Video Games. Don’t you just hate them — or maybe you love them — whatever the case may be, video games are something every parents needs to think about at least once in their life.
More likely than not, if you have a few kids, the subject will come up regularly — so might as well take a moment to think about it now — because this is important stuff, people!
Recently our son went on a mandatory two week hiatus from video games. A funny thing happens when you let your kids “get bored” — they actually find lots of creative things to do with all that free time.
At first he complained about it, but eventually he got really creative in finding ways to have fun with his siblings. He actually created an entire strategy game — including a board and carefully devised rules — and then spent hour upon hour playing it with his siblings.
They’d laugh until late in the night, and then get up early the next morning to continue the game. To think that all that laughter, that fun, wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t required a mandatory hiatus. It sure gets you thinking.
It gets you thinking about video games. Frankly, I don’t like them. I just see them as a doorway that leads down a very slippery slope into a cavern of wasted time, forgotten dreams, and a deadening to the honest to goodness fun to be had in creative play or just hanging out.
I know — so dramatic. And if this is how I really feel, why do we still have video games? I have no idea. 🙁
It’s hard being a parent. If we’re being honest with ourselves, parenting is a bit of a crap shoot. Each child is so different, and what works with one, just might not work with the next. The truth is, video games are a huge draw for kids, and it can become an obsession, if you don’t keep it in check.
There is such a push to get kids on screens these days that it’s a hard fight to take on. It can be exhausting to always be the parent going against the tide. But you know what? There are a lot of us out there, and sometimes it’s good to know that we are not alone in the fight.
It’s our duty to help prepare our kids to make good choices with their lives. This preparation begins now — and in my opinion, video games are as good a place as any to begin.
There was a point in my life when I looked at my sweet little children with rosy cheeks, bright chocolatey brown eyes, and pudgy little hands and feet that literally were begging to be gnawed on by yours truly — and I vowed we would never, ever have video games in the house.
But then, they were introduced to it here or there — and I witnessed a few fun moments of kids dancing together to the wii or cousins laughing as they ran through a virtual obstacle course. And in a moment of weakness, we just sort of caved.
“Think of all the fun”, we said, and “What a great way to exercise in the winter” we said. But the thing is, video games promise a lot and deliver very little.
I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically evil about video games, but after having them in our house for a few years, I don’t think they have added anything extraordinary to our family life. In fact, I tend to see them as a very isolating and unsatisfying activity if not put in check on a regular basis.
We have put our own “checks” into place: video games once a week and no 1st person shooter games — that’s where we draw the line in the sand. And I know good families who allow 1st person shooter games. Not casting judgement here.
I just don’t see the positives outweighing the negatives with violent games. And I’ve allowed violent movies when I think the overall lesson is worth all that violence — so it’s not the violence that is the only factor.
I see a real danger in playing games that replace real heroism with a virtual kind. Games likes these just might hinder our kids from taking on the real hard work of true heroism in this world — and they are going to need to be heroic if they want to make a difference in this world of ours. For these reasons, we have determined it’s not worth allowing them in our house.
With those checks in place, we sort of tolerate video games around here — but I could name at least a hundred other activities that I would prefer to see my kids doing. And I know that those hundred other things are far more satisfying than staring at a screen.
But here’s where the positive comes in, when it comes to video games: these are opportunities to really share how our faith informs our decisions. No video game enters our house without research being done on my part and a discussion to follow.
It does take time to go to sites like PluggedIn.Com or Common Sense Media and do the research on every video game request that comes in — but how your kids spend their free time will shape them into the people they will become — so it’s worth the time.
These are great moments to talk about things that really matter — sit them down and have those discussions about why you don’t think a particular game is going to work for your family. It’s work, but these discussion are the positive that can come out of the video game struggle.
Before you know it, they’re going to be on their own making decisions for their own lives. We need to take advantage of these years by having these discussions and help them see the discernment process up close and personal.
Today it’s video games — tomorrow it might be gambling or pornography. This matters because it will help them with the really big things that are coming down the pike.
