Gardening or Gaming--Gee, That's a Tough Choice...22 Jun, 2009 By: Thomas K. Arnold
Stop the presses! Monday begins with the earth-shattering announcement from the Pew Internet & American Life Project that a new study shows that 97% of all teens between the ages of 12 and 17 play video games. Gee, who would have thought....
What I find interesting, though, is that while the study says 90% of gamer parents know what they're kids are playing, just 13% believe that video games have a negative influence on their children's behavior.
I'm definitely in that 90%--my oldest son, 13-year-old Justin, loves Call of Duty, while the two younger boys, 11-year-old Conner and 7-year-old Hunter, like Wii Fitness and anything SpongeBob--but I'm not quite in the majority who believe there are no negative ramifications. The principal of my sons' school, Denise Coates, has an interesting view that makes more and more sense the more I think about it. The problem with video games, as she sees it, is that the only way to gain something--to win a prize, gold coins, advance in the game, you name it--is by hurting someone else. This can be as benign as SpongeBob zapping some strange sea creatures, or as realistic as the Call of Duty soldiers lobbing a grenade into an enemy encampment. In any event, it doesn't exactly send a good message to our children.
I ran this by another parent and she nodded in agreement, but then added, "I don't know what's worse, though--when we were kids we didn't blow each other up in video games, we shot each other with toy guns."
She's got a point, but I can't help but feel too much exposure to violence does tend to desensitize kids. I'm not for censorship of any fashion, mind you--just some parental control. And that's the approach I am taking. I'm not banning my kids from video games, but I am limiting their time in front of the screen and encouraging them to read, ride their bikes, play in the pool, etc. And when I'm home, I make sure we engage in some form of physical activity, from going to the beach and swimming, surfing or paddle-boarding to hiking, biking and kayaking. I'm also taking the boys to museums, to the zoo, to the harbor--anywhere that's part of the real world, not the virtual one.
And you know what? All this extra exercise and mental stimulation--heck, we even drove up to the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum a few weeks ago--is making me feel better, as well, both physically and mentally. Why, the other day I even let a little old lady merge into my lane instead of speeding up and honking had she tried to cut in.
I wonder if the boys would like to try gardening?