Friday, November 9, 2012

Zoned out 7 year old has too much screen time

What are your thoughts about computer games and how much a child should be on them? My son seems to always be on a game of some sort. The minute he comes home from school I barely get a hello before he’s involved in something on the computer. It’s driving me crazy. If I make a big deal about them he just gets mad and upset, and if I ban them he droops about saying how bored he is and drives me even more crazy. I feel like he’s wasting his life away, when he should be playing. He’s seven next month by the way.

Computer games, and with that I mean Nintendos, Wiis, hand held devices and gosh knows what other electronic gadgets are out there for entertainment for our children, are one of a modern family’s greatest challenges. There’s something about them that always feels off to a parent, as we watch our children become emotionally and sometimes physically charged up by them or simply watch them get into what my children and I call “the zone”, where they seem to disappear almost entirely. However, the way I see it, is that computers and gaming doesn’t have to be a situation of do or don’t, they don’t need banning as such, rather like a lot of things they need shifting in perspective.
We live in a world that relies on computers, quite honestly I don’t know where I would be without mine. Computers have sped up our world, and now we seem to multi task, think and communicate faster than ever before. Our children came purposefully at this time. They choose this new age with all its gadgets and gizmos. Therefore, in some ways, if we full out deny our children a chance to take part in this new, than we hold them back from understanding how others work around them and possibly what they partly came here to experience. However, like you’ve said, it can feel like wasting a life away, zoned out in a different reality.
For me, gaming and computers, also TV if you want to add it to the list, provide an amazing opportunity for us as parents. It’s a great lesson of awareness for ourselves and for our children and communication about how things make us feel is paramount. Life is about balance, and if a child occasionally needs to escape reality and enter a different world via the computer, that’s one thing, but if he sees it as that, and decides that’s what he needs, that’s a different story. Choosing the zone, and feeling your way there is an empowering choice, whereas usually children just drift there out of boredom and not knowing what to do. Ironically, it seems that the more they use computer games as amusement so they aren’t bored, the more bored they get when they aren’t infront of the computer. It’s an addiction and like all addiction, understanding it and admitting it is the first step.
Now, to your son.
First, if he thinks that life is boring when the computer is off, then the computer will have a lot more appeal and he will push harder against not having turned off. If you are determined he has some off time, then you will have more resistance to it being on, and that usually will result in you getting what you don’t want: The computer will be on a lot! Therefore, the place to put the attention isn’t on how to get the computer off, it’s how to make life more creative and exciting for your son, so he gets a sense of how wonderful life can be without the addiction of a game. Shift focus on creating fun and he’ll be off fast enough. Bake together, do crafts together, get a sensory table going, get messy, start going for walks, hikes, go explore, remind yourself of what it’s like to be him and see the world through his eyes, what does he love (other than computer) and see if you can physicalize it. If he likes bugs and science take him to a discovery centre or for a nature walk, get him (AND YOU) to a library or to tours, anything that sparks life and fun. If you want him to live creatively, then get creative.
When you have him having fun away from the screen, then mention to him that you love having fun with him. Tell him how you feel the computer takes him away. Talk to him about the zone, or how it changes the feeling of the house and then ask if you can come up with a deal, about what sort of games he plays and for how long. Get him to talk to you about the games he is playing, ask him about what he learns, find out about his world and what makes him love it so and then come up with a compromise so you are treating his wants with respect and vice versa.
Be the balance not the resistance. Also be honest with him and yourself. My daughters were getting into the zone once and then when I opened up the topic they said, “but mom, what about you and Facebook?” I had to look within myself and realized that yes, sometimes I had zoned out on my newsfeed. So, we talked about it and as a family promised we would do our best to not be zoned out and be more aware of the house. It meant there was no pushing against, simply working together.

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