"I say this with all the respect in the world: Are you flipping kidding
me?...I mean, I understand the initial purchase of the Game Boy because you
felt like your son was going through a lot of changes and he deserved one,
but whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s this thing about one thing after the other that you caved to
and now youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re blaming your son for being addicted to screen time?!
YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re the adult, you compromise on the Game Boy and say that he may have
that and he may play it after his homework is done, for half an hour or so,
and then as he gets older, he could possibly trade up for something newer.
But, I reiterate, how does a parent go from acting like they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want
their child to have anything to now the child has a cell phone, mp3 player,
DS, computer, wii, and so on and so on and some how thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s HIS fault? And
by the way, no young kid needs to be on Facebook (you have to be over 13 to
be on there, sounds like your son has been doing it before that age) or
playing multi-player g!
ames. There are plenty of age-appropriate websites out there that can
slowly teach your child how to be responsible online. My older daughter
always asks for some high tech device and the first thing I remind her of is
that we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need more Ã¢â‚¬Å“stuffÃ¢â‚¬Â� in the house and I also remind her how
they are made and who makes them (yes, privileged Western children need to
learn that unprivileged Eastern adults and even children suffer so we have
cool gadgets). If we do agree on some techno device, then we use it
sparingly, a couple of times per week she can play a computer game or once a
day she can watch a show she likes. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not rocket science to compromise
and work with your children...but making your child out to be the proverbial
bad guy because you gave up on your parenting, well thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just crummy.
On another note, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m one of those kids who grew up how you wished you
would have grown up, i.e., no screen time and more books, because we
didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have a T.V. or any !
other gadget so I read a lot, but I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t say that IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m any!
smarter because of reading a lot as a kid. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m a pretty average student,
even now. I think anytime a parent is too extreme toward one side or
another, children will rebel and also wonder if they would have been better
off if it would have been the opposite. If parents just realize that doing
anything in moderation, with compromise and mutual respect, you can teach a
"Academic edge? Go to your son's school GATE program, if it has one, and
look for one kid without a gameboy in his hand. He will be the one who
has nothing to talk to the other kids about, discuss strategy on, or
figure out how to hack. I think you've been living in a cave if you think
keeping your kid from technology will make him smarter.
"Are you kidding me? Screens? He isn't addicted. And if he was, this is
America, we have the freedom to do what we want, even if that means
letting your kids play games. As a Christian, it is important to install
some family values in him and games won't hurt that. Trust me! Reading
this nonsense from other sites that have little to no proof on this topic
is bad. Stop getting brainwashed. Think, what would Jesus do?
"I'm a kid, and honestly, I can't stay still, I mean really. I can only
watch a full movie in the theater, I get bored in the middle and go
outside. I love to read, too.
"My son is 10 years old, and your story sounds just like ours. My husband
convinced me that a Gameboy would be a good incentive for him to do obey,
where nothing else was motivating him. Now it's a DS, and we've drawn a
line in the sand. We don't need anything else for our kids to get addicted
to. I've pushed the kids back to Saturdays only for the computer and DS's,
at least during school, because their behavior is awful when they've been
playing a lot. I think I fall between Roberts and Cash. Gaming CAN BE as
addictive as any drug, especially multiplayer online games. My
brother-in-law's life was ruined by gaming. He can't hold down a job or
even hold a conversation with another adult because his parents let him
play without limits.
"Nice article. Thanks for sharing.
"To the grandparents who are sending their grandson to skateboard and
martial arts camps, YOU GO! We need more people like you active in the
lives of young people.
"The average American is in front of a screen only 7 hours a day? What
about the 8-10 (because, ya know, overtime) many adults are *required* to
be in front of the screen for their jobs?
I'd be worried about him ever finding a date if he's still on the computer
as much as a 13 year old when he's 25, not when he's 15. Worries beyond
that? Lighting, so he doesn't hurt his eyes.
I spent about 6 hours a day outside of school on the computer as a
teenager. As a recent graduate, I'm now an entry-level software engineer
earning almost as much as my dad is as a manager of 30 years. But hey, if
you don't want your child to end up in the high-paying tech sector...
I'm also seriously getting the impression from the comments here that the
comment parsing is broken and throwing away newlines (which is why I added
the rows of minuses). I suggest the web developer behind this site get on
"What a timely article, on a topic I've had reason to ponder often as the
mother of a 13-yr-old boy. I'm an advocate for balance.
