April 4, 2016

Pied Piper iPad

It's no secret we've allowed the girls to use what electronics we have over the years. I've talked about "tech schooling" and the girls' computerized lessons off an on. I think I even might have mentioned vintage video game family nights a time or two. We've always tried to place limits, but still, the electronics call to them like the Pied Piper of the modern day, and we'd occasionally let them have "just a little" longer because a few moments of peace seemed worth it for days when work was particularly trying.

Sneak "teaching" a friend how to play a game when she was 3.
Hubby and I decided to implement more strict rules regarding screen time toward the end of spring break. With the distraction of illness and just trying to keep things running with one of us out of commission, we let them have way more time than usual. Being kids who still believe in "more is more," they took full advantage. Within a couple of days they began snapping at one another and fighting over games or movie picks and just showing a general lack of regard for one another as they got lost in an endless stream of entertainment. They were like addicts looking for their next hit, and we knew we had to put a stop to it right away.

We called the girls into our room for a family meeting and laid out their new guidelines, which were mostly small windows in which they were allowed to use electronics. The rest of the time, they were expected to play with their regular toys, make crafts, read, do puzzles, basically anything other than veg out in front of a screen or playing video games. We encouraged them to play together.

So far it's been kind of rough. Boo Bear has taken things more easily than her sister. She might pout, but she'll put all the devices away when her time is up without complaint and find something else to do. Sneak, on the other hand, is finding the new system difficult.

We've experienced tantrums, attempts at bargaining, and bouts of crying when it's time to put the devices away for the day. She's been argumentative with Boo Bear whenever they attempt to play together because she's developed a bit of a control issue from having complete control over her characters. Boo Bear has a mind of her own, and it's suddenly like Sneak's forgotten how to deal with someone behaving in an unpredictable manner.

Things are improving though.

Both girls are putting their devices away with less complaint each day. They are slowly getting back to playing with one another without the constant fights over what to play or how to go about it. Their tone when speaking to one another is improving, and they're getting back to hobbies.

Playing at the gardens.
It's just games and television shows. How can they be so disruptive? How are they any worse than board games?

The thing with board games is you play them with another person. That other player adds an element of chaos to the game. You aren't in total control. That's not quite true with video games, especially ones like Minecraft or the other "maker" games out there. You control your character and environment, and that's a heady kind of power for a kid. It's something you can get accustomed to very fast, especially when it feels like your life is outside your control. What kid doesn't feel that way?

Am I saying every kid who plays a lot of video games will turn into a narcissistic control freak? No, I'm not. That's not what I mean in anyway. But for those who are prone to control issues or who are going through a time of upheaval, which can be as simple as realizing they're growing up and changing, it can become an irresistible escape. The problem comes in when escape becomes a crutch or addiction. As tough as it is, they have to learn to deal with the things they're trying to escape from, within reason. Otherwise it will cause them more problems down the road.

Lord knows it's a lesson I've had to learn myself. When I'm starting into a bout of depression, the first sign is usually a strong urge to binge YouTube videos, a series on Netflix,  an entire section of some fan fic site or another, or play video games all day long. I end up berating myself the entire time, mentally pointing out all the things I need to be doing, but I keep hitting next anyway. While I'm binging, I don't have to think about whatever it is that's overwhelming me, but it keeps piling up at the same time. The longer things go on, the worse the issue becomes until I have no choice but to pull myself up and fight through it or roll over and let it crush me to death.

Better the girls learn this now when new habits are easier to break than when they're grown and the habits are ingrained.

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