I know I am potentially throwing gas on a fire here, but I’m willing to take a risk in order to find some help for myself, but also help others who are perplexed at how much screen time to allow their boys.
My son will be seven this May and this past Christmas we received a Wii as a gift, along with several games. After returning a couple items he didn’t want or like, he had enough funds to also purchase his own copy of Super Mario Bros.
After reading Dr. Leonard Sax’s excellent book, Boys Adrift, I was convinced that video games for boys can become an unhealthy, consuming addiction. I agree with Dr. Sax that it is ok to let boys play video games but to allow only short times each day for them to play…like 45 minutes. The author talks about a boy’s “will to power” that gets fed as he plays video games over and over again. The boy has a pull to be “powerful” but instead of exercising his will in the physical realm, it’s done vicariously through the screen.
I would not be as concerned as I am with my own son if he also liked to play and engage in physical pursuits, but nearly all of his conversations have to do with the imaginary world of Mario and Luigi. He is on a basketball team and taking swimming lessons, and his attention span to these physical sports is not nearly as intense as it is when he plays video games. I am concerned that he is getting hooked.
I played my fair share of video games growing up–Atari mostly. I am sure my parents thought it a bit unwise bringing one of these machines into the home when I was ten. Now, I’m the parent and while I try to play Wii with my son in order to have some connection time with him, he stands head and shoulders above me in terms of skill and play. He really loves it when I play with him.
I agree with something I read in The Way of the Wild Heart by John Eldredge that “Our sons (and daughters) need to know that we love them, but more importantly, they need to know we like them and that we like the things they like.” I’m trying like crazy to like the things Turner likes regarding video games, but I’m having a hard time letting him get consumed.
What have other dads done? A part of me wants to put the Wii away for a couple months and re-train him on more real-world activities, and develop his desire. But I’m not ready to pull the trigger on that yet. My wife and I are on the same page, but I’m not sure we’re reading out of the right instruction manual on boys. Where do you stand with video games and your sons? Is it just me or are there other dads out there who struggle with getting their boys to engage in the physical world?