Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gaming craze no game for parents

Gaming craze no game for parents

Deepak Seth • Community member, Editorial Board • April 29, 2008
Spring is in the air, the days are warming up and the outdoors beckons. Or does it? Not if you ask my 10-year-old son and many other boys his age.It is almost impossible to drag them away from their wintertime "screen" pastimes of TV, computer games, DS, Game Boy, Xbox, Wii, etc. The virtual world seems to be slowly encroaching upon the real.

"What happened at school today?" is more likely to be answered in terms of what armor some friend has accumulated in Runescape or what level another has reached in Super Smash Brothers Brawl. Any visit to the mall with him now includes a pilgrimage to the games store for the weekly ritual of new release browsing.

Like most other parenting decisions, this one leaves us in a bind. Is this gaming helping kids acquire skills for the future? The fighter pilots of tomorrow are more likely to toy with a joystick controller opposite a giant screen than suit up and get into a cockpit. Surgeons are going to use robotic devices guided by game-like controllers.

On the other hand, the harmful effects of too much exposure to electronic gaming on the eyes and the brain have been well-documented. Many games carry warnings about the risk of causing epileptic seizures because of the constantly flashing images.

This is just the beginning. The lure of gaming is only going to increase as teenage years commence. Discussions with friends facing the same dilemma have thrown up some interesting options:
- Restrict exposure to any screen-based device to a fixed duration, say a couple of hours per day. The kid chooses how he wants to allocate that time across various devices. "No TV if you have played Xbox for two hours.''
- A mandatory break after every 30 minutes of gaming. Luckily, some of the newer devices automatically give some warnings when the game has been going on for too long a time.
- No gaming during certain hours of the day or if the outside temperature is in a particular range or if certain mandated household chores and homework have not been completed.
- Request teachers to monitor whether the entire conversation among kids is focused on gaming exploits. Maybe try distracting them with some other activities.
- Lobby with games companies to create more "educational" games. Today a majority of the popular games primarily focus on "killing" or "capturing" or blowing things up.

Most important, maybe I need to get off the couch and go outside more often — be the positive role model I should be. Is it my incessant pounding on the keyboard or flicking from one news channel to another while the winter debris awaits cleaning in the yard outside the right example to set?
The parental guilt trip starts again.

Community members serve on the Editorial Board and write occasional columns.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We're trying different techniques ourselves. For one, we've reduced our own TV viewing time down to not more than half hour a day! Nothing works better than a live role model!
In our experience getting kids involved more in sports is a certain way to get them out more and out of harms way!

- Anupam

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