Screen Time and Summer Releases

Screen Time and Summer Releases

This week, Shamus tackles reader questions, including how to manage gaming time for kids and getting through the summer gaming doldrums.

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I am reminded of the Penny Arcade joke were Gabe encounters a couple of smug parents who brag that they limit their kid to forty-five minutes of "screen time" per day.

This was me. It was ridiculous. I think at its worst it was half an hour of screen time on Wednesday, and an hour a day on Saturday and Sunday.

Yes, of course I was secretly watching the TV every time they turned around.

There is definitely a problem with spending too much time playing games or watching tv, but limits like that were actually counter productive. They just made me constantly want to do one of the two, and I put it on a pedestal above all other activities whenever I got the chance to do it. Once I had no limit, I'll play far less games. I still enjoy them plenty, but it's no longer a coveted activity above all else.

The Almighty Aardvark:

I am reminded of the Penny Arcade joke were Gabe encounters a couple of smug parents who brag that they limit their kid to forty-five minutes of "screen time" per day.

This was me. It was ridiculous. I think at its worst it was half an hour of screen time on Wednesday, and an hour a day on Saturday and Sunday.

Yes, of course I was secretly watching the TV every time they turned around.

There is definitely a problem with spending too much time playing games or watching tv, but limits like that were actually counter productive. They just made me constantly want to do one of the two, and I put it on a pedestal above all other activities whenever I got the chance to do it. Once I had no limit, I'll play far less games. I still enjoy them plenty, but it's no longer a coveted activity above all else.

Same here - my parents were very disorganized about it, they'd just declare that I'd played too much, or sometimes they'd take the console away for a week or two. It created a situation where I maximized any opportunity I had to spend time playing games, because I didn't know when I'd get another chance, and then once those strictures relaxed when I was finishing off high school, it took me a while to find a balance.

The funny thing is that I explained this to my parents every now and again, but my Dad just said that no, it rots your brain, blah blah blah.

Shamus Young:
I am reminded of the Penny Arcade joke were Gabe encounters a couple of smug parents who brag that they limit their kid to forty-five minutes of "screen time" per day. It's a joke, but it's also very real in the sense that real parents really do this to their real children in the real world. I run into these people all the time. It boggles the mind.

And if you haven't seen it, he also had a long post describing giving a talk at his son's PTA, answering questions parents had. I thought his answer for this was very good:

When they finish playing a game ask them why they like it. Sit down and say hey I know you love playing Minecraft but why do you like it so much? Your kid might say "Oh I love building things and right now I'm working on a roller coaster!" or maybe they finish playing a game on their iPad and you ask them about it. They might say "Oh I just like shooting the aliens, their heads look super cool when they explode." These are two very different experiences. Now as a parent you can decide for yourself what sort of experience you want to encourage or limit.

That screen time one... ugh. The worst is when I hear people say, "Oh, we want them to make their own fun." They are making their own fun, right there in Minecraft. It's one thing if you say, "Come on, let's go to the park and play soccer," but another to just tell them to turn it off.

In terms of the viewership stuff, I usually use the summer to aggregate reviews and critiques for last year's games, then buy a bunch on sale. One thing I loved about the old Escapist Weekly was that the articles rarely went stale. Even 4 years on you can still go into the archives and turn up interesting and valuable discussions on how people make games, why they make them as they do and how else they can be made. That was a good way to fill up my hours.

I live in Canada, but the sun is much less warming than my screens.

The Almighty Aardvark:

I am reminded of the Penny Arcade joke were Gabe encounters a couple of smug parents who brag that they limit their kid to forty-five minutes of "screen time" per day.

This was me. It was ridiculous. I think at its worst it was half an hour of screen time on Wednesday, and an hour a day on Saturday and Sunday.

Yes, of course I was secretly watching the TV every time they turned around.

There is definitely a problem with spending too much time playing games or watching tv, but limits like that were actually counter productive. They just made me constantly want to do one of the two, and I put it on a pedestal above all other activities whenever I got the chance to do it. Once I had no limit, I'll play far less games. I still enjoy them plenty, but it's no longer a coveted activity above all else.

My parents had a much softer limit - two hours of screen time a day, plus unlimited time on special occasions - and it actually turned out very well. I didn't really cheat to get more time, I developed a serious book habit, and I never got into trashy TV. (Trashy books, on the other hand, I devoured with abandon.) As an adult with unlimited time, it's very difficult to strike a healthy balance; I spend way more time gaming than I really should because I have an impulsive, binge-friendly personality. I really appreciated the structure of forcing me to do a variety of activities.

Robyrt:

My parents had a much softer limit - two hours of screen time a day, plus unlimited time on special occasions - and it actually turned out very well. I didn't really cheat to get more time, I developed a serious book habit, and I never got into trashy TV. (Trashy books, on the other hand, I devoured with abandon.) As an adult with unlimited time, it's very difficult to strike a healthy balance; I spend way more time gaming than I really should because I have an impulsive, binge-friendly personality. I really appreciated the structure of forcing me to do a variety of activities.

I think that's a lot more reasonable limit.

Actually, in regards to time wasters, I don't find that games are the worst. TV, and internet tends to be the worst in my experience, just because of how you just get entertainment fed to you without any input required on your part. It's easy to lose yourself in those, even if you're bored out of your mind.

