After doing a lot of investigating about video games and their effect on kids, I realized that limiting kids playing video games has a much more deleterious impact on kids than letting them play video games unfettered by parent oversight. Here’s why:
1. Game time is about respect.
When you tell kids they can’t do what they like, you tell them they have poor judgment. The whole point of child-directed learning is to tell kids that they have a good sense of what is interesting to them and they should respect that in themselves.
I noticed that when people ask me why we don’t teach subjects in our homeschooling, I’d say, “I trust my kids to figure out what they want to learn, and I’ll help them learn it. Passion isn’t divided into school subjects.”
Then invariably one of my kids would yell out, “So why can’t we play video games?!?!?!?”
And the adult would laugh, but I would think, “Yeah. It’s a good question.”
2. Artificial scarcity gives artificial value to game time.
Limits on something enjoyable make the person nuts about the thing. This is true in diets. If you tell someone they can never have sugar again they go nuts about sugar. Most people can manage themselves eating a reasonable amount of sugar and be fine.
The same is true with video games. Once I told my boys they could play video games whenever they wanted, they actually talked about it less and obsessed about it less, because they knew it would always be there for them if they wanted. No begging for more time, no negotiating, no screaming at someone to be quiet because the noise is interfering with video game time. Taking away scarcity took away a lot of the power of video games.
3. Creativity comes from a sense of freedom.
When the kids had unlimited video time they were not as anxious about getting to the next level while they were playing. They didn’t feel a time crunch. They were more willing to try other things with their DS. For example, they tried taking pictures, creating a Mii (their own avatar), and joining multi-player games on levels they were not necessarily working on.
The biggest surprise was that my kids started using the video recorder on one DS to record a kid playing on the other DS. For those of you who don’t know, there is a huge culture of people recording themselves playing video games and posting it on YouTube. My kids love watching those videos, and now that video game time is not so precious, my kids are making those videos.
It has been a joy to watch family tensions go down and creativity go up as a result of unlimited game time.