A couple of years ago we vacationed in S. Dakota. As we hiked the walkways
in the area around Mount Rushmore, my son and I were observing and
commenting on the various plants and rocks. Another tourist who overheard
us loudly commented, "Now THERE'S a kid who doesn't spend his time on TV &
video games. HE knows how to appreciate the things around him." The guy
went on and on about it.
I smiled politely, but didn't mention that my son (and his dad!) plays
plenty of video games and watches plenty of TV, more than his share. It
just so happens that he also loves science and history, has his black belt
in martial arts, and works his tail off in school.
Last year, my son was a big fan of Star Wars Battlefront II. Such a fan,
in fact, that he discovered (via YouTube) that one can create their own
worlds for it with "mods." He decided to learn to make them, and in order
to do so, he had to learn to read the technical FAQs, and learn to
communicate his questions on the forums (with my supervision and help). It
wasn't easy, and there were some things he never did completely figure
out, but he did learn that with persistence, he COULD learn, and make
progress at it. I would have to call it a good educational experience.
This year, it's Minecraft. He plays single-player offline as well as
multi-player online. He's found an online server that's pretty well
moderated (Gametoast), and he has a friend who plays there also. They talk
on the phone while they're building things together and helping each other
find things. Now he's working on making their own server.
Am I concerned about addiction? Hmmm...yes, always watchful, and always
encouraging balance. But I think it's as harmful to be a heavy-handed
guilt monger and fear monger as it is to allow addictive behavior to
American society has some major issues with serving up mixed messages on
many fronts. Food, for example: we see ads for decadent chocolate and
greasy burgers, followed immediately by ones for weight loss programs.
With technology, the mixed message is that we're supposed to use it--in
fact, it's responsible behavior to check our e-mail, and research things,
etc.--but at the same time we should feel guilty for it.
I'll be interested to see the inventions of this generation, and how the
technology influences them. Already, doctors can perform surgery in an
operating room miles away, via video game-like remote controls.
All is not lost. But all will be different. :) "
"Reading some of the comments by other readers I have to say that for my 10
year old Wii or online games such as Lego.com are his absolute favorite.
We have always limited any and all electronics and maybe that's why he
LOVES them so. Although our younger son (8) does not have this problem
even though he got the same limitation. So every child is different as
all know who have multiple kids. Having said that, electronics is the
first thing we take away as a privilege for disrespectfulness or other
undesireable behavior. It has the greatest effect on him and is a good
insentive/reward to do better. I think prohibiting any and all
video/online play is sticking ones head into the sand as our kids' world
is filled with the latest and greatest the industry has to offer and for
them to succeed in high school/college/career they need to be savvy in
those areas. We don't allow any of those devices in their rooms where no
one can monitor what they are actually doing which keeps!
them accountable as well. A good balance of course is best, but on
certain days they might get more of one thing than is good for them. In
the summer I learned that if I let them play Wii too early (a.m.) they got
too dependent on it and expected it every day. So I switched gears and
told them they had to "earn" it during the day to play it in the afternoon
instead. Oftentimes friends come calling and they forgot all about it or
got to play an hour of Wii with their best friend who showed them how to
beat a certain level on Star Wars :-) Just my two cents worth...
"I'm so so so glad you posted this. REAL issues facing parents today. My
son is 10 and I'm feeling the urge to pull the plug completely sometimes.
It's too much. I know it's too much. Loads of stuff to chew on here; we're
dealing with a whole different world from when we were young, but we are
no less a parent than our own were. Definitely some excellent food for
thought. Need to get my mommy mind in gear and get this dialog going. Much
to the chagrin of my son, I just sent him the link and asked him to read
it. We will be discussing later today ........
-Jennifer P., The Incidental Domestic
"What are you doing as parent? Are you going out and play ball with your
son? Are you dancing with your daughter? Going hiking, running or
biking? How about a movie in a theater once a week? If you are, that
brings variety and balance into your child's life.
"Addiction, especially in the prime of life, is most harmful. You may have
waited too long. Who knows. I've had great success talking to kids about
this face to face. As a sub-teacher I often take phones and headsets away
. . never in anger. Just after school was out I heard a radio commercial
where in a chap says, "Play with your children outside, wrestle with them
in the grass or hay etc.." What a novel and great idea. When I ask most
kids junior high and up if they wouold let their own children spend so
much time on techy things theri response is a mature, "No way". I wish
you well mam.
