The Electronic Babysitter: video Games, computer Games, iPad Games, iPhone games etc.
The list is just endless, and I’m sure there are many other avenues for this mindless amusement that I’ve failed to list, but I’m more than happy to remain ignorant of them.
Given my ignorance, it’s no surprise then that video games and I do not mix. We do not play well, we are not friends. In fact, we are anything but friends and have never been so. I vehemently detest anything associated with them and so far they have been the single contributing factor of relationship distress in my own household.. boys and their toys.
Naturally, I’m also not a big fan of video games being prevalent in the workplace either. I don’t believe that they should be relied upon as ‘electronic babysitters’ nor should they be advocated as suitable activities for young children. Yes there are some great educational apps and activities available these days that are quite beneficial, but I’m willing to say that these are the exception and should be used sparingly in certain situations. This is because all too often I hear, ‘my iPad has no battery.. I’m bor-rr-ed’ or ‘there’s nothing on t.v.. I’m bor-rr-ed’ or ‘she won’t let me have a turn on the game, that’s not fair! I’m bor-rr-ed..’.
I hear these expressions and I find it very difficult to comprehend and relate to. As a child I could amuse myself for hours, perfectly happy to draw or read or invent my own stories and do some arts n crafts. I could be lost in the imagination of my own head for days, wanting to see out the characters and their story-line. I did these activities often by myself, without adult prompting or guidance and often without direct adult supervision. Now as an adult, I find that I am perfectly content in my own company and need not look to other people to stimulate my own amusement and satisfaction. Whether this is a product of my activities as a child I can’t be sure but I’m willing to wager a guess and say that they would have indeed contributed.
It seems that such is not the case for most children today, having drawn this conclusion from experiencing the pleasure of babysitting and nannying tons of kids of varying ages. They are all too reliant upon a routine of tv time and iPad time and heaven forbid they should miss their window of opportunity on Minecraft before it closes. I find that this is to the detriment of other activities and opportunities to engage and learn. Children prefer to play a game on their iPad than join me outside in the garden to do hand stands and look for lady beetles. They are convinced that it’s not going to be as fun. It’s only after I physically pick them up and drop them out in the garden or the pool or onto the trampoline and immerse them in the fun that they realise their perspective was wrong.
Of course, this is not a new concept either. Children can be very strong in their convictions and will take every opportunity to stand their ground, often not wanting to budge on their standpoint even when they know they are wrong. I take full opportunity to challenge this and prove them wrong every time. Check mate!
But what to do when kids are given (parental approval) to spend numerous hours, in a row, of their day with these mind numbing electronic babysitters? What to do when we find ourselves blissfully on Summer school holidays and yet under house arrest indoors because ‘children are so tired from school and extra curricular activities that they don’t want to go anywhere or do anything,’ (read: I’m lazy, I want to play games). And whilst I’m aware that as the adult and the one in charge, I could just put my foot down and say ‘No, we’re going to do X, Y, Z today’ (and I do sometimes), I’m still left baffled that I must resort to these methods in the first place.
Whatever the reasons may be, and as much as the likes of the BF and Miss Charlie like to insist that they are in fact of value because they teach essential problem solving skills, all I see is that children (and big children):
- become disengaged,
- they ‘forget’ their responsibilities and duties
- they don’t communicate effectively
- they experience troubles winding down and going to sleep at night
- they don’t engage in the same imaginative and constructive play that other kids do
- they’re easily wound up and irritable
- they lose all ability to rationalise and participate in mature thought processes
- they become desensitised to concepts of violence and evil
- and a bunch of other things.
Additionally, as much as the argument of problem solving may be relevant, I counter that argument by saying that problem solving skills are available for the taking in almost all activities if given the chance. Why sit inside locked on a screen to the detriment of all else, just to get problem solving skills when you could get the same benefit, and a host of other benefits, by doing something else?
So to answer Miss Charlie’s question from this morning, when she lost her game on Moshi Monsters and wept in tears:
No, I’m not sorry. It’s unfortunate that you lost your game and must deal with feelings of ‘sadness’, but facing firsthand the idea that you will not always win is not necessarily a bad thing.
Also, in an hour or so when I pick you up and chuck you into the car and take you off to the park or the beach and you complain, just remember:
‘You don’t always get what you want in life. Learn that now and you’ll be set. Besides, you’re six, you change your mind as to what you want every 5 minutes. How am I possibly supposed to please?
– Anyone else share my opinion?
– Or, please feel free to counter my opinion. I can’t promise I’ll budge, but I’m willing to hear an alternate viewpoint.
- Are Educational iPad Games Really Educational? (livescience.com)
- Science Supports Using Video Games as a Babysitter* (ivoter.com)
- Violence in Video Games Debate (jasonironsblog.wordpress.com)
- Is it time to take the iPad away from your kid? (theprovince.com)
- iPads in the Classroom, Pros and Cons (kirasimonsjags.wordpress.com)