Limiting video games is delusional

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.

64 replies
  1. Laura McDonald
    Laura McDonald says:

    Do you have limits on the types of games the boys are allowed to play? I’ve noticed when my boys play sports type video games, they are more likely to go outside when they tire of the game and recreate the game in the backyard. When they play war type games, they are more likely to fight and be irritable with each other afterwards. I’m in agreement with not limiting the time, I just haven’t figured out the limitations on the content.

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      This is a great question. We have struggled with this issue in our house as well. I don’t limit game types but will not not allow games that portray realistic violence or have a lot of profanity- fantasy stuff is mostly okay. For example – my boys are allowed to play the Halo games which are fantasy shooters but nothing like Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty which are too true to real life for my taste. It’s all decided on a case by case basis. Fortunately at their ages (10 & 7) they are not yet interested in the more hardcore stuff.

  2. Gwen
    Gwen says:

    My kids play a lot of video games. They play WoW with their daddy and they play other online games too. (We also play a lot of board games in the family, so this is not surprising.)

    All of our computers are in the living room so I have a vague idea of what they’re doing at any given time.

    One day I heard Anna babbling to Quinn about ATP and mitochondria and free radicals and trade offs. What’s more, according to my knowledge of cell biology, she was babbling accurately.

    So, due to their ability to look for games by themselves, and me letting them, the kids unwittingly learned some biochemistry I didn’t learn until college.

  3. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I agree with much of what you say here but how much video game time are we talking about here? How much time is spent learning on video games relative to other learning methods? I agree that children learn from video games but I think their learning should be diversified so as to come from as many different sources as possible. Let’s not forget and it’s good to know that there’s other things that they want to do and learn as well as things you want them to do and experience such as playing their musical instruments, swimming lessons, skate boarding, etc.

  4. Bryan
    Bryan says:

    For someone who said, less than a week ago, “Panacea? There aren’t those in the world.”, an awful lot of your posts lately show a very Manichean outlook. Kids are different. Some do, in fact, have good judgement. Others will, given the chance, do themselves serious harm. Ask me sometime about my friends who had to stop having wine in the house because their (otherwise extremely self directed and brilliant) 5-year-old son would throw a tantrum if he didn’t get a glass too. Parenting is hard because there is no one right way.

    As for video games specifically, I’d just like to second this comment from your previous thread:

    • R
      R says:

      I’m glad to have just learned the word “Manichean”. It’s a concept I’ve often wanted to express before, didn’t know there was a word for it. Thanks!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I’m thrilled to tell you that I spent my whole freshman year of college studying St. Augustine and the Manicheans. Periodically I pepper my posts with references to St Augustine, but no one has done that back to me. I’m so excited by the reference that I don’t even mind the criticism.


  5. Mark K
    Mark K says:

    Your enthusiasm is delightful Penelope.

    Since your boys play games together that you don’t seem too interested in, I hope you put the time to good use and get some much needed personal time. Just as they need time of their own, your being your best requires carving out time to reflect and process, then express yourself through writing. I hope this approach brings that more into balance for you. Sounds like this change has good potential to benefit everyone.

    Opportunities will probably come your way later on, as your boys play different games, to play with them. I recommend you try that some time. I had to overcome a lifelong bias that video games were a complete waste of time for me, and I’m glad I did overcome it. I discovered that gaming with your child gives you a great chance to do something fun, safe, and inexpensive with your kids. So often the only things we parents do with kids fall under the category or work and chores.

    I look forward to x-box games in the the Elder Scrolls series like Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, along with Mass Effect, Dragon Age (all fantasy epics akin to “Lord of The Rings” in breadth) and Halo (more like playing army), not just because they’re fun–they are–but because each one represents an opportunity to enjoy many hours playing them with my son. There’s lots of things we’ve done together as he has grown up, but gaming has provided so many hours of shared time, just having fun together; that is a lasting treasure I savor even more now that my son is getting older.

    • Kat
      Kat says:

      Your words really put my mind at rest today. As an etremely ‘anti’ person in a previous life! I have been suprised how much I have changed my mind around computers and gaming. My oldest boy (8) had significant health issues as a baby and as a result is very slight of build. He has shown a remarkable apptitude with all things digital! I have never discouraged it with him and his brother (7). I have been pretty strict about the amount of time I allow on screen per day (2 hours), but today I am letting him play his new Xmas game (Skylanders Wii) all day as I am tired too…his younger brother (7) is not so interested and is watching films on T.V. It feels fine, but there is a little voice saying “we live out in the country and it is not raining and they definately get a pale gaunt look after a few hours!!”. My husband, who is a mechanic, also enjoys retro Tomytronic, Big Trax etc. so they get a dose of the history! We do worry about what the future holds and talk about getting Son1 an Xbox next year….there are a few games that Dad would also like to play with him!….now where near the mobile communications stage yet…probably be totally new again by the time we will let them into that world. So far we only use the internet for reasearch for school and they do not seem that interested. Very interesting thread. I am going to continue to be interested in it and do what is feels o.k. for us as time and technology develop. We all obviously care about our kids (otherwise we would not be here!) and I seem to remember hours in front a telly as a teenager……

  6. Susan
    Susan says:

    While I understand trusting our children to learn what they need to learn (we are mostly unschoolers ourselves), there are still things which need to be developed (other than academics and creativity)which I don’t think any person of ANY age can develop except by restraint in the form of RESPONSIBILITY and SELF-CONTROL!!! Sure, I’d love to spend all day on the computer or reading a good book, and would learn so many things from these. However, I have other responsibilities vying for my attention, so I must use restraint, a.k.a., self-control. Kids don’t naturally have this (really!) which is why it is our responsibility as parents to teach them the necessity of it. And guess what? There’s only one way to teach that: give them plenty of responsibiltiy which will of necessity teach them to budget their time. Why should children even have all of this unlimited free time to play video games to begin with?

    I am the mom of ten children ages 5-26, all of whom were homeschooled. Two have graduated college, 2 are currently in college, and the rest are home except for one boy who is in a high school. We have always had a very loose homeschool where most everything is learned in a very natural way, mostly through play. Right now my 4 youngest kids are “playing school” since my 5-year-old nearly jumped for joy when he saw the mailman deliver his new workbooks which he begged me to order for him. (Not kidding!) My kids love “school” because it’s not required in a stiff, sterile way. They just learn through play, mostly NOT on the computer or through video games, but through imaginative, hands-on fun, including board games. And there are a LOT of good ones out there which develop deductive reasoning, logic, spatial skills, etc.

    That said, they do have responsibilities in the form of chores (dishes, doing the laundry, folding their own laundry, etc.)and a minimum amount of school work (and I mean minimum, as in a little math and a little of anything else); and it is only after their responsibilities have been met do they get the privilege of computer or any other electronic media, and these are still not privileges given every day, but once in a while and on weekends.

    They don’t own DS-es. They own cameras. They produce REAL videos. They don’t video people playing games. (And why anyone would even want to watch someone else playing a game is beyond me!) So while you (Penelope) might feel good about the fact that your kids are doing that, I say it’s a bunch of baloney! Where is the creativity in filming someone else playing a game? There is none! You are deceiving yourself to believe otherwise. Maybe deep down you actually feel guilty about your new rule of unrestricted video play, and since they discovered the video button you are telling yourself they are now, somehow, creative geniuses! (Get those boys a camera!)

