My kids have played games on occasion: On a cousin's phone for a few minutes here or there; on the ipads at Staples when I need to make a stop for some school/office supplies; on my sister's Wii once in a long while; random times like that. The kids used to complain that we didn't have video games at home, because they'd like to play them, but over time they've stopped complaining - in part because we have simply said no, and in part because the boys have observed for themselves that a few of their friends can be rather boring because all they want to talk about or play with is video games. Given a choice, however, all three would likely want to own a gaming system.
So in this context, imagine Matthew's delight when the Church Christmas party that he attended last night was a video game night...he was pumped. He was given a choice of three Christmas parties that he could attend for his age group at church, and he chose the video game night (over a games' night and a cookie-baking night).
Geoff and I had no problem with that; in fact, we were happy for him to choose this kind of party. We're not actually against all video gaming; some of them we think are educational and can teach a skill set that might benefit our kids. We just happen to think that there's time for all of that yet, that there's too much likelihood of addiction at this point, and that whatever educational component can be gained from video games is outweighed by the learning and fun to be had from being involved in other activities.
Whatever...every family makes its own decisions about video games...it's just kinda where we're at and so far it's been ok for us. We'll re-evaluate as needed, and when the time comes.
What is interesting to me this morning is Matthew's reaction to last night...in fact, as he was talking, I pulled out my computer and had him repeat what he'd just said so that I could write it down here.
Here's what he said:
Mom, I'm never going to play that many video games again. I had a really good time and I'm glad I went and I'm glad I played all of those games. It was really fun. But I noticed that I didn't actually talk much to other kids, and I ended up eating while I was playing games and didn't even notice how much I was eating. And I had a terrible sleep because all night I felt like my hands had to keep moving and my body was vibrating like it was humming and all I could think and dream about was playing video games.Now, I'm not naive enough to think that his resolution about not playing video games like that again will last. I fully expect that he'll want to play them again...and likely for hours at a time. I'd also happily support his going to another party like this and I'm glad he went.
But I was fascinated by his observations about himself following his first at-length indulgence in video gaming. Not many kids today are as old as Matthew (10) when first playing video games for an extended period of time, and so they might not be able to articulate as well the effects of the experience. I wonder, to be honest, how many other kids unconsciously have similar experiences when they play video games for an evening just before going to bed. I have read over and over (because I often second guess our stand on video games) that video games don't affect kids...but Matthew's observations rather confirm my own gut feeling...how can they NOT affect our kids? Maybe kids get immune to these kinds of effects - that's certainly possible...I don't know. But if that's true, I'm not sure I want my kids getting accustomed to these kinds of effects at this tender age.
Anyway, I had my own two observations about Matthew during the night.
First, even though he went to bed later than usual because of the party, and even though he yawned all the way home, it took him almost 90 minutes to fall asleep and he was restless and fidgety during those times (and I know this because he sleeps on the floor of our bedroom these days and so I was in the room with him as usual).
Second, Geoff and I were up twice during the night because Matthew had two vomiting episodes and we had to shower him and change bedding and get out the wet vac to clean the carpet, etc etc. Matthew's always been a highly sensitive kid, including in his physical body, and we've experienced many times over the course of his ten years that if he overeats, or eats too much junky food, he throws up during the night. But he hasn't done this for quite a while, and I have wondered from time to time if we were done with the high body sensitivity. But I guess not...I guess we've just gotten way better, over the years, at helping him learn how to manage what he eats. Last night, particularly given what he said this morning about over-eating, I figure the vomiting was because the video games dulled his consciousness about what he was eating and how much.
Anyway, I have no regrets about last night...in fact, I'd do it again in a heart beat. I figured that if ever video-gaming was to be done relatively safely, it would be within the context of a church-led party. There were some lovely people there last night - kids and leaders. We are also trying really hard to help Matthew build friendships at church, and we have terrific leaders of Matthew's age group who are working on this with us. I also think it's awesome for Matthew to figure out his own reaction to video games.
So no, no regrets at all. I would, however, be happy for Matthew to share his observations with his slightly-younger brother!