"Welcome to the world of responsible modern mothering. Dads never seem to
worry about these things, especially ones with Tech backgrounds and
mothers are bombarded with mixed messages, the strongest being the scare
tactics of your child being doomed because of their computer/screen
I do think the advise regarding not lecturing about screen time but
addressing outdoor physical outlets to be helpful. Thanks for the
"This article drives me nuts. Why is "screen time" so bad? Just because it is
something new? I do think that kids should be playing outside more or
otherwise doing physical play more, but there is this undercurrent of "fear
of the screen" that has, in my opinion, no logical basis.
Take this statement: "Looking back, I wish theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d nudged me out of my
stupor to read more and explore other interests, and I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t help but
wonder if that would have given me more of an edge academically"
"more of an edge academically"?? "Screen time" includes hours and hours
spent on computers for educational purposes. The modern student *must* be
online or they won't be able to do their school work. Why is this a bad
thing though? In fact, I think it is a good thing.
Also, video games, unlike the extremely passive TV of my youth, are active,
engaging, thought-provoking things. They are not mindless. And that is just
the games. There are a ton of good things that happen in this maligned
Also, why is texting considered so bad? I feel like parents my age, or maybe
a smidge older than me, face texting and instant messaging the same way some
old timer faced the telephone in the 1920s or something. "Get them young
whippersnappers off the durn telleephonee and talking face to face" (note: I
am a 41yo white, suburban male with 7yo and 4yo boys, and I work in IT)
there is a valid space for all modern forms of communication. I think that
if anything, parents should focus on teaching their children the most
appropriate way to use all these modern forms of communication. Like, it
isn't appropriate to send a text in response to a job interview (I've seen
that done) or whatever. Of course, the problem with that is that most people
in the current parent or teacher role are too old to really know the answer
to how to most appropriately use these new forms of communication to be able
to teach their kids.
And the entire section on online games being a drug, well, that just made me
want to puke. There are some kids that will be affected more negatively than
others, but *MOST KIDS WILL BE FINE*. As in, the vast, vast, vast majority.
Anyway, my take away point is this: Screen time is not bad. It is just like
anything else, and children need limits on it like anything else. If you, as
a parent, are not willing to enforce those limits, then your kids may have
problems with screen time in the same way that they may have problems with
drugs, or alcohol, or sex, or gambling, or, or, or, whatever.
"I find it more than a little ironic that you're married to someone who
works for a high tech magazine and website but don't want your son to use
computers. I fought the same battle withmy daughter about wearing make-up,
sometimes I think our own resistance makes it more appealing. I mean, if
you had just given him the original gameboy, maybe he would have used it
and been bored with it altogether.
"You do not have a screen addict. He likes it, most boys his age do. But I
know 14-year old boys who spend 12+ hours during the summer on their
computers. I don't know what their parents are thinking, there is a clear
problem. 2 hours is a hobby. Set that as the outside limit and agreed,
don't allow the online, multi-player games. He is much too young for that,
they are far too "adult-oriented".
"If you can direct your son a different way,"Do It" My Son is 17, and I
couldn't get him off the computer if the house was on fire ... The only
problem is the schools are giving them assignments where they have to work
on computers. I think that is very unfair. Unless I sit right there with
him, babysitting in other words, he fluffs off the home work and goes to
his games. Hes old enough to know better, so I don't babysit. We argue
all the time about his time spent on computers. I know its easy to say
I'm the parent...it's not easy we get into some pretty nasty fights. Now
I'm just waiting for him to turn 18. yes I gave up...
"Thanks for a great article. I've grappled with the same issue when it
comes to my 13 yr. old's screen time and I've come to realize that there
are both positives and negatives to it. On the one hand, I don't want to
prevent him from moving on with the times because let's face it,
technology has completely changed.
Phones are interactive and are basically little computers on-the-go. Books
will soon be obsolete with the soaring popularity of e-books. Snail mail
is becoming more scarce. (My bank just offered me a free checking account
if I choose to only receive e-statements and use online banking. What does
that tell you?) There is no avoiding "screen time" if you want to go with
For me, the negatives of screen time would be the activities that are
centered around gaming. My son does play World of Warcraft and yes, the
game can be addictive which concerns me. But I've solved this problem by
placing limitations on his game time through the game maker's parental
controls interface. He gets two hours a day of game time and when the time
is up, the game locks him out.
