We are video game free at our house. This includes hand-held systems. We aren’t luddites. We have cable, a laptop, and an iphone. But we just can’t bring ourselves to get a gaming system for our three boys. We have made a conscious decision to avoid any form of gaming because we want our children to play outside, participate in imaginative play, read, do puzzles, build with LEGO, and be tuned-in to family.

Discussions about video games are controversial. There are many different studies and like most things, drawbacks and positive effects have been found. One of the most common criticisms of video games is that they can increase the violent tendencies among youth, including bullying. Now, I know that my children are not going to get a system and then start playing Halo at six and four years old (although I know that there are some children who do……disturbing) but it is a slippery slope. They can start by playing Animal Crossing and end up playing War of the Worlds. I don’t want the boys to be exposed to violence on games or on television. They probably see enough deviant behaviour on the schoolyard (but that’s a whole other post).

We don’t want the boys to be consumed by playing video games. We want them to play with one another, invent games, build things, or run around outside. We don’t want their nose to be in a game while we are travelling. We want them to be looking out the window, sharing family discussions, playing word games, or reading.

Last year a friend in my son’s grade one class came over for a play-date. He asked where our video games were and if they could play something. He looked at us like we were aliens from another planet when we told him that we didn’t have any. I suggested that they play outside or build with LEGO. Heaven forbid they actually have to talk to one another, use their imagination, share, get active. When I was a child you couldn’t keep us inside. We were on the run from morning until night. My fondest childhood memories are of all of the neighbourhood adventures that I had with my best friend, Cayley, and her sister.

So, what about when my sons go to someone else’s house for a playdate and they are faced with playing video games? Well, I won’t mind (too much). I am realistic becoming more realistic about what I can and can not control. But there are some issues that playing video games at other people’s houses present. 1. Will my sons be completely inept when attempting to play video games and then find themselves alienated from their friends?; 2. Will the games be violent, disturbing, and scary?: 3. Will my sons be really drawn to the games…….. like video game crack?

Well, we may have found a happy medium. My husband’s parents have a Nintendo Wii. So, when the boys go for a visit over there a few times a year, they are allowed to play wii sports and Mario Kart. So, they get to “practice” a little in preparation for playing at a friend’s house when that comes up in the future. They really enjoy playing the wii for awhile and then they wander off to play in the toy room or the backyard. It isn’t as enticing as I was afraid of. They also haven’t asked to have a wii at our own house. Although, my six-year-old has recently made a request, in passing, for a DS. I hope that he forgets this, especially in time for the Santa letter. (Some of you might be thinking, “Hmmm, she lies to her kid about Santa and then is concerned with the effects of video games……”)

I do have the nagging feeling that supervised and time-controlled video gaming isn’t all bad. There are benefits of improved hand-eye coordination, problem solving skills, and some of the games are teaching tools. There are games that might be educationally beneficial. Should I be teaching and trusting my children to accurately gauge right and wrong when it comes to video game violence? Is completely sheltering them, teaching them to think critically in a technological world? Will they break free and become future video gaming junkies? I know that  younger generations are being raised in a much more technology based society. Will my children be somewhat left behind?

So, as you can see this decision to game or not to game is a continual struggle. Perhaps one day we will have a gaming system in our home. But for now I think am good with our decision to avoid it for our children.

Please weigh in………………