    Hear this: It is okay to say “no.” In fact, it is your responsibility to say no to some things. It really will not damage them or hinder them in any way but will make them people of CHARACTER who are responsible citizens, knowing how to not give in to every passion which strikes their fancy (drugs, alcohol, pornography, overeating, and pure laziness to name a few).

    By the way, aren’t there health risks associated with too much exposure to these little DS games? Aren’t there written WARNINGS on these devices? Why would you think you can allow your kids free, unlimited access to something which, in excess, could be HARMFUL to their health? We don’t allow our kids unlimited access to sugar, do we? Of course not! We know that too much is harmful, so we limit their intake. Why should this be any different? Sure, a bowl of ice cream or a piece of cake is one thing, but kids do NOT have the self-control you seem to believe they have. What child would not eat a double portion of ice cream (or even the whole box) if he were allowed to? What child with a sweet-tooth would eat their breakfast, lunch or dinner first (before dessert) if he didn’t have to? Rules are good! They help us to restrain our passions. They help develop self-control.

    Kids who don’t develop self-control become adults who are out of control! Where do you suppose all of today’s alcoholics came from? Why are there so many diet books on the shelves? Why is adult and childhood obesity such a phenomenon? It’s because parents are not taking the time to say “no, that is not in your best interest.” (In fact, parents are just not taking time, period! No time to play with their kids, no time to make a nutritious meal, no time to read a good book to their children; the list goes on…)

    Grow up, parents! Set some limits! They are good for your children!

    • Jane
      Jane says:

      Susan, you have a pretty disconnected and archaic view of video games and electronics in general. I’m guessing you didn’t grow up with them and you don’t understand them now. You have decided that board games (games you are familiar with) are superior to video games (games you are not familiar with).

      I was born in the late eighties. I had simple learning video games that taught me how to spell as well as grammar. When I was in elementary school, my younger brother and I saved up allowances for months to buy our own Sega Genesis and games. Our parents tried it both ways (restricted and unrestricted game play) and all of the points in this article about scarcity = imagined importance are true.

      There is almost always a saturation point for most children where they will become bored of games in general. Your fears of raising little robots are unfounded. The best way to limit game play without limiting it all the time is setting up a system where the children earn their games. Kids get bored of games fast. But they will work hard to purchase new ones.

      Video games are also educational in unexpected ways. There are plenty of studies out to this effect. Even your basic theme park building game teaches problem solving skills. (For that matter, so do violent first person shooters, but I wouldn’t recommend those for children, or adults). Video and computer games are just as valid as a board game played on the coffee table for teaching the skills kids need to develop.

      Lastly, video games are great for kids that have trouble socializing. Neither my brothers or I are autistic or socially inhibited, but we spent our childhoods being raised in different countries. You can play a video game with someone even when you don’t speak their language. You can play a video game even when you are socially awkward and have a hard time picking up on a new culture’s rules. I’m sure some of that translates to living in one culture but having a social disability. That Penelope’s kids will be well-versed and skilled at something most kids play can only help them make friends.

      You also missed the point about the embedded cameras. Sharing videos is a social skill these days. Youtube is a network with thousands of niche audiences. The point is not to become the next Orson Welles. It’s to socialize with people who also like filming video games and to have fun with each other.

      Just because you would watch their interaction of filming a game and not understand it does not mean you are fit to pass judgement on what qualifies as “real”. Video games are clearly not something you’re familiar with. You should get one of the old platforms for cheap and try them out. You’d be surprised.

      • Susan
        Susan says:

        Hi Jane,
        I just want to tell you that you are so wrong about my views about video games. We happen to own an X-Box. I enjoy playing with my kids on it. Before the X-box we had the Wii. Before that we had a Playstation 3 (or something like that). My kids have had hand-held devices (GameBoy, etc.). So I am not as archaic as you think. In fact, I only place limits on the things which seem to take too much precedence in my kids’ lives, places where I see that they are wasting time. Skype is one of them. Facebook is another. These media are very addictive and time-wasters. That was my point with allowing kids free reign and not setting limits. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not video games are good or bad. They can be both! As far as my opinion about the superiority of board games, I stand by that. Your comment proved my unspoken reason: board games provide human interaction, face-to-face and up-close. They make for superior social interaction and the development of social skills. While I am sorry that you have a social problem, and am really happy that you can have some social contact through playing these games, they are not as good as the real world where people need to know how to make eye contact and deal with others in a live setting. Maybe you ought to invite some friends over for a non-electronic game night. You just might be surprised at how fun it is to play with someone in person!

        • Susan
          Susan says:

          Sorry! I misspoke yet again! You said that you DON’T have a social problem; you were advocating for those who do. My sincere apologies…

          And about the imbeded cameras, I was only saying that filming someone playing a video game is not creative. It is a skill, especially for a young child, but it should not have been put under the category of being creative. Creativity happens when one actually creates something, not just documents something.

    • Cindy T
      Cindy T says:

      Well said Susan! I’m not sure why some parents think kids are little adults. They are not they need our guidance, support and rules to help them become responsible people.
      Thank you for your input.

    • j
      j says:

      I just wanted to answer a few of your questions, Susan.

      1. Where do you suppose all of today’s alcoholics came from?
      Today’s alcoholics probably don’t come from families where they were able to play unlimited video games as a child. Probably from a family where they were abused in some way and probably from families where someone in that family was an alcoholic too…

      Why are there so many diet books on the shelves?
      Because people are obsessed with their appearance and weight because the media and television control people into fearing that if they are not good looking, they won’t be successful or have any friends.

      Why is adult and childhood obesity such a phenomenon?
      Because our main food source is processed garbage with loads of calories. Unemployment is going up in this country, wages are going down, so buying cheap food goes up, and kids get fat. Exercise doesn’t have too much to do with what you weigh. 90% of your weight is from by what you eat.

  7. Susan
    Susan says:

    One last thought: Penelope, you have given in to your children’s whims. It will make life easier for you…for now! Be warned!

    • Susan
      Susan says:

      I am replying to my own post. I take this back. I see that Penelope didn’t “give in,” so to speak, she just changed her rule and it seems that her kids are not out of control as far as playing all the time as I first automatically concluded. If they were suddenly playing all video games all the time, I suspect that Penelope would say something like, “Hmmmm, well this isn’t working, is it?” And I bet she would then place some limits. Just guessing since she seems to be well-educated and caring, and I don’t think she’d want her kids doing nothing but playing video games all day long. All things in moderation, right? So my apologies, Penelope! I didn’t read your post carefully enough. Now, to respond to Jane…

  8. KateNonymous
    KateNonymous says:

    Well, there’s a big difference between “You can eat all the sugar you want” and “You can never eat sugar again.” Please pick parallels that are actually parallel. They’re more effective as illustrations.

  9. CDM
    CDM says:

    Self-control and the ability to delay gratification are both important factors in being a happy adult. You like to read about things — I recommend that you read up on this.

    I’m with Susan. Letting your kids have an unlimited supply of a substance known to be addictive (video games) is likely to have some bad effects on them now, and even owrse effects later.

    If you don’t set reasonable, healthy limits for your children while they are young, you are really going to suffer when they become teenagers, and they are going to suffer even more. Children need a parent to set the limits for them. They don’t have the cognitive ability to understand all the consequences of their choices, and they don’t have the knowledge you have, or should have, about what is in their best interests.

