of video games. Parents of the past would ask, “Don’t these video games become addictive and cause kids to waste many precious hours of time? We bought a Play Station for our kids for Christmas, but I’m considering taking it back. I’m also thinking we should not have these temptations in our home.” In today’s day and age not only is it Play Station, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, there is constant access to gaming on their phones as well.
It is not necessarily the electronic device that is the problem. There are several possible problems with gaming left unpoliced. The first is inappropriate content from violence to sexually explicit content to predators in the games with online access. Thankfully, today’s games have a rating that is a good place to start your investigation for what is and isn’t inappropriate for your house and child’s age. Remember, just because something is wildly popular doesn’t mean it is appropriate for your child. We encourage you to do your homework on everything that is allowed into your home. I often explain to my kids that every family has different rules and parameters; “Just because so and so has a game doesn’t mean that it is appropriate for us.”
The second issue of hours being wasted can and should be turned into an opportunity to teach life lessons. Parents need to give their children the opportunity to learn to use time limits and time management. For example, maybe something like two or three hours per week for video games. This will force the child to decide when he will play. Knowing that he has a preset amount of time to play games will teach him to delay the gratification and save it for the weekend rather than use all of his game time on Monday afternoon. He will have to learn to schedule his time rather than just sit for hours at a game because he is bored. If the child violates the hours rule (and he will because he is a child), he is done for the week and has lost it for the next week as well. It is his choice and his responsibility to check in with mom and dad and also his responsibility to keep the time schedule. It is the parent’s responsibility to keep an eye on the clock and enforce the rule. It is also the parent’s responsibility to use modern-day toys to teach a much needed modern-day lesson.
It’s about time
Some might ask, “Wouldn’t it be easier just to avoid the game altogether? Why go through all this trouble?” Unfortunately it seems that “screens” are here to stay! Be it in the form of Xbox, phone or tablet, screen addiction is a real thing, as is the negative impact of too much screen time on our children’s development. The job of parenting calls us to “train up our children in the way they should go.” Some of the places our children will need to go in life include time management, delayed gratification and saying “No” to one’s own desires, including screens.
We have used an old phrase improperly. When you hear someone say, “It is about time!” you take it to mean frustration over something being late. This old phrase is truer than we can ever realize. Life is really about “time.”
Life boils down to how you spend your time, what you accomplish, and what time you budget for healthy recreation. Life also boils down to what time you spend alone with God and what time you give away for God. Life is about time and the management of our time, rather than the mindless wasting of the time allotted to us.
Our children are growing up in a world that is increasingly placing demands on their time. There are numerous things they can fill their lives with every hour of the day, but they cannot do it all. If we do not teach them to budget their time they will miss out on the things they are supposed to do… things they were really meant to do.
Use this year’s Christmas gifts to teach the important lessons they will need. When it comes to living a life that is pleasing to God, it is certainly about time!
Visit parentingonpurpose.org for more advice from Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts.