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Parents Talk: Video Game Deprivation

Does depriving your kids of video games build character? Or does it simply cost them friends?

We were having The Talk. Our boys were telling us something that to them had long been obvious, but to which we’d been oblivious.

Their friends weren’t coming over anymore because there was nothing to do at our house.

And by that, of course, they meant we didn’t have a video game system.

The discussion wasn't an epic battle on the order of Mortal Kombat: Parental Deprivation. That might have been easier to deal with, in a way.

Instead, our young teen boys' message had a quiet, measured tone, as they were clearly resigned to the idea that our household was never going to be blessed with a game system. Years of hearing our dismissive (if ignorant) remarks about video games had led them to that silent conclusion.

They were simply cluing us in to the social costs of our unspoken, and they figured unbendable, ban. 

In perhaps classic Minnesota passive-aggressive parenting style, we had never officially instituted a ban on video game systems, but we'd made it clear in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that they wouldn't be welcome in our house.

There were sporadically enforced rules on screen time. We rolled our eyes at their tales of epic video battles at friends' houses. Options like going outside or reading a book were highly encouraged.

Were we happy to avoid another wallet-taxing distraction? Yes, we were.

Were we willing to make our family social outliers for the peace and quiet of a home free of video-game explosions and jingles? Yes, we were.

Were we being old fuddy-duddies? Yes, we were.

They've adjusted, and probably the harm wasn't permanent. But should we have put aside our feelings against this new-fangled form of fun and listened when our boys sat us down and explained the modern facts of kid life?

Chris Buckley January 10, 2012 at 06:20 PM
The only universal truth that exists regarding parental controls is that there is no such thing as a parental control system that is both simple enough for the parents to understand, and complex enough that your average teenager can't find a workaround. There is absolutely no substitute for observing your child's use of games/computers/Internet. When you rely on technology to monitor your children, you have ceased parenting, and have hired a techno-nanny. Are video games bad for kids? I doubt online comments are going to provide any new evidence on either side of the argument. Too much of anything is a bad thing, but cutting them off from their social circles isn't going to help matters much. I'm sure those clever kids will find some parent that feels differently, and they'll all be over at *that* house. Now all you've lost is the ability to responsibly monitor your children's activities. It is easy to look at the situation and blame those no-good modern kids and their addiction to games for all the ills of modern society. But isn't it a little naive to think that you are the first parent in the history of humanity that actually understands the social nuances of the next generation? How ridiculous do *your* elders think the idea of spending time to type comments into the computy-box is? If we don't like the world our children live in, we have only ourselves to blame for creating it. We certainly have no right to hold it against them.
William Wells III January 10, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Only 47... we didn't have those things growing up. I DID have an AM Radio... and a couple of "Walkie Talkies". We had to ASK to use them... and the answer wasn't always "Yes". It's sad that if kids don't have a video game console it results in the idea that there's "nothing to do". We went outside... rode our bikes... tossed the football or baseball around. We lived...
William Wells III January 10, 2012 at 08:02 PM
HA! Clare... that's funny... and true. BTW... I did take time from playing a little XBox Live CODMW3 to post a comment below. :-)
Amy Paddock January 10, 2012 at 11:04 PM
I am with you. We did have "Pong" when it came out. lol Not exactly the same now, is it? We also went out side, built underground tunnels, tree forts, built ice rinks, dirt bikes and played sports of all kinds. But, I am okay if its a mix. My own didn't seem to care for them much, so I didn't have the tug of war on that subject, but plenty of others. Oh, and I too had one for those AM radios - the funny round orange one. I hid it under my pillow, but not from my parents. I had siblings that closely resembled the TV show family "Malcom In the Middle", so hiding "valuables" like radios and yo-yo's was a necessity .
Paul Pleiss January 17, 2012 at 12:40 AM
I don't think that it's a pointless gesture that costs friends, or a character building depravation. More likely it's somewhere in the middle. If having a video game console costs you friends, then I wouldn't be too concerned with the friends their loosing. I had friends growing up who couldn't watch TV or who could only play x number of hours of video games or parents who wouldn't even let us come play inside. Kids don't need video games.

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