There, I said it. My daughter has virtually unlimited access to video games, movies, and cartoons.
Of course, we still filter shows for age appropriateness (no Bratz here) and we don’t let her watch some shows that we find grating (sorry, Spongebob, you are SOL). But for things that I do deem ok, I don’t worry about.
I’ve tried a few times, but those attempts have been more about getting her to sit still and focus on one task than flipping between movies and games because she is bored.
And what is our reasoning for this? Well, to be honest, my husband and I are both gamers and electronics junkies.
All children and families are different, but games and TV sorta come with the package around here because that’s part of our interests. How can I in my right mind tell my daughter, “No you can’t watch a movie on the massive TV that takes up a whole wall in the living room.”
I’ve noticed some things about her though that lead me to believe that this is the right approach for us.
1) She’s not addicted. Sure she goes through periods where she is really into something (Pokemon is the current favorite), but what child doesn’t? She has no issue stopping and playing something else on her own.
2) She has other interests. She loves to play with modeling clay and is always excited about school. Math is her all time favorite subject and she picks that up super fast.
3) Despite all the shiny toys and electronics, her favorite game to play is Monopoly. Specifically, the “My Little Pony” themed version. What could be wrong in a world where a 4 year old prefers to play Monopoly than a video game? And I’m not talking kiddo Monopoly either!
4) When she goes to a friend’s house, or has a friend over, she isn’t fascinated by the TV or the computer like it’s some forbidden fruit. She has a healthy respect for the TV and games. Sure she likes sharing her favorite shows and games with her friends (like any child) but she loves just playing with her friends more, no matter what the activity. She has no trouble making friends or playing with other kids.
5) Video games are teaching her how to manage her frustration. I don’t sugar coat things in our house. And I have low tolerance for tantrums. So when she is playing a game and things don’t go her way (ie. she loses), I take advantage of the learning experience. Sometimes she has lost the privilege to play for the day if she acts out (hits or yells), but I am seeing an improvement in how she handles the frustration. I am constantly saying “If you are frustrated, take a break or go do something else,” and nothing makes me more proud than to see my daughter voluntarily put something down and come back to it later when she is ready to try again. (She’s also extremely stubborn and will not give up on a task until she figures it out).
6) We have conversations about what we she sees on TV and in her cartoons. She understands that while superheroes tend to punch others to get their way, that you should always try talking first or getting help from an adult. She also understands that superheroes, while they have super powers, aren’t better and that they get hurt and have bad days too. And she has no problem grasping the difference between reality and pretend, (She often says things like “Yeah Mom, but Pikachu isn’t REAL.”) and happily drifts between both.
7) One of her favorite TV shows is watching Cupcake wars with me. Seriously, what can be wrong with that?
I know there are other ways to teach children these lessons, but there is often this stigma that television and games will rot a child’s brains or deprive them of some sort of valuable life lessons (like the ones I mention above). And sure, there may be kids that really do not handle the “addictive” qualities of electronics well (just like there are kids that are allergic to gluten!), but it doesn’t mean that having electronics is something to be feared or ashamed of. (And my husband is proof that video games don’t dampen a love of reading!)
So how do you handle electronics in your house? Do you own a TV? (Obviously you own a computer if you are reading my blog!) Do you completely restrict the usage, or only limit it to certain times of the day? Please share in the comments, and be mindful and respectful of others views and opinions.