As most of you know, I am the mother of three awesome teenagers. My daughter is a sophomore in college; my middle child is a senior in high school, and my youngest is a freshman. I’ll throw my husband in the story, since he’s a kid at heart. Anyway, ever since I’ve been married, we’ve always had video game systems in the house. My husband bought Sega Genesis in 1991, and a couple of years later, a Sony Playstation. Since then, we’ve upgraded to Sony Playstation II, Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo Game Cube, X-Box 360, and Wii. There were also a few handhelds along the way as well. All these gaming systems, even the old ones are still operational. To say my children grew up playing video games is an understatement. When I was a young mother, studying to be a teacher, I got a lot of flack from my conservative mother friends for facilitating what was seen as the demise of my children. In the 90’s, the view was that video games were bad for children. They were too violent, too mature, and very anti-social. I guess I’m kind of a non-conformist, but I never really headed the advice of my friends and the media. I never really restricted my children from playing games because my observation about my own family was quite different than what I was hearing others say. These were my obeservations which convinced me that video games were good for our family:
Family bonding – my husband and my sons played together; they picked out the games, discussed the features, and spend a great deal of time laying on the family room floor with controllers in their hands – it’s the “together” part that seemed like it could only have a positive outcome.
More family bonding – my daughter who is outnumbered by the men in our family, has been known to actually be civil to her brothers on occasion – usually when they are playing video games.
Socializing – from the time my youngest could grasp an object, he had a game controller in his. His older brother would talk him through the process of finding a treasure, moving through the paths, slaying animated villians, and getting to the next level. Later, when my youngest was around 3, he was able to master games and he was the one explaining strategies to his then 6 year old brother. It was around that time that playdates emerged, and when the games were being played, they were always being played by several kids. From the next room, I could always hear non-stop chatter, yelling, cheering, booing….but never the silence of solitary play. “Video games make children anti-social,” my friends would say. Not in my house!
The development of higher level thinking skills – I will never forget something my older son said when he was around 10 about his younger brother who was around 7. “Only buy sports games. Rent adventure games – ‘cuz he’s at games where he has to figure stuff out – way better than me. He beats the games a few days after he starts playing them.”
Risking exposure to unscrupulous characters when they play online – The first time my older son played a game online, it was Madden (who knows what year) Football. He used a headset so he could interact with other players. In the middle of the game, he took his headset off with one hand and flung it to one side, still maintaining his concentration on the TV and his controller. When I asked him later about the headset he said, “I was playing with some “old man” (probably in his 20’s) and I was kicking his butt. I didn’t want to hear him swearing at me no more.” Ok…good choice. Since then, most of their online games are with offline friends who are across town, or across the hall in the dorm.
No impact on violent behavior – After a long news report about Columbine: “Mom,” my oldest son states when he was about 10, “I shoot video game guns with my thumbs, aiming at the television set. How does that teach me how to shoot a real gun with a trigger and want to kill my classmates?”
My kids are big now – really past the stage where my husband and I have much input on their gaming. I’m not the perfect mom, but to those way conservative parents who made me feel guilty, have you read this? I’m happy to report that my children are non-violent, well adjusted, honor-roll students, who have varied interests in sports and music and they all have dozens of friends. That is all.