At least with games, you generally get tired of them pretty quickly once your bored, and then you stop and do something else.

I dunno, I'd bitch and moan at the time what with having all of the perspective available to an adolescent, but I'd rather have parents who cared enough to do misguided shit like that than those who'd be content to let me be raised by the screens. Yes, I'm aware that those aren't the only two options but I can't help but think that kids raised like that come out ahead when you balance it all in the end.

I'm a father to three boys, a life-long gamer and I limit my kid's screen time. That's not just PC/console games, but includes time on the handheld/tablet, TV, YouTube and Internet. I love computer games and the idea that I believe gaming is unnatural or believe the kids should be playing with hoops and sticks is not my experience. It seems uncharacteristically lazy thinking by the OP.

Perhaps the smug parent is the one who has found success by not limiting their kid's screen time? Most parents are simply trying to do their best in the middle of a welter of governmental/medical advice and media scare stories.

I generally accept scientific papers that demonstrate that there is no strong evidence for a link between screen time and time spent engaging in physical activity (which is good to help avoid obesity and encourage good health) and so the medical recommendations in place in the US and Australia may not be appropriate for all geographical regions, but there are far more practical reasons for the limit.

During the school week, the kids have an hour in the morning and four hours in the afternoon. They need time to eat with the family, which will reduce this somewhat. Homework and chores are unpopular, but necessary - and so introducing the idea that these must be done before screen time seems reasonable. The guys have to share screens with the adults (we don't have the money/space for one each) and so they need to take turns with us and with each other. They also have music practice, sports and social clubs, and other activities to fit in. In short they need to plan how much time they can afford to spend on computer time without it impacting on everything else on their plate including developing other skills and spending time with other people.

I'm sure this will change as they grow older. At their current young ages, they need help to make good decisions about spending their time. As they go through secondary education, then we can give them more autonomy. We know that you have not developed your adult decision-making facilities until quite late. That's what stops me playing games 24x7.

I am surprised by Shamus' blanket and blunt dismissal of screen time discipline and the parents who engage in it. I limit my kid's screen time like I limit their access to sugary foods. A modicum of a wide variety of activities, to my mind, is better than a lot of a very narrow range of activities. I have met kids who were pushed into developing very narrow skills sets (maths prodigies, for example) and I found the lack of balance and roundness to their experience very unsettling and strange.

Shymer:
I am surprised by Shamus' blanket and blunt dismissal of screen time discipline and the parents who engage in it. I limit my kid's screen time like I limit their access to sugary foods.

See my previous post for a link to the full article written by Mike from Penny Arcade. Limiting "screen time" as a whole is a missed opportunity for raising the average quality of their screen time.

Would you really give them the same limit, regardless of whether they're doing something creative, doing something social, or just killing time?

UNHchabo:
See my previous post for a link to the full article written by Mike from Penny Arcade. Limiting "screen time" as a whole is a missed opportunity for raising the average quality of their screen time.

Would you really give them the same limit, regardless of whether they're doing something creative, doing something social, or just killing time?

In my case - yes the limit is the same - particularly during the week. That's because the reason for the limit is to enable them to fit in other activities and not because I am passing judgment on what I consider to be "high quality" screen time. They decide how to spend their screen time and they usually prefer to play games with me or their friends rather than playing on their own - or watching TV. However if they just want to watch a film or cartoon - that's fine by me.

I don't discriminate between games like Minecraft - puzzle games - strategy games - even arcade games. Parents might like to think of Minecraft as feeding their creativity - but Minecraft is not the be-all and end all of creativity toys (I'm afraid I am not as wowed as non-gaming parents might be), online multiplayer and 'social' online spaces are minefields of bullying, bitterness, griefing and sometimes killing time is just what you need after a rough day. I try and provide them with a broad range of gaming experiences, company and support for those times when things are not working out well.

I just asked my eldest son what he thought of limiting screen time and he said he could understand and was happy with it during the week and just before bed - would like to be reminded of the end of a session some minutes before the deadline so he could finish up what he was doing - and if he was not limited by time, would get bored of his usual youtubers quite quickly and then play minecraft until his friends left. However he would like us to be more relaxed during the weekend. My middle son solemnly swore if there were no limits that he would only play for half an hour and no more.

We'll try it and see, but if I were a gambling man, my money would be on him playing for a lot longer.

Limits and discipline are fundamental in the healthy development of a child, but each family has its balance. If your kids seem to self-regulate their "screen time", then this is not a problem, - focus somewhere else.

But videogames and TV can be alienating and addicting and most kids left alone may find hard to strike a balance. It is quite understandable that technology will be more and more present in our lives (even replacing some social interactions that were once face to face), but some kids do need a lot of discipline in order to not get lost.

Yes, it does not apply only to videogames, there are several other compulsive behaviors a child or teen might have, but games and TV are awesome and have a tremendous potential to grab a kid (and adults) attention in detriment of everything else.

My dad did this. Limited it to two hours per day, plus extra half hour for an hour of going for a walk. Of course when it comes to making me want to play games less and go out more it worked as well as you'd expect, IE not at all.

 

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