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Fayette-Mom: When video games are all a boy wants from Santa

Posted November 28, 2011

Jennifer Joyner

It’s rather amusing to watch my kids labor over their Santa lists. They’ll see a commercial on TV or eye something in a catalog, then race to add their latest wish to the letter they plan to send to the North Pole. When I remind them that Santa has lots of kids to provide for, they agonize over what to leave on their list and what to eliminate. My daughter heaved a sigh last night, saying “I can’t decide. I’ll just give Santa lots to choose from.”

My son, however, is not torn in the least. His entire list is made up of video games. “How about a new scooter?” I’ll suggest, or “Hey, you know, we really need a basketball goal.” I’m pushing anything and everything that doesn’t involve animation or cool sound effects, but I’m not having much luck. Eli, I’m afraid, is a screen addict.

And now it’s my turn to sigh. I could see this coming, had heard all the warnings from experienced parents. As my kids got older, we limited time spent on the computer and we resisted even introducing the idea of video games for as long as we could. And with Emma, we were successful. She watches only a small amount of television and has never had an interest in Wii or handheld games. She’d much rather spend her free time using her imagination and being creative. We couldn’t be happier.

But her brother, he has always been drawn to “screens." Whether it be TV, computer, or phones, it really doesn’t matter. A dream day for him would be time spent bouncing from online games to Nintendo 3DS, with a little Wii and his favorite shows thrown in for good measure.

Of course, I cannot and have not allowed him to do this. In fact, I’ve had to severely limit the minutes he’s allowed to do any of those things. I very plainly explained to him that too much screen time is bad for you, and we have to balance our days with learning, exercise, imaginative play and spending time with family.

He gets it, and he dutifully goes into the backyard after school, having pretend light saber fights and scavenger hunts. But, he watches the clock, biding his time until he’s met all of my requirements so he can partake in his electronic allotment. It is quite clear where his preferences lie.

I’m hoping it will pass. But let’s be honest, today’s world is built around technology and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. We’re trying to set good examples for our kids — leaving the TVs turned off and letting them see us using free time to read or exercise. Maybe if Eli sees his parents using screens sparingly, it will somehow rub off??? One can only hope…

In the meantime, I’m hoping Santa will find the coolest scooter a boy can have.

Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in 2010. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.

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  • Platinum Nov 30, 2011

    Desiderata, seriously, you need to read the poem Desiderata again! "Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence...Speak your truth quietly and clearly..." Is your screen name supposed to be ironic???

  • Desiderata Nov 30, 2011

    If your kid only wants video games from Santa, YOU HAVE FAILED MISERABLY AS A PARENT! You are teaching and encouraging materialism , as if we don't have enought kids getting into trouble trying to get the cash to buy electronics, or steal them,, steal from others to sell items to get what they want.. NO WONDER THIS ECONOMY IS HOW IT IS! THANKS FOR NOTHING!

  • edith wharton Nov 30, 2011

    I empathize, since I had a seriously screen-addicted son as well. My girls were no problem but my son, the oldest, was seriously hooked at a very young age. We tried to limit his time as much as possible, but when he was in middle school he resisted this badly and my husband had to build a box with a padlock to lock his systems away when he wasn't supposed to play. Of course, then we had major battles over internet games, which were just becoming popular (he is now 25).

    On the plus side, he turned into a great hacker and knows more about computers than anyone else I know. He now has a GREAT job with a technology company (actually two great jobs, one part-time with a computer company). So, was the gaming a bad thing? Not necessarily.

    I'm glad we fought the good fight, since he has many other interests now, including the outdoors and board games. It was hard, though, very, very hard. Sometimes ugly. But being a good parent almost never makes you popular. Be strong! :)

  • Platinum Nov 29, 2011

    I also think that sometimes it's at least as important to monitor the content, not just the amount of time on video/computer games. Some are truly educational, or at least neutral - but others are very violent or inappropriate in other ways. I was surprised to learn that the male classmates of my second-grade daughter regularly played games like Call of Duty or Mortal Kombat. My 13-year old son is still allowed to play only football and baseball games, and a fishing game on XBox called Rapala. I've told my kids that any game where the object is to hurt or kill another human being does not fit in with our "family values". I definitely think you're doing the right things and you seem willing to enforce your boundaries, which unfortunately a lot of parents aren't doing. You're being a good mom! It's not easy these days.

  • lucasd06 Nov 29, 2011

    I was that boy only 15 years ago on my Gameboy and N64. My parents did the same thing by limiting my "screen time" to 4 hours per week. I learned that life consisted of more than my games. Just continue to be firm about the restrictions and you'll have nothing to worry about. It is the people who are not exposed to anything EXCEPT video games that have problems.

  • karmstr9 Nov 29, 2011

    Have you ever taken your son to the free Lego builds at the Lego store in Crabtree mall? it happens on the first Tuesday of every month between 5:00pm and 7:00pm. Make sure you get there early! In December they are building a Nutcracker - see link for details

    Have fun!

  • karmstr9 Nov 29, 2011

    There are lots of boys that are "drawn" to electronic things. Boys are geared that way more than girls. My suggestion is to figure out what interests him the most that is not "plugged-in". i have a twelve year old that loves video games and "screens" but he also loves to sit down and play a board or card game quite often too. He loves Legos and loves to build. I took all three of my kids to Lego Fest and they built in the Lego pile for over an hour. Every child is different. I look for free or inexpensive venues for the kids to spark their interest in another direction. We even went to the Cary Town Band event and the kids loved it because it was a big band tribute - something they have not heard much of in everyday life. Keep trying! He may surprise you!