  10. Gwen
    Gwen says:

    Every time I get to liking a new game, I become obsessed with it until I master it. Once I master it, I have no more interest in it. My husband seems to be the same way, as are my kids.

    Many video games and people are that way. Now, the multi-user games, like WoW and City of Heroes and stuff like that, take longer to get out of your system. Why? Besides the content of the game, there’s a big social aspect. I don’t particularly like those games, because they’re giant time suckers, but my husband and kids do. Fortunately, they’re self limiting because you must pay a monthly subscription fee. I only let them activate their accounts for two or three months of the year, each month spaced out with lots of school work. During that month though, I don’t limit them. They limit themselves. They go bonkers for the first few days and then take lots of break to play with the animals, play board games, go for walks, and have play dates.

  11. Fiona
    Fiona says:

    Hi Penelope, I also let my 7yo have fairly unlimited game time. But we have really strict content limits. He understands the rating system for TV, movies and games. Only G-rated content at this age for us. I was really proud when went to a friend’s house and chose not to watch a movie they had on, because it was “PG” rated. I thing in this way, he’s learning limits, respect for rules and also judgement (we discuss the values behind the ratings and why it’s important to us.) so no Halo yet even though his friends play it. We also impose breaks at set intervals, as recommended for eyesight reasons. And lastly…are your boys into “Minecraft” yet?!! Greatest homeschool game ever! My boy spends a lot of time on Minecraft for free. Great icebreaker for social events – brings kids together when they start conversations and swap tips on their games.

  12. Fiona
    Fiona says:

    You might like the “Playing to Learn” blog ( This is a teacher who uses GBL methods (Games-Based Learning) in her classroom, teaching literacy etc integrated with games tasks. This is not unschooling – it seems to take a lot of time and prep – but it’s an interesting idea. I think with games like Minecraft you can blend GBL and unschooling. There’s a tremendous amount of learning in Minecraft. The kids can do it independently if you get them using the Minecraft YouTube tutorials, or just get them to ask other kids for tips. Thanks to Minecraft, my 7yo now knows a lot about how various rocks are formed, and he also types signs and messages everywhere in his Minecraft village, which involves quite a lot of writing, and it’s all self-directed.

  13. TR
    TR says:

    There are some programming books out there that teach a computer language and programming concepts by having the reader make his or her own video game. Sure it’s tons of fun playing a well made game, but more intellectually stimulating to try and make your own.

  14. Kristen
    Kristen says:

    You seem to have reached an epiphany with the “no limits” idea and are impressed at the effects it is having on your children. May I suggest another idea?
    Try “No video games at all.” None. Your children have no access to a screen for a month. I bet you will also be impressed by what develops.

  15. Dan
    Dan says:

    I’m a married father of four kids under 6 and felt a need to chime in after reading these responses. It seems that a lot of commenters are missing the point.

    I agree with Penelope in that if you set very strict limits, people will generally go to the other extreme. Taking video games out of the discussion, we can see this everywhere. How many times does a person gain more weight than they lost when going off an extreme diet for example? Or someone go on huge spending spree after trying to live frugally for a period of time.

    Too much of anything is bad for you, obviously. Going back to video games, if your kids have a problem with spending too much time with games, you need to find out why and not just unplug the games.

    I also agree that if you give kids some freedom to do things that they will learn to appreciate those things and eventually the freedom to be allowed to do it. Again, I am not talking about letting them do anything unsafe or illegal. I let my kids have time to “choose their own adventure” so to speak with the only rule being that they have to share, play fair and not hurt anyone. I’m still married and my house is still standing so it has worked well for me.

  16. Julia A
    Julia A says:

    I’m just catching up here, but I guess i dont get how this lines up with a post not long ago about how you don’t let your elder son have unlimited unstructured alone time — which is what he’d like to do — because it would be dangerous.

    That’s not about respect?

    I don’t know. I spent a LOT of time alone as a kid and I really enjoyed it and look back on it fondly (and am familiar with your son’s diagnosis).

    I have kids. We have video games, altho we put off buying them til the youngest was 9. We also have a weekend house and we have nothing there, no screens at all. For adults and kids. There is a time and place for everything.

  17. MoniqueWS
    MoniqueWS says:

    And again coming back to this one with some news about how Gamers come to the rescue!!
    “Following on the success last September of video gamers to solve the elusive riddle of an HIV enzyme within three weeks, they have again astonished scientists.

    Players of the online puzzle game Foldit have redesigned an enzyme model by fiddling with folding proteins on their home computers in search of the best-scoring (lowest-energy) patterns.”
    Linky-poo here:

  18. Carmen
    Carmen says:

    You are delusional. Your permissiveness with your children is sad and I hope for their sake they turn out alright. Young children love and need direction and structure. Left to themselves they become fools. When you take a subject and help your child make it fun/interesting then learning becomes a joy not a task. When children are not taught restraint or healthy balance to activities and desires it gives way to adults that struggle with self control. The very RARE child who may say “no thanks” to the second cookie is exactly that… RARE.

  19. JTD
    JTD says:

    You know why little kids stay free at Holiday Inn? Have you ever seen little kids check into a hotel without their parents. The parents, of course, carry the MONEY. We have a saying at our house about things that are not going to change, “the sky is blue, if you don’t like that the sky is blue, well, you live on the wrong planet.” Some things in this world are givens and it’s OK for kids to find this out.

    There is truth to the concept of obsessing for the thing denied. We told our kids we were not buying video games but they were welcome to figure out how to buy them on their own. Of course, they figured out they would first rent a machine and some games. Great, the deposit on the rental machine is $250. (yr.2000) Hmmm. That Christmas break the kids asked politely if we could rent a machine and some games for the 5 day deal at the video store and I said, “sure, lets see what its all about.” Mostly it was about racing cars, shooting guns, snow boarding and shooting guns and stealing cars and shooting guns and flying jet planes, shooting missiles and dropping neutron bombs. Mostly I just dove my fighter jet into the deck, so I was out pretty quick. But, for five days the kids didn’t eat, didn’t sleep, didn’t wash, one kid peed his pants (the other did take bathroom breaks) and they played and they played until their thumbs bled.

    The only comment I made was, “I have never driven a real car with my thumbs, never shot a gun with my thumbs, never snowboarded with my thumbs (remember the Burton swallow tail board) and at 6′ 4″, 265 lbs. I am never going to fit into… Have you ever seen how small those fighter pilots are!” “If you want to shoot real guns we have guns in the gun safe.” After the PLAYgameBoX thing went back to the video store my oldest son was the first to figure out that (in fighter pilot terms) they had screwed the pooch. Hey, he had read Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. They proved to themselves that left to their own devices they would pretty much play video games all day and night.

    Don’t worry about the kids, we’re not Luddites. Everyone learned to ski, play electric guitars and trombones, tinker on the 65′ Corvette, work with power tools, play baseball, and yes, shoot guns. .22’s, .223’s, 8mm’s, 10mm’s, .45’s, 30.06’s, shot guns and bows and arrows, clay birds and real birds with real bird dogs. It is pretty funny to see how less cool video games are to a kid who has field dressed a deer. Fake blood and fake video fire power don’t make your ears ring.

