“After story time, Josiah had to take his nap, and I set the timer for half an hour and played on the computer. My big brother let me play his World War II game. It’s really fun.”
We have a few days of preschool tips to cover with “Jonathan’s Journal” (after our detour for read alouds, devotionals, etc. for several days). In today’s excerpt, Jonathan did one thing and didn’t do another. That is, he played on the computer, and he DIDN’T take a nap (because he was five and had outgrown his nap)! Today—electronic games. Tomorrow preschoolers’ naps.
I have talked extensively on this blog early in the year about television and other forms of entertainment and their effect on behavior, love for learning, academics, reading, and more. That is not to say, however, that we do not watch movies or play computer games. We have found that by not being able to get television stations and not having game systems, we have eliminated much of the addiction to entertainment that many families deal with. Yes, we can watch dvd’s, but that is far from being able to flip on the television and watch television any time of the day or night. (And keeping our television on a rolling cart in a closet that has to be pulled out, plugged in, etc. in order to watch a dvd on it has also reduced the amount of time it is used.)
As for game systems, we are not ones who believe children should never play electronics. However, by not getting any games systems (hand held or otherwise), we have been able to control electronic games much more than if we had these things available any time. In today’s passage, Jonathan played a computer game. Yes, it is still available to play—but as many as eight other people also needed that same computer (before we started our publishing company and had multiple computers), and it had many other purposes (writing reports, research, communication, etc.). Someone playing a game on it was last on the list each day.
We have allotted our kids thirty minutes a day to play computer games—if the computer is available that day during a time (after school hours!!!) that the child is available to play it. This has resulted in computer time being used about thirty minutes a day three days a week or so. (We had no “carry over” minutes—that experiment was a disaster with this number of children!)
Our advice wouldn’t be so much to get a game system or not, let your children play computer games or don’t—but rather to control it religiously. Again, why would a preschooler build with Legoes or do a floor puzzle with baby brother with a Playstation that he can play at any time calling his name?
This leads me to one final piece of advice in this area (for today!): do not let your children turn on the television, game system, or computer game anytime they want. At the very least, have set hours (no tv until after four; no computer or video game until all homework is done or no electronics Monday through Thursday, etc.)—and make a rule that children must ask before they turn anything on. Children do not have the decision making skills to determine how to use their time, what to watch, when to stop, etc. That is why they have parents.