Monday, March 10, 2014

Revisiting Gaming and Seeking What's Best

This gaming issue is not done for me.  I am wrestling with it still.  I snapped this picture in Target a while ago because it was so shocking to me that we would even think this way when planning for summer.  It is a lot to process for us mommas, a lot to evaluate for the children we love.

All of this came up for me again today as I perused facebook. I took a few minutes to read an article I have recently seen but had ignored.  I should not have ignored it.  The title?

Have you read it?  If not, please, PLEASE click on that title and leave here for a few minutes and read THAT.  Because, seriously... we need to take in what that article provides and find a way to apply it to our ordinary, everyday lives.   This article takes what we feel as mommas and shows us the research behind it, making our intuition all the more clear.  I don't know why we refuse to trust ourselves more... but we do.  Us mommas, we get this sense that something is just plain bad for our know, like excessive gaming or the quality of such... and we talk ourselves out of it because we are just so sure that we will be wrong, or we are being too strict or everyone else is doing it and that all of this matters more.  

Can we just not do that anymore?  

That little one in your arms or at your feet or who you drove to school today or put on a bus... that little one is yours.  And you get to be the expert on that child and you get to choose for that child and you get to offer up to that sweet daughter or son the best (and sometimes worst) that you are.  So, if there is a weight in the pit of your belly that says, "I think this is not what is best for my baby." then RUN... seriously, run... away from that thing and toward what you believe will help your child to develop into the adult they are meant to be.  

You get to do that.  And no one can fuss at you for doing what you feel is right.  

So I wrote this blog in January about gaming and I was terrified to post it because I was sure that I was standing alone.  And you want to know what happened next?  Two things.  

1.  People started reading it and passing to friends making that post the most read blog I have ever written. 

2.   People started writing to me and telling me how they felt similarly about gaming.  

I was shocked by both.  I went from being terrified about what people would think to feeling like I wasn't that alone at all.  Amazing.  Comforting.  

Though it did make me wonder why all the video game stores are still open.  Because now I can see that a lot of parents are uncomfortable with this whole scene.  And I am left wondering about how trapped we feel because something in us is saying that gaming is not what is best for our kids and yet the stores are still open and money is being made and our kids, yours and mine, are still gaming.  And yes, a lot of us are putting limits on what we buy and what we allow and that is exactly what we need to do.  We need to help our kids see that we can find a way to build in parameters that allow for the things they want to do while still living within limits we can tolerate.  

But, when I read that article today, I felt emboldened again.  And I find myself thinking about what our life would look like if we lived by the standards given here.  I wondered what we could do if we actually had back the time we often waste on screens.  I wondered how I can be so concerned about gaming and the quality of it all and yet still find myself allowing the overuse of technology in our home.  

I love that the article addresses all of this from a point of research.  Because seriously, seeing it all clearly explained from a point of view that has studied the impacts of technology on children is motivating.  And I think we are often overlooking really obvious signs that we are just not doing what we need to... in our homes and in our society.  

Many years ago when I was teaching, I asked the kindergarten teacher how placement testing was going for the next year.  Each spring, potential kindergarten students would come to school for "testing" that would help the teacher to prepare for the new year and also to help guide parents in preparing their children. Nearly 20 years ago, I found myself in this conversation and was shocked at the response.  My colleague (I taught first grade, she taught Kindergarten) sat with her head in her hands at the end of the day.  As we talked, she explained that year after year the kids she tested were actually able to do LESS.  She said that many did not know how to hold a pencil and a shocking number of kids could not climb stairs well (alternating feet).  She said that the children came to testing knowing the names of multiple TV characters and with tons of experience playing on electronics, but little experience playing outside.  

Nearly 20 years ago.  

Can you imagine her experience today?  

And we scratch our heads at the number of children who show signs of attention deficit disorder and sensory processing disorder at an early age.  We offer medication for low levels of Vitamin D and prepare for record numbers of children to be diagnosed with diabetes.

Yes, I know some kids are born with these struggles.  I believe this to be true.  But, I also know that there are far more kids with issues now than there were when I used to teach.  And I know that in my own house, we have had to remove TV as an option for one of my kids because that child's behavior was so much worse after watching.  Why?  Because she needed to move!  She needed to jump and yell and run and fall and feel the dirt beneath her feet and the wind in her hair.  Kids need these things.  And they will never get them from a screen.  Ever.  

So yes, there are kids who are born with struggles and there are kids who come from hard places and there are kids who have health issues just because.  And there are kids who need to move more and play outside and do a puzzle and talk a ton and who will find themselves with a hard road to walk in school because of the excessive technology they have been offered from a very young age 

At the end of the article, we see this: 

Dr Andrew Doan, Dr. Hilarie Cash and Chris Rowan

And I am left wondering again.  

I am left with our experience from Christmas.  I am left with the knowledge that experts still say that all online violent and explicit gaming is bad for our kids... even our big kids... and that these forms of media should never be used.  And there are studies that support these truths.  

Oh mommas, we know this, don't we?  We know in our guts that we need to be careful.  We know we need to protect their hearts and their minds.  We know.  What will we do with this knowledge?  How will we intersect what we feel is best with what we offer at home?  Where will we make room for our faith and a respect for human life to guide our choices?  

And even as I type that, I think, "Am I supposed to making room for my faith?  Or should I be making room in a faithful life for some of these other things?"  The difference in these sentences is small.  The variation in their meaning is great.  

As I go through life with my four kids, I know that I want what is best for them.  I know that I want them to grow up healthy and well-rounded with a solid belief system that guides their lives.  I know that I want them to know how to connect to others and follow their calling and value family and love their God.  And I want them to have fun and know joy and find room for downtime and rest.  

I just hope that I am teaching them to do these things with a focus on what matters most.  

This is not an easy task. 

Blessings on your day. 

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