When video games first came out, I warned my readers that they were not appropriate for children. I maintained they were not games; rather, they produced stress and were addictive, literally. It was not a popular stance. Even my home paper, The Charlotte Observer, wrote an editorial critical of my position. Since then, my opinion has been confirmed by research, and hundreds of parents have shared with me their negative experiences with these nefarious devices. Their stories go in my "I Told You So" file. The following, written by the mother of several young children, is the latest addition.
The parents in question have always limited television-watching to weekend nights. Furthermore, their children have very few toys and those they do have are traditional and promote creative play (e.g., Lincoln Logs, "Legos"). The kids spend lots of time doing arts and crafts, inventing things, and making up games. For the most part, they get along very well. They have their squabbles, but they are rare and brief. The older children get good grades in school, do their chores without protest, and are respectful and obedient.
A while back, Dad said he wanted to buy the kids an X-Box for Christmas. Mom resisted at first, saying she'd heard that kids can become addicted to video games and that playing them can lead to aggressive behavior. In fact, the research indicates that those outcomes are fairly common. Nonetheless, Dad continued his campaign, and Mom finally relented. They agreed that the kids would only be allowed to play for a few hours a week.
Things started out fairly well, but went rapidly downhill. The children quickly became obsessed with their new "toy." Within a week, the first thing they were asking when they woke up in the morning was "Can we play the X-Box today?" When they played, there would be fighting and tears. When the parents turned it off, the kids would mope around and complain of having nothing to do. Were these the same children who, pre-X-Box, had never had a problem entertaining themselves? Actually, they were not the "same" children at all. They were beginning to exhibit addictive behavior, and as anyone who has ever lived with one will testify, an addict and the former non-addict are two entirely different people.
"Then," Mom writes, "my 5-year-old started telling me he didn't like school and didn't want to go. He even cried one morning. Only a few months previous he had loved school and couldn't wait to go. Needless to say, I was very alarmed.
"Keep in mind that my kids used to wake at 6:00 am and immediately dress and head down to their craft area to start building things and playing together. They always found ways to entertain themselves and I used to watch them and be amazed at how many different things they could dream up and how many games they could invent to play.
"I talked to my husband and he admitted he was beginning to question the wisdom of our decision. So we packed up the X-Box and put it away. There were some sad faces at first. This morning, however, we were all in the family room; my husband was reading the paper, my boys were all building a huge tower with their magnet building blocks and laughing and talking. It was just like it used to be on weekend mornings in our house."
I said to my husband, "Isn't this so much nicer than, 'Can we play the X-Box'" He said he was thinking the very same thing.
Mom ends her story with a warning to all parents: "I firmly believe that video games are dangerous to children and families. Do not buy one. You cannot control it."
Yep. I told you so.
*About the Author: John Rosemond has written nine best-selling parenting books and is one of America's busiest and most popular speakers, known for his sound advice, humor and easy, relaxed, engaging style. In the past few years, John has appeared on numerous national television programs including 20/20, Good Morning America, The View, Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect, Public Eye, The Today Show, CNN, and CBS Later Today.
http://www.rosemond.com/ to visit Rosemond's Web site, www.rosemond.com.