    My oldest son cut his first CD of original music when he was 14. When a publisher, with kids the same age, looked over the press release of the CD and listened to some of the tracks, he paused, turned to me and said, “your kids don’t play video games do they.” He went on, “my kid plays guitar too, but I can’t get him away from the video games long enough to ever attempt recording a CD.”

    Here’s how I taught my kids the value of money and why they never spent their money on video games (we never gave our kids an allowance, they did get paid for doing projects) My oldest was a good guitar player but pretty shy. I knew that if he played in front of a warm crowd it would help him relax in front of people. I suggested that he take a guitar and an amp and some Jeff Golub CD’s downtown and busk by playing along with Jeff and his band. He talked to three businesses that had power outlets on the street, his barber, a bank and a gym. He would play for a few hours and people would toss money in his guitar case. In our little town, pop. 25,000 he made about $20 dollars per hour at first. He said, “dad, they’re paying me to practice.” I said, “you entertain and create a festive atmosphere, they enjoy it, appreciate it and are willing to compensate you. That’s why they call it trade. As he got better and entertained more he made $50 per hour. On evenings when they held art walks he made $100 per hour. On a few festival days he would make $300 per hour. Then people asked him to play at weddings, etc. He opened a checking account at the bank he played in front of and he filed a tax return at age 15. But, here is how he learned the value of money. I told him, ” your parents will never tell you what to do with the money you make and we will never question what you choose to spend it on. You earned it, you know what it takes to make more of it and the only way to know what it is worth is to trade it for something you want worse than money.” If that thing costs $600, all you have to do is decide if it is worth 10 hours of playing guitar.” I don’t know if if he ever bought a video game machine. I don’t think so. He did get his first day job out of high school with an electronics equipment manufacturer in our town, on the strength of his CD and his relaxed sales style and knowledge of music. He has had his own apartment since the day he turned 18 and is still at the same company after 4.5 years. He sells equipment to people all over the world and 48 weekends a year his band plays gigs all over the state. He has never asked me for a dime and last summer he spent part of his vacation helping me build an ATV bridge over a stream. I was happy to pay him $100 per day for a 16 hour day plus meals.

    Next son was 10 years old (don’t worry there’s only two kids) and wanted to make some money selling eggs door to door. Had always sold coupon books door to door to pay for baseball. No fear in this son, a natural salesman. Top coupon book saleskid in baseball ($1500 worth per year). OK, we don’t have chickens, so how are you going to buy eggs low and sell them high. They’re fragile, they transport poorly on your bike and most people already have them in the fridge. Koolaid stand never seems to make much money. But, in the back yard is a raspberry patch. When your Mom is done picking for her jam maybe you can sell the surplus. (We are not gardeners, we live in town, but the only thing that seems to grow out back is raspberries, no fertilizer, no bug spray, just wild raspberries.) Mom strikes a deal, if I help you pick I get half the earnings, if you do all the picking you keep all the earnings. Son gets the trays and checks at the grocery store for the going rate. $3 dollars per half pint. He asks me for a small favor. “Dad, would you make me a couple of nice signs for each side of the coaster wagon?” “Sure,” I say, “what are you going to charge?” “$3 per half pint.” “Hmm, can I make a suggestion? Charge $4 and add the word organic to your sign. See how that flies down at the corner. If they don’t sell you can always lower the price.”

    25 minutes later 10 year old son returns with $200 in his pocket and an empty coaster wagon. “Dad, they were screeching their breaks to stop and running at me with twenty dollar bills. I told the ones who didn’t get any that I’d be back tomorrow at the same time.” I give the same speech about the value of money. ” Spend it as you see fit, you know how to make more.” Son opens trustee savings account at bank, sells raspberries for two weeks, never buys video game machine. Starts producing videos his junior year in high school. Is now a freshman in college studying film, does cold call selling on the phone three nights per week and is a paid intern 16 hours per week at the local PBS station. Also helped me on the bridge project for $100 per day, dawn to dusk, plus meals.

    Hold on, we never paid for cars or gas or insurance or cell phones either. I told my boys the reason parents are always nagging and crabbing about those expenses is because they are paying for all that stuff for their kids. It’s like the Holiday Inn. Do kids buy $500 smart phones and pay for the service and overages? No. That is why you see them talking on the phone all day and why the parents are steamed about the bill. Kids call for free!

    My son in college owns a bike, (no car, hey he can buy any car he’s willing to pay for) students stop him all the time
    and ask him about his cool bike, “coolest on campus” says he, (bought at a garage sale for $5). If his bike gets stolen, hey, it cost him $5. He says, “Dad, students park $3,000 bikes in the bike rack to ride from the dorm to class and back. And then leave them out in the snow.

    It is OK to tell your kids that some things just are not going to happen. As the above stories reveal, we did plenty without video games, plus we went on trips and spring breaks and summer vacations and all that. But, I do recall that at a certain age I had to make a very solemn announcement one morning at the breakfast table. “It is most unfortunate and a very unfair twist of fate and just plain bad luck all the way around, but you children have been born into a family that will do nothing to support, pay for, encourage, condone, nor promote your interest in the game of ice hockey. When a child plays ice hockey the whole family plays ice hockey and you have sadly picked the wrong parents if you were hoping to become the next toothless, brawling, bloodied hockey star. Besides, 18 miles round trip on icy unplowed roads for 4:00am ice time seven days a week is not in the schedule. Wishing that the family policy on this was different is kind of like wishing that the sky wasn’t blue, you are on the wrong planet. Any questions? Please pass the pancakes.” (Note: I did grow up in Wisconsin and loved Badger hockey games at Dane County Coliseum but we only have semi-pro knothead hockey here.)

    How did those kids get so savvy about the value of money? Like the publisher said, “your kids don’t play video games, do they.” No, and a few other things too.

    • Kim
      Kim says:

      Thanks, I really enjoyed your post. My kids are still very young, not even school age, but you’ve given me some good things to think about.

  20. JTD
    JTD says:

    Follow-up to above post. We had dinner with our oldest son last Sat. (now 22) before his band played a gig at a nearby resort. I asked him if he ever bought a video game machine or played video games, answer, “no.” Ironically, his day job entails selling very expensive audio equipment to gamers all over the world. But, thats like in a bar, there’s always two types of people at the party, one is buying the booze and the other is selling the booze.

    Not like I’m telling you anything top secret here, but bands in bars are part of the sales team. Also know as the “draw” or more comically as the “aerobic instructors”.

  21. Rachel Denning
    Rachel Denning says:

    Here’s the issue: It’s NOT about the video games.

    I don’t ask myself if I should limit or not limit video game time. I ask myself what is the end result? What kind of adults am I trying to raise?

    Leaders. Statesmen. Innovators. Dreamers. I want my children to grow into adults who know what gifts they’ve been given, and know how to use them to improve this planet we all occupy.

    My children are allowed to choose for themselves how they spend each day. Many people would say we unschool or de-school.

    But there’s a slight difference in our approach. Compare it to the freedom my children have to choose the food they want to eat – everything’s fair game, but certain options JUST AREN’T AVAILABLE. T

    hey can eat whatever they want, but guess what? The choices are apples, bananas, mangos, pineapple, cucumber, almonds, cashews, wheat bread or black beans.

    And guess what else? They LOVE eating all of that stuff, and they eat it eagerly…until, that is, my friend comes by with rice crispie treats, and then all they want is rice crispie treats.

