Monday, January 3, 2011

Supporting the Case for Video Games

I grew up with a brother who played video games non-stop. In fact, his Nintendo set-up was just on the other side my bedroom wall. He'd stay up late, playing video games, while the annoying theme music kept me from falling asleep. For that reason alone, I have always hated video games and at the beginning of my marriage, I swore I'd never, ever buy a Nintendo or other such stupid video game machine for any of my kids. We had a computer and that was enough.

Have you ever heard the saying Never Say Never?

We resisted purchasing any electronic game devices until Comcast sent us a free Nintendo DS four years ago. Even then, we kept it in our closet for over a year and even tried to sell it a few times to friends. Finally we broke down and gave it to our oldest son for his 9th birthday.

At first I cringed and felt like I was breaking one of my personal favorite rules. But then, I started to grin. My oldest son - and three younger kids - loved the NintenDogs game. It was fun to see how they each interacted with their dogs and how they took care of them. From there, we gradually branched out into other games - our favorites are Lego and Mario themed games.

What I had not anticipated though, was how playing video games helped our oldest son (who has autism) socially. Video games were a link to something he had in common with the other kids in his school classes. Soon, kids started asking our son to bring his DS to school on their special electronics games so they could play together. He was invited to play games at friends' houses. He even started asking for friends to come play at our house. That had never happened before!

Other benefits that came with playing games included:
  • asking how-to questions
  • actually listening to answers
  • reading instructions
  • learning to control frustration
  • recognizing when to take a break
  • following video game time rules
  • develop gross and fine motor skills
  • enhance eye-hand co-ordination

Something I hated so much growing up became a key component for our autistic son's development.

As I reluctantly jumped into the video game world (and even purchased a Wii), I learned a few important things every parent with video games in the house should know.
 
  1.  Choose your family standards. Each family is different in what they feel is okay to play in their home. With our son's autism, he doesn't decipher the difference between pretend and reality. So we choose not to have games they shoot guns or have any type of bloody violence. Now, he is a boy, and every boy loves a good fight sequence. We've found that the Lego games are a good compromise. They're fun and high quality. The best part is that when someone gets blasted with a light saber (Star Wars) instead of blood, they fall apart into Lego bricks, then get rebuilt. Some other fun games that involve competition are the Wii sports games. We have fun playing tennis, bowling, and golf. Our favorite is watching our three year old daughter swing her arms all around and "beat up" her eleven year old brother in boxing.
  2. Research video games before purchasing. There are a few good websites my hubby always check out to see their reviews. His favorite is GameSpy. Their site not only reviews a game, but they also link to other reviews of the game as well. It's kind of a one stop destination to find a good variety of reviews and appropriateness.
  3. Set time limits. At our house, electronic time starts at 3 pm. During the week, each of the kids has the opportunity to play on the computer or Nintendo for thirty minutes, after they finish their homework. We even set a timer in the kitchen (a nice loud one that everyone hears when it goes off). On the weekends, they each get up to one hour of electronics time. Our other house rule is that once dinner is set on the table, all electronics (tv, computer, and Nintendo) are shut off for the remainder of the night. So if someone was pokey and didn't do his homework during the 3-6 pm time frame, then he lost the opportunity to play for the day. Remember, video games are not a necessity of life. They are a priviledge to be earned.


As an adult, I've learned to set aside my youthful negative feelings towards video games, and instead accept them for the good they can provide. Are they the end-all, be-all cure for a kid's development? Heck no! But they sure can have more pros than you may originally give them credit for. I'd love to hear your feedback, video game recommendations, or tips on electronics house rules in the comment section.

7 comments:

Tristi Pinkston said...

I definitely agree - some games are very beneficial, when you choose them wisely and put restraints on them. We can sure tell a difference in our house when we've been too lax with our restraints!!

kbrebes said...

Great post! We just got a Kinect and I love it! The river rafting is my favorite. My children like target practice.

Nisa said...

That is so cool! That just made my little heart flutter with joy! This is such a great post!

Heather Justesen said...

Your points are good ones, and I love that you found a way to work video games into your lives in a beneficial way without letting them take over, as they do so often. =)

Rachelle said...

Wow! I need to remember this post in a few years when my kids start asking. I have always been with you on the "NO video games we have a computer" idea because I had a brother too. :) But reading your post opens up some new perspective. I think the biggest problem I've seen is one that you address--setting time limits. And from what I've seen kids will try to push that limit as far and as often as they can. I really like your ideas--good job!

Danyelle Ferguson said...

Rachelle - One of the things I found that was really important was sticking to the "No games after dinner" rule. This give the kids time to come down from the excited high they get playing electronics. Then with our other night rituals (bath time & reading), they are pretty calmed down for bed. My son with autism will often lay in bed talking to himself about the game he was playing, but it's not a hyper-type of talk, if that makes sense. =)

Thanks for all your feedback, everyone!

Lynn Parsons said...

Awesome--makes me want to do the Wii project...just need the time.....

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