A Different Perspective on Addicted to Computer and/or Video Games
© Beverley Paine
On the Homeschool Australia FAQ list recently a mother lamented about the time her children spent playing with their Xbox. Addiction to computer and/or video games is an issue that arrives frequently on homeschooling forums.
The way I see it, the bit that kids get addicted to is the fiction. That happens to kids who can't get their noses out of books, but noone bugs them as much as kids who watch telly or play computer games all day. We like computers rather than xboxs and playstations cos you can use them for other things. Thomas and Roger would spend ages on the game, but then they'd also be using the paint/draw programs, word, publisher, design and fiddle with webpages, etc. That led to making and editing movies, music, writing emails, responding to forums, surfing the internet and so on.
Even writing on forums is addictive and thomas reckons it's because it's sort of a fictional world. It's not as real as being there actually chatting to someone. It can eat up a lot of time every day too!
I don't want to downplay the other aspects of computer or video gaming that are addictive - such as the cleverly crafted plot that resist your attempts to shut the game down after you've levelled up (or cliff-hangers that stop you from closing the book at the end of the chapter). Games which are little more than click-fests tend to mesmerise me. Doing the same thing over and over again, until we get it 'right', is a component of many computer games. For some reason the game creators have cracked the secret to motivating children to learn in this manner. Try motivating them to do maths by repeating the same sum over and over again!
There's no getting away from the fact that if something 'looks' educational then as adults and parents we're generally happy. If it looks like fun, then we're not, yet as parents and educators we're forever trying to make 'lessons' fun for kids! Go figure!!
Kids live in a fantasy world most of the time. Unless they get hooked on books (fiction) most kids used to lose the ability to wander in this fantasy land, especially in the pre-telly days. Artists and writers always got to hang around in fantasy land, but their art was never considered 'real' work. You couldn't make a living out of it, unless of course you had a patron... I hated growing up and leaving my fantasy world behind. I hated the idea that growing up meant always being responsible. I was a reluctant teenager!
Nowadays kids can stay in fantasy land just about forever. They seem to grow up just as fast though, and embrace that responsibility we all have to eventually. Homeschool kids don't seem to have any problem with growing up, though many are very happy to take their time.
There are real issues to be dealt with when kids play computer non-stop. Like wearing their eyes out (same trouble with readers). Some kids get headaches, especially with VCRs: LCD screens may solve this problem, but eye strain is a huge issue. Dry eye can develop - remind kids to blink lots and to focus long distance. We have a window behind the screen, though this can set up glare problems that need attention. Drink lots of water - not cordial, pop, or juice. Water. Keeps the brain going, and to score well you need lots of water... Keyboards don't cost much if it's spilled (so long as the kid pays for it so s/hes careful next time!) or use water bottles.
Balance all day/night computer playing with lots of physical activity outside. My guys would play for four days and then they'd be outside for four days, climbing trees, playing war, chasey games, etc... They seemed to know instinctively that they needed to stretch. Especially when they were younger. Older teens can easily forget, but then think about those guys hunched over school desks all day, five days a week. No one complains about that!
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