    I limit certain choices so that my children can learn to develop healthy habits while they are young, so as they grow older, healthy choices will be easier to make, because they’re already used to making them.

    As an adult, I have a hard enough time practicing self-restraint. I eat healthy food, but if you give me a plate of chocolate chip cookies, I’ll eat them – too many.

    Not because of the regular scarcity of cookies at my house, but because I lack self-restraint. It’s easier for me to avoid the cookies than it is to develop the restraint, so I choose the former option.

    And if it’s difficult for me, why woud I expect it to be easier for my kids. “Here kids, here’s your options. Cookies, candy, or cucumbers. Choose whatever you want.”

    Of course they’ll reap the natural consequences of their choices, but why would I do that to my kids? Let them learn good habits by making the choices easy for them.

    In our ‘house’, (I say house, but really we don’t have one. We’re traveling from Alaska to Argentina, in Guatemala currently) video games aren’t even an option.

    Neither are computer games, iPad games, movies or T.V. Not necessarily because they are good or bad. But because there are other activities that are better, and should be learned FIRST, before the easy entertainment of technology makes real life look boring.

    Reading. Exploring nature. Writing. Swimming. Kayaking. Talking. Baking. Beachcombing. Traveling. Exploring. Observing. Walking. I could go on and on.

    Because the ‘easy’, flashy, lazy, push-a-button entertainment isn’t available to my kids, they’re fascinated with things that other kids find ‘boring’. They love stories, sticks, and stars. Wild animals, bugs and rivers. They like to skip stones, build boats and sell homemade banana bread. (And they’re 9, 8, 6, 5 and 18 mos). Prime video-game, movie-watching ages.

    Let their young lives be enveloped with those sensory-enhancing, imagination building, creativity sparking, real-world activities. Let them learn the magic of books, the wonder of nature, the thrill of physical accomplishment, the joy of personal interaction.

    Then when they’re older, and they’ve developed some self-restraint, let them decide for themselves if they want to be a part of a psuedo-reality.

    And guess what? The only time my kids complain about not being able to play video games, is when they see other kids playing them. Otherwise, they’re having way to much fun enjoying their self-directed, imagination-guided, real-world to even think about them.

    Try that out for a week or two.

    • Toni
      Toni says:

      Rachel, your lifestyle sounds amazing. We made similar choices for our children when they were small and we lived in the country. They didn’t miss the things they didn’t have, and learned how to entertain themselves. Their creativity was amazing. They never said they were bored.

      Now we live in a city and my children’s friends all use electronic devices. We have allowed a limited amount of time on electronics and TV, and are pushed for more. I also limit how often they can have new games, since I want them to become bored with the old ones and not just skip from one thing to another, being entertained. Still, when their time is up, they tell me they are bored and it’s not fair….

      Half an hour later, they have found something else to do–friends to visit, games to play, stories to write, drawings to create, and clearly they are no longer bored. They could have played their video games for hours more… So I’m glad we have set limits, and my children’s response to this just reinforces it in my mind.

  22. Mary
    Mary says:

    My children are also not limited in what or how much games they play. The interesting thing is that they play far less now than they did when we had limits on it. They play them, enjoy the freedom, learn a lot, and then walk away sometimes for weeks or months at a time. It is what they enjoy at times and I sure don’t want someone telling me that what I love is useless, terrible, or to put limits on it! Why should we do that to our kids. Have faith in them, given choices they will surprise you in most all areas of life!

    I also don’t limit food choices really and they eat lots of healthy food and also some junk food. I guess I do limit what choices they have a bit for health reasons but never on a grand scale like no sugar or something like that.

    We talk about living healthy, what that means, and how to accomplish it but ultimately this is their life. I do not want to control my children but that doesn’t mean that I do not teach them or guide them.

  23. Helen
    Helen says:

    Isn’t all this about addiction to instant gratification ? And if so, where does it stop?

    I approached video games with caution for my sons (now both teenagers) and they were the last of their peer group to have them. Since then, having seen the behavioral results ( irritability, fighting, red faces when they stop playing, inabiliity to stop thinking about the games) , I have been obliged to limit play to Friday after school and Saturday after homework.

    In the summer holidays , I have tried a different approach: no limits at all. So guess the result. Is it
    A) the little darlings limit themselves, regularly choosing to do other activities, play sport, see friends? Or
    B) become attached umbilically to the gaming unit, refusing to do any of the above , or even eat food day after day?

    So I am back to rationing.

    Professor Susan Greenfield , an eminent British scientist at Oxford University, fears for children in this technological world of gaming and Facebook addiction. She believes that the brain will change as a result of the instant gratification afforded by these games to produce individuals who can no longer socialise properly.

    • Parry
      Parry says:

      You have to let them have free range from day 1 or even better, force them on day 1 instead of givng them attention: they will forever be scared of them if they learn as infants that they will keep them from mommy.

  24. Amy
    Amy says:

    Penelope, thanks for this post. We also don’t limit games for our almost-5-year old daughter and have seen good results. When the neighbor comes over to play, I can tell he doesn’t have the same access since as soon as he found out he could play games on the iPod, that’s all he wants to do when he comes over. My daughter is perfectly fine with gathering around the iPad with her friends while one of them plays Angry Birds for a few minutes, and then she wants to go do something else.

    My question is, what about television? We do place limits on tv/movie time. She can watch until breakfast (which is anywhere from 5 minutes to 3 hours depending on when she gets up and when I & the baby are up & ready & I have cooked breakfast). After that, she can use the iPad for games & drawing, but not Netflix/movies. She wants to watch more and will watch all day if I let her (& she has watched all day when I’ve been sick), which is not totally surprising due to the limits she has been under. When we go to someone’s house who leaves the tv on, their kids are happy to play and not sit in front of the tv but my daughter is usually plopped on the couch watching it. I didn’t grow up in a “tv on all the time” house and I am very distracted by the tv when it is on (because I want to watch it, even if it isn’t something I am very interested in, I want to see what happens). I still don’t want our house to be one where the tv is on all the time but I am wondering if taking the limit off of tv would help her learn to control her tv time (as with video games, etc). I just don’t know how long it would take to wean her off of the obsession. Obviously it will take more than a few days.

    I’m curious to know your approach to tv.

  25. Amanda Stringer
    Amanda Stringer says:

    I have just started homeschooling my 10 year old son, who also happens to have Aspergers. He LOVES tv, xbox, minecraft, and games on his iPod and DS. He also loves YouTube. We are going to start “school” at home next year, at the beginning of the new school year, but I am really worried that I will be in constant battle with him about how much time he spends on the x-box. Reading this post has opened a whole new world of possibility to us – could it really be ok to give him alot more freedom to use the technology he loves? I have alot to think about. I would really appreciate becoming part of a conversation with anyone who has experience or ideas. At the moment, I have a pretty miserable child who thinks that I live to prevent him from doing the things he loves. Just to fill out the picture, my son plays in a basketball team, rides his bike every day with the kids next door, looks after his pet bunnies, swims, goes to the beach, walks the dogs with his dad a couple of times a week, and plays with lego. Not really a picture of imbalance, but gaming has such alot of bad publicity in Australia, is it the same in the US? I look forward to any comments.

