My son spends too much time playing on computer games. There, I’ve said it.
The thing is, I know I’m not alone in feeling like a bad mum for allowing him to play his favourite games. Many of my friends also worry about the time their child spends in front of the X Box, Wii-u and Playstation.
The trouble is I also know that as parents we are pretty much to blame. We bought my son the Wii-u for his birthday and we buy an array of computer games for him every Christmas. And, while I don’t have the time or inclination to play these games, my husband is hardly setting the right example as he sits glued to Candy Crush while pretending to watch the latest TV thriller next to me on the sofa!
Now, don’t get me wrong. We’re not entirely inept as parents. Our son is funny, smart and well mannered. He does his homework on time, helps around the house (albeit reluctantly) and has a nice group of friends.
So, what am I worrying about? Video games are entertaining and they can be beneficial to children in many ways. They can be educational, improve special navigation, memory formation and help with fine motor skills in the hands.
The problem is the number of hours he spends on these games. There’s lots of research which says that more than four hours with no break is excessive. They say it can result in a child who is moody, possibly violent and anti-social.
I suppose it all comes down to the old saying ‘everything in moderation’ so I hatched a plan to encourage my son to spend less time on these games:
I invited his friends round to hang out. I thought they could kick a football around or chill in the local café. They didn’t. They walked zombie-like into the end room to play on the Wii-u! An epic fail on my part! Oh well, at least I could hear them chatting and laughing together as they played.
I bought a board game which requires strategic thinking which would appeal to the whole family as we frighteningly competitive. We even dragged my teenage daughter in to play. It went on and on and resulted in some petty arguments before my son and daughter both flounced off. In short, it was a disaster!
Running out of ideas, I turned to a group of friends for ideas and we realised we wanted out children to take part in an activity that is fun and sociable.
It is at this point in my story that I should tell you about my 15-year-old daughter. Why doesn’t she spend all her time on games, I wondered? And then I realised. Her spare time is taken up with her hobbies: singing, dancing and acting. She joined our local Stagecoach Theatre Arts school years ago and it has been the making of her. She has a lovely group of friends and an outlet for the stress she sometimes feels when revising for her GCSEs. Sure she can sometimes be moody, but the grumpiness somehow dissolves after a session of dancing or singing!
It never dawned on me that my son could have joined Stagecoach too. I doubt he would consider it now that he is a teenager, but he would have loved the camaraderie and learning new skills if he’d joined when he was at primary school.
I am delighted to say that I have found a way to get my son out of the house a bit more. My friends and I have enrolled our sons as a group to play tennis at a local low-cost tennis club. It’s sociable, competitive and fun – and they love it.
Of course he still plays computer games but now it is as part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
Now all I need to do is cure my husband of his Candy Crush addiction!