I think it's important that we don't impede our children's exposure to
what is new in the technological world. By the time they're adults,
they'll need the skills and the "tech-savyness" to be able to keep up. As
long as they're well rounded, get good grades in school, have no
behavioral issues, I see no harm in a reasonable amount of "screen time".
"If there is any nerd-level in your house, introduce your son to board
games -- depending on his age, the more complex the better. My husband
began introducing Dungeons and Dragons, Munchkin, and other old-school
board games (some with really awesome collectable game figures) to my son
last year, and they're great. My son's friends like them too -- they eat
up two or three hours, involve the mind, invite conversation, etc. My
husband loves to play games with my son and his friends. Great diversion,
especially on days when going outside isn't an option, and when friends
sleep over. As for video time, it's part of our daily lives, but we do
set limits during the school year. And, we loosely enforce earning or
losing screen time, depending on if our son does his chores, practices
piano, finishes homework, etc. It's just finding the balance. But no
interacting with people online, no Facebook, no cell phone (yet anyway),
and no Gameboys in restaurants!
"As the mother of a 13 year old boy, I totally understand where you're
coming from. There is a balancing act that we must do as parents to keep
our kids actively engaged in real life outside of "screen world."
That said, I seriously disagree with Hilarie Cash. Her viewpoint is
alarmist and is as unbalanced as the "screen addict" but in the opposite
direction. I was a drug addict as a teenager and I know well the dangers
and misery that comes with that. To compare computers to a drug addiction
is seriously inflammatory and just downright WRONG. Last I checked, kids
don't ingest computers into their system. At least if my kids are home
playing a game, I know they're not shooting heroin in a public bathroom or
passed out on a curb somewhere. Seriously.
Kevin Roberts has a much more balanced approach. And as a mom, you have to
know that you're allowed to find moments of sanity. The reality is that
all our lives revolve around screens. Going cold turkey from screens isn't
an option. As in all things, it's about balance.
"We are going through this with our grandson. Right now he is going to
skateboard camp and taking Korean martial arts and even reading some
voluntarily and helping a little with chores. I know the screens are here
to stay. I know how addictive they are but they won't go away so we have
to figure out how to live with them.
"It's not just children who are addicted to screens - it began a generation
ago. In many waiting rooms now, a television is turned - often to a
morning talk show or afternoon soap opera. We now make cars with double
screens in the back seat so children can each watch their own DVD...
Watching is soothing to children and adults alike - it's a passive
activity that fills the brain without challenging it. Video games though
are not passive, they're active and they excite children because they are
challenging. Children used to like to play cops and robbers and now they
can play video games that are exactly like cops and robbers but with
amazing special effects that give a seemingly more real sense of battle
and a very sense of victory.
Many kids find these games thrilling even while obesity in American
children is now up to 1 out of 3! Increasingly fearful of letting our
children play outside without being watched and increasingly stressed
while we try as parents to manage both work and home, we let the kids play
video games because it occupies them and lets us attend to the many other
things that demand our attention.
Some children come to crave the games - children with shorter attention
spans find the constant stimulation of the chase and the shooting very
attention-grabbing. Children who find it hard to sit still can sit still
for hours while shooting away in a video game. Victory in a video game
gives some children a very real - if false- sense of accomplishment.
And that makes it hard to wean some children off the games. If you really
want your child to spend less time playing these virtual games, you have
to give them something real to do. Don't get started with the games migh
be good advice but once started to get them to stop, you have to offer
other alternatives and then model the behavior you expect of your child.
If you want your child to take a healthy walk, talk it along with them. If
you want your child to ride a bike, get on your own bike and go along with
them. Listen to their excited tales about what they did with their games
and then steer the conversation to other things. The old saying 'all work
and no play makes Jack a dull boy" can also be said 'that all play and
nothing else also makes Jack dull.' Video games should be a diversion -
not their life. If they like the idea of combat and many young boys do,
judo, karate or aikido teach safe, structured and ancient forms of combat
that also teach discipline and physical!
fitness. Children don't really get addicted to the games but they can
come to crave the excitement of the game and the sense of accomplishment
when they win in the game. Try games like Capture the Flag and Freeze Tag
to teach children that excitement and a sense of victory don't have to be
virtual and can come from your own backyard.