  26. MJC
    MJC says:

    We do not limit the time our 3 sons play video games, and we have noticed some remarkable results! Prior to purchasing an XBox several years ago, our sons were not terribly interested in playing sports. As soon as they played a couple of the XBox football games with their dad and each other (Madden and the NCAA one), they started playing it with other boys at school – and really enjoying it! Our eldest son was quite good at it and was frequently requested as a player by other boys. A few years ago our middle son became obsessed with Guitar Hero and the other Rock game on the XBox for many months, a few years ago. He played it A LOT and watched YouTube videos of people who were the best in the world – and he because very good at it. Once he had mastered the game, he picked up a real electric guitar and mastered it very quickly. I come from a very musical family myself, and I am among many who are astounded at what an amazing musician my son became in such a short time. He is now really into jazz, plays in various ensembles around town, composes songs using the guitar and our piano, and has also taught himself to play Scott Joplin, Debussy, Gershwin, etc. on the piano. Our youngest son plays a lot of Puzzle Pirates and MineCraft, through which he has learned strategy, DIY computer stuff (including programming), team-building, and good sportsmanship. He has also met really neat kids from around the U.S. and Canada. He tells us that, playing Puzzle Pirates, he learned that his eldest brother is famous in that world because he pioneered several strategies and conquered oceans when the game was a lot newer. :) (Our eldest son was introduced to the game by his uncle and a few of his MIT friends – and he still plays. He more often focuses on a game called League of Legends, playing, watching, and listening to lots of live commentary.) In addition to these games, our sons have played loads of online sudoku and chess – and they play other games such as Halo, Call of Duty, etc. alone and with their dad.

    As an aside, this is the first time I have seen this blog, and I’m HOOKED. I think it is FANTASTIC.

    • MJC
      MJC says:

      Hi, Simon! I take it you’re school-aged? Is that right?

      If so, at least *you* are reading this! And maybe you can give it a go if you ever have children of your own. You can start thinking about all your various life possibilities now. For instance, how you’ll live your life after you’ve left home… Believe it or not, it can be difficult to experience freedom in a thoughtful, considered way if you’ve not experienced it previously within the safety of your family home. And as a parent, I know that it can actually feel scary to allow one’s children more freedom (or, really, to do anything too differently) if you’ve grown up in a different sort of home. I think a big factor influencing parental and academic perceptions of video games, television, etc., is, unfortunately, a generational one. We simply did not grow up with the kind of technology that exists today – let alone, the widespread availability of technology!!

      When I had children, I couldn’t predict the way they might turn out if I raised them in ways that I had not experienced – and I often felt scared about this. This, even though I *did* know that I didn’t want to repeat certain things my parents did. I think that, actually, many people have this experience! Once we are really responsible for others (especially our own children), we tend to revert to what we’ve experienced in our own lives, whether we recognize it or not. Additionally, we often spend far too much time worrying about the future and/or the past than simply experiencing the present. This may sound like a trivial point, but I assure you it is not. Many people spend lifetimes learning to experience the present!

      I grew up in a home where my mum would not have listened to the sorts of things Penelope wrote in this blog, or the facts I outlined in my response to her post. My mum took much the same approach as some of the people who have responded above, assuming that children would never stop watching television or eating sugar or doing anything that is considered (at least by her) to be unhealthy/addictive unless restrictions were imposed. So although we were permitted dessert occasionally – and, BTW, my mother was a gourmet cook who spent time reading, practicing, and mastering many different styles and techniques – it was not readily available, and the number of cookies or the size of a cake slice was always restricted. We were also not permitted to get food out of the refrigerator or cupboard between meals without asking. (As I write this, it strikes me that my mother – who has been very slim since the age of 18 or so – grew up on an English colony where her family had servants and enjoyed unlimited access to all sorts of food, selected as whimsically as they wished. My point being that she obviously figured out how to restrict her own intake!)

      Although my sisters and I were permitted to watch a few television programs (Mr. Rogers, Sesame Street, the evening news; and, later, a few specific cartoons on Saturday mornings, the Wide World of Disney, PBS’ “Zoom!”, and the very occasional family movie), the television was also a very restricted commodity. My family did not even consider purchasing Atari games or consoles when others started to do so, we were not allowed to listen to rock ‘n’ roll music around the house (this changed when my two youngest sisters became teenagers), because it was considered dreadful and also addictive, and my family did not purchase a VCR (video cassette recorder/player) until after we “kids” had left home.

      Guess what I was addicted to? BOOKS!!! I think books are terrific but that they have just the same addictive potential as video games (or, really, anything, for that matter). Avoiding emotional issues by sticking one’s nose in a book is no different from avoiding such issues by doing anything else, and reading is also an antisocial form of avoidance.

      Discussing creative writing or literature is, IMHO, not much different from discussing role-playing video games. What is involved in that sort of play/discussion? Problem-solving, plot line, imagination – and the joyful feeling that we may experience while participating in an imaginary world that we have individually, or mutually, created! (BTW, I earned my English degree at an exclusive private college, which at the time had the number-one-rated English department in the U.S. – meaning that the highest percentage of its graduates went on to Ivy League graduate programs, that the faculty was world-renowned, and that it was difficult to gain admittance. I say this not to boast, but simply in anticipation of responses from readers assuming literary ignorance on my part.)

      There is a famous book about education entitled _Summerhill_ – I believe it was written in the 1960s – in which the author describes the British boarding school (Summerhill) he ran and, I believe, founded. At Summerhill the students made and modified their own rules of conduct. The school had NO specific educational requirements and yet managed to graduate many intelligent, college-bound individuals. I remember a description of a student who went fishing every single day for at least a year and otherwise did nothing but socialize, etc. For a long time he did nothing that would be considered academic in any other school. The author points out that this boy became a Ph.D. marine biologist (or similar sort of underwater researcher) when he grew up. He also says that many of his former students are surprised at the amount of goofing off at the colleges they attend: his students had exhausted that sort of “fooling around” experimentation during their pre-teen and teenage years and were ready to buckle down and learn while in class. The author’s perspective is essentially that freedom breeds interest, creativity, and responsibility.

      Freedom necessarily encourages learning. We human beings are ALWAYS and NECESSARILY in a structured environment in which we learn all sorts of things – intended and unintended – from our experiences, no matter what. That environment is the world! The world is what it is, with all its limitations, and we are in it. To impose further restrictions is thoroughly human, and it is also thoroughly arbitrary. We have evolved to be really quite amazing creatures – with all sorts of interests, talents, strengths, and vulnerabilities! We have a remarkable capacity to learn, and, simply from an evolutionary perspective, we are *necessarily* social beings – from video game inventors to video game players to video game non-enthusiasts. :)

      A parent’s restrictions illustrate that parent’s perspective, and since his/her children live within those restrictions, their experience is necessarily bound by those restrictions. It is no surprise that the child ends up with the same “religious” (I do not mean “religious” in the traditional sense!) sensibilities: his/her restricted experience is his/her ONLY experience. (Incidentally, I think that being permitted to play video games for only a week is an absurd experiment from which to draw any meaningful conclusions! When we are on holiday, do we do all the same things we do at home? No, we do not! Research shows, in fact, that even basic habits, such as the order of the steps we normally take to brush our teeth, change when we are in a different setting.)

      My husband is, for me, a fantastic illustration that freedom works. He is the parent who was most convinced that our current approach (or, in a sense, non-approach) would work.

      Incidentally, our approach is as follows:
      We have three rules in our home, for everyone, INCLUDING PARENTS: 1. Pay attention. ; 2. Listen. ; 3. Show respect / Be civil.