My oldest son is the one who seems especially into video games, and I do think it’s because he’s a boy and his buddies like to talk about video games more so than the girls.
And the thing is, there is something in a boy that wants to be a hero, the one that saves the day — I think God has put that in every boy’s heart. So for boys, all those war games are especially appealing.
And he always asks to buy them, and we always say no. And he’s clever — he finds the one first person shooter game that has to do with killing aliens — because he thinks that’s the loophole that just might convince us. Gotta admire the tenacity in this kid.
Then I do my research. I discover that there’s an “alien” in this particular game that looks an awful lot like a busty woman in skin-tight clothing. Apparently, She’s the helper to the mission leader and she needs to be in skin-tight clothing to allow her alien brain to work. 🙁 So it was a “no” for 2 reasons — objectification of the female form and violence.
But then my son found out there was a second version of this series which doesn’t have the scantily clad alien — and I was so sick of saying no to 99% of his requests that I thought to myself, “If there’s no scantily clad alien and it’s only killing aliens, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad” — and I started to waiver.
In a moment of weakness, I actually decided I’d go to the video game shop and take a closer look at his latest proposal. Before I left, I said a quick prayer, “Lord, help me to figure this one out”. And off we went.
We walked into the store and my son ran off to find the game. And I looked over at the clerk — a guy I’ve seen every time I come into the store. He’s kind of what you’d expect at a video game store: Nice, kind of quirky and funny, unusually pale because he probably lives in his parents’ basement and spends his waking hours playing video games. 🙁 Trying not to pass judgement here — it’s just a hunch I have about him.
But like I said, I really like this guy because he’s funny and quirky and knows everything about every game out there. Anyway, I look down to see my son running up with total excitement in his eyes.
Those chocolatey brown eyes he had as a baby are still there and they’re still hard to say no to. 🙁 And I really start to cave here — I mean, what could be so bad about blasting aliens, right?
So, I tell my son I’m going to ask the guy at the counter what he thinks. And this is where it gets interesting. That quirky video game guy — the one I’ve only ever seen in the store — is gone and in his place is a strong, buff, handsome young African-American man who seemed to be in his early 20’s.
I walked straight over to him and told him my dilemma — including the fact that I didn’t want scantily clad alien women and was against violent video games.
And then this sweet young guy looks me straight in the eyes and says, “Your boy is far too nice to be playing games like these. He really shouldn’t be playing this game.” Boom! Done and Done.
So I turned and walked over to son and asked, “Did you hear what that gentleman said? He said you’re way too nice for a game like this.”
And my son had heard, and he looked at me — knowing that the decision had been made for us. That man at the counter who spoke with such conviction had just made it clear that we just couldn’t buy that stupid game — even if we wanted to.
And as we turned back to the guy, he was nowhere to be found. I kid you not. By the time I turned back to the counter, he was gone. And up walks that same quirky guy I’ve seen there a half a dozen times.
I immediately look back at my son like “what just happened?” and we walked out of that shop with bewildered looks on our faces.
What is so great about that story is that it’s 100% true — and my son was there and witnessed it himself. And as we walked out of that store, I said to my son, “Your guardian angel said ‘no’ — that solves that problem”.
And to this day, whenever my son brings up another new game that seems to be the loophole to the rule of “no first person shooter games”, I just say, “You’re guardian angel says no”. And that’s all it takes.
Sometimes, I even switch it up and add, “or maybe that buff guy was my guardian angel.” To which my son will then reply, “No, mom — he was definitely my guardian angel”.
And all I have to say is “Thank you Lord”. When I was weak, You sent me an angel to help me, to guide me, and to give me strength. I said a simple prayer and you delivered.
And maybe that wasn’t my guardian angel — maybe it was just a very nice, young man who was raised by good parents and he just saw the desperation in my eyes and he helped me out when I was feeling weak. I really don’t know. You decide.
As for me and my son, we like to chock it up to guardian angel intervention.
This parenting thing — it’s not easy. Just remember, sometimes saying “no” is actually saying “yes” to something far greater in the lives of our kids. You can do this. Stay strong and keep parenting on!
Linking Up With Kelly