      Anyway, my husband is is a theoretical mathematician who has been fascinated by computers since the earliest home computers were manufactured. I met him in school when I was 12 years old, and when I got to know him better, a few years later, I recognized that he was a person with very few restrictions at home. He saved his money to buy the latest technological advancements, including video game consoles, which were quite primitive at the time! My husband is the sort of person who explores subjects to the point of mastery, no matter what, really. He was always tired during school (which he experienced as an institution which trained students not to think!), because he’d been up late the night before, reading books about history, astronomy, math, etc., programming his computer, watching television, playing video games, you name it! He is by far the most intelligent, creative, and involved person I know; he is responsible; he is a great and active defender of people who are shown disrespect for no apparent reason; and he is tireless in his pursuit of knowledge. He is not conventional, but he is very honest, which I think is one reason people are attracted to, and trust, him. Oh, and did I mention he often plays Halo or Call of Duty to relax? :)

      Anyway, I am going to post this unedited response now and return to bed! I realize that I’ve meandered quite a bit in what I’ve written, and may not have spelled things out too clearly, but hopefully you get a sense of my (changed) perspective and experience. I had some strong (and sad) feelings when I read your short comment, Simon! I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you, but I think I also started remembering some of the earlier comments I’d just read and started responding to them, too! I hope I haven’t thoroughly bored you. I wish you all the best in your life. :)

  27. Jason
    Jason says:

    I disagree with this idea, based on personal experience. My love affair with computers began not in games but in using and creating, programming and drawing, on computers. As I pushed myself in that area, I found it more and more difficult. My parents, assuming me some computer genius, did not take the time to understand what I had done and what I needed help with. When the going got tough, I stopped trying to make games and started just playing them. Eventually that’s all I did. When I look back at what I was doing at age 11, I lament the fact that my parents did not recognize it and limit my game time, and find my a tutor or something to push me to the next level while I was still young and carefree in life. Your children need help and guidance, and sometimes limiting one thing to increase the flow of another is beautiful and simple parenting.

    • Mary
      Mary says:

      Just to be clear, parents job is to set expectation, educate, and show our children there are “other” ways than our way. Freedoms and choices are must but NOT when the children’s end of the bargain is not met. My child goes to public school, between th swimming classes twice a week, which she loves, and music lesson, which she also loves, she has little time doing her homework. Yet, she was presented a computer by her father and is playing several games at once. Her father’s thought is exactly, let her do it, don’t tell her what to do so she can learn to be independent and responsible. I wonder how many Sunday evenings she was screaming at me/her father her homework isn’t one, her book report Is due tomorrow, she as no time to read books ( part of her everyday assignment from school). She fights with me because she wants to bring her computer to her father’s house for their father-daughter night dinner which last 2 hours from 6-8pm weekly. I told her no..because that I not a respectful thing to do. She decided not to talk to me. I told her that until she can show responsible and respectful behaviors and attitudes, she does not need a computer. No one dies from not having computers or play dates. When she talks to me screaming with uncontroable behavior- throws things, yells, etc…, it is not ok and if the computer is causing it ( please don’t argue or persuade me that it is not, you have all experienced this at home, some of you tolerate it, at my house, respect and kindness comes before academic and charms so there is zero tolerance on being disrespectful) the key is, kids want it, and they want it now- to avoid conflict, we parents compromise and they learn to compromise with their children. Our children are losing integrity and hard work because we made things easy for them.) why have kids if they are spending their limited time with you in front f screen? My daughter wakes up at 7:30 leaves for school at 8:30 and is at school till 3:00. We leave for her swimming/music lesson after school and get home at 5ish… After dinner, showing, there is only a handful of time we are actually together.

  28. MJC
    MJC says:

    @Jason – I certainly agree with the notion that children need guidance and assistance, particularly when we do not have expertise in the areas in which they display interest and/or talent. Some children are more resourceful (or maybe more internally motivated or maybe smarter – depends on a lot of factors, I guess!) than others and don’t suffer as much from lack of guidance because they go out and seek it – but I don’t believe that allowing one’s children to explore their own interests freely (whether they include the computer or not :) changes that in any way. Your story makes me sad.

    @Mary – I believe that when the primary expectation in the household is that everyone must pay attention and show respect to one another, everything else will fall into place. Of course one loses privileges when one is disrespectful! Period. (That goes for the adults, too, and must be communicated/exercised in a way that the children can see.) I also recognize that this is extremely difficult when a child does not live in a two-parent household, at least because both parents are not there to reinforce respectful behavior in one another and their children. I wish you all the best: the situation sounds hard.

  29. Mark
    Mark says:

    I just stumbled upon your website and I was really taken back by your views. You have VERY liberal stance in my opinion and that’s not a good thing. You are very naive. Children NEED limits and structure. This is not up for debate. I have a psych degree so I think I know what I am talking about. I don’t know about you, but if I don’t place any limits on their game time they would play without taking bathroom breaks or even skip meals. Mary is living in the real world and is exposing what happens when children are NOT given limits. Learn from her!

  30. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    I personally do not see what is wrong with computer games. If someone practices an instrument all day we say “well great your working hard”, if someone reads a book all day we don’t see anything wrong with that. People might say reading is good, yes this is true, but in all game there are many things you have to read. True if you spend the day outside, its healthier for you, but if you balance between outside and inside things will be fine.

    I very much agree with you in not limiting computer games, i am 15 years old now, and computer games are very much who i am. right now i am limited to a certain amount of time, and i am not aloud to play on the weekdays. On the weekends ill play about 15 hours during that time, and most of this time ill be playing with friends. If i am not playing computer games then i am riding my bike or with friends. how ever i used to be limited to 2 hours a week. This limit was not good for me all i wanted to do all day was play computer games and that was all i could think about. My grades where bad and any assignment that we did, i would make it war based.

    Now i am getting half Bs and half As, i am 100% sure that is was becuase i have no limit on weekends. i now no longer think about it all the time, i think about assignments allot more.

    Everyone who hates computer games just hate them because
    they have never played them, parents say computer games ruined there brain, well your minds are so closed your not even willing to give it a fair go.

    And no i do not play games just cause they are violent, juts any game that is made with no violence is usually not challenging and therefore the reward is not that great.

    Video game can take away from homework time but it can be used as a homework doing tool you can just say once you finish your home work you can play computer games. and i guarantee that homework will be finished in a flash. I am now at a stage now where i motivate myself to do my own home work, this is a great thing for me and my parents, they no longer need to check that Ive done my home work because they know i have done it.

    Many parents complain about computer games being anti-social but it can be a very social thing, playing with friends can be very social if playing together they have to work as a team to win and that is very satisfying. Things like reading cant be done sociably sure you can talk about the book once you’ve finished it but that can only last a conversation.

    Parents also complain about no spending there time with kids because there kids do swimming, playing an instrument, athletics and computer games take away the rest of there time. you can do all of these things together.

    The comment i hear most is parents whining on about how pointless computer games are and how they are a waste of time. To be perfectly honest is it any different from what most people do nowadays. Most people are typing stuff on a computer, the only differences is that your getting paid and your kids are having fun.

  31. Mary Ellen
    Mary Ellen says:

    For a good example of what this can turn into, read this post by an unschooler who let her 15 year old play video games 24 hours a day. He is no longer taking breaks to eat. The advice her fellow unschoolers give her in the comments truly frightening: “cut up his food and place it in front of him, so he doesn’t have to use a fork while playing.” Wow! Video games can TRULY become an addiction just like alcohol and pornography. Of course being overly strict can lead to rebellion, but most kids I know with stricter parents who made them do their homework, practice piano etc. are very grateful to their parents. I don’t think this kid is going to thank his mom someday for completely enabling his addiction.

    • Tim
      Tim says:

      For a good example of extremist fear, follow the link.

      The reason this child is an outlier has less to do with the way other parents regulate their children’s time and a lot to do with the chemical make up of the child’s brain. Some people are more prone to addiction than others via genetics. It’s highly likely that if the child wasn’t compulsive about their video game playing, they’d have an unhealthy compulsion about something else.

      But hey, whatever fits your fear driven narrative, right?

      • MJC
        MJC says:

        Although I can’t speak knowledgeably about the genetic component of addiction, I feel compelled to comment that parents who even consider cutting up and carrying food to a computer so that their child does not have to step away from a video game (?!) sound like *extreme* “enablers,” i.e., parents who just might carry that addictive gene …

        Just sayin’.

  32. Jadon
    Jadon says:

    Susan is an idiot. Board games are boring, especially to. kids who have short attention spans. Plus people who say they don’t let their kids play “violent” games that are “too real” are also stupid because it’s not like a kid is going to shoot someone in a game and then just say “Hey! I’m gonna go shoot someone now!” So just let you’re kids play them. Plus if you don’t, they’ll hate you for it.

  33. Kyle
    Kyle says:

    The ‘new’ world is definitely creating mindless drones and most of the comments here attest to that. I’d love to live in the Utopia you seem to live in where given your children free reign doesn’t result in some sort of addiction probably leading to a bit of jail time. Parents often will result to how bad the outside world is these days as reasoning for allowing the use of video games 24/7. The irony of this is, it’s the generation that had the least amount of direction and the most free reign that causes the most problems these days. Reading that the majority shares your viewpoint truly hinders my faith in humanity. The next 50 years is going to be hell thanks to this ridiculous new parenting notion. Rule of thumb…If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

  34. MJC
    MJC says:

    @Kyle: I apologize in advance if you are not a native English speaker, but I do not understand most of your response. I understand it may be too hard to clarify, overall, but would you be able to explain the referent in your last comment? (In other words, what is the “it” that “ain’t broke”?) Maybe if I understand that, I can work through the rest.

    Thank you!

    • Kyle
      Kyle says:

      No worries Marie. I am a native English speaker but do understand, at times, that my thoughts aren’t necessarily conveyed in a way that everyone will understand. Anyways, I’ll be a little less ‘cryptic’. In this day and age, parents are flat out lazy. They aren’t allowing their children free reign because they truly believe it will help them succeed later in life. They’re doing so because that can’t be bothered. What they have going on is far more important to them. Allowing your child to play video games all day doesn’t help them nearly as much as interacting with the outside world. Personally, your delusional if you believe otherwise and you’re teaching your kids the same mind set–effectively creating a never-ending loop. In the end, who’s the boss? You or the child? That’s all that really matters and your children need to understand that. The only way that’s possible is to do your job and be a parent! I remember hearing “because I said so…” on numerous occasions from my parents as to why I could or couldn’t do something. To me that reasoning sucked but guess what, I listened anyway because my parents did their job.

      As far as the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is concerned, it’s a saying I grew up with. The ‘it’ being the parenting of yesteryear. It’s worked relatively well for the last century so there is no need to make changes, especially ones as drastic as suggested on this board. I can’t be the only one to see the world as it is today and be able to predict that this new wave of parenting ‘strategy’ will only make it worse.

  35. Jonathan-David Jackson
    Jonathan-David Jackson says:

    Everybody is different. Some kids have self control, others don’t.

    I had no limits on computer time from the time I was 10 years old. We didn’t have TV or internet. When I was 12, I got a paper route and paid for the internet myself. I had no limits on internet time. When I was 14 I also bought my own computer and it went in my room, with, of course, no limits.

    For the next six years, I’d estimate that I spent 14 hours a day on the computer – every day. My social skills atrophied, I had literally 0 friends, and I often contemplated suicide because I was so alone. By the time I was 18 I developed a painful RSI problem with my wrist which still hurts me today (I’m 26) and makes it difficult for me to do most office work. Today, I place artificial limits on my computer time. I use WorkRave to force me to have a 5 minutes break every 25 minutes, and to allow me no more than 3 hours on the computer a day.

    I also regularly watched incredibly hardcore pornography from the age of 12, because it was so easy to find and there were no limits on my internet use. And when I say hardcore, I mean the kinds of things that you *can’t* get in an actual adult video store. Frankly, I don’t believe I’ve been harmed by that, and I have a great sexual relationship with my wife now, but I feel pretty sure that most parents (including me) would not want the same kind of sexual education for their children.

    I gained 40 pounds once I had a car and a job outside the house, because every day I bought and ate bad food. For months, every night on the way home from work I would buy a Monster Thickburger (that’s 1,300 calories) from Hardee’s and eat it, and that’s in addition to 3 meals plus snacks. It wasn’t unusual for me to eat an entire bag of Doritos while I watched a movie. Today, I limit myself by not allowing myself to buy any unhealthy foods, because if it’s in the house I will not be able to control myself.

    I have two children of my own now. They have no limits on what they can spend their allowance on. One of them spends it immediately on junk food and is complaining the next day that she’s out of money. The other saves it for something special she wants. The first clearly does not have the self control to manage her own money.

    When we got a second computer, for a little over a year the kids had unlimited access. They went on it a little over 6 hours a day, each (12 hours total), mainly watching Youtube videos and playing simplistic Flash games. They regularly argued over who was going on next, she’s not off yet, it’s my turn, etc. etc. When I talked to them about it, they both agreed that they would like to be doing other things. However, they didn’t have the self-discipline to stop themselves from doing something they very much enjoyed. I used RomacoTimeout to put a limit of 3 hours (now down to 2.5 hours) per day for each of them. They no longer argue about who’s turn it is, and they do other things too.

    I suppose I did eventually wake up to the damage my lack of self-discipline was doing to me, but not before it did me irreparable harm, and I wish my parents would have given me some limits. I’m glad that this works for your children, but it will not work for everyone.

  36. Wombatus
    Wombatus says:

    This is an okay article that gives a good overview from one side of the argument. However, I wouldn’t say that your laissez-faire approach works with all people. I, for example, have a very addictive personality, especially when it comes to video games and Internet browsing. It was out of control before leaving for college, and after doing so, it got immediately worse. I remember one time when I had a long weekend that I played video games for about 60 straight hours. Nowadays, I try to restrict my time around electronics to 1 or 2 hours each day. The thing I regret the most about my worst excesses isn’t the fact that I looked disheveled or that my body ached most of the time. The thing I regret most is that without any sort of limit imposed by either myself or others, I wasted so many opportunities that came and went. The time sink that addictions can create are tragic in and of themselves.

    That said, I agree with some of your points, especially in that video games and the Internet can expose people to new experiences and from that can generate creativity. But I wouldn’t make the blanket statement that your article seems to imply. I know that I would definitely limit the amount of time my own kids would play video games, especially if they shared my genes.

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