Computer versus TV

by DaniGirl on August 8, 2007 · 31 comments

in Uncategorized

The good news is, the boys aren’t watching a lot of TV these days.  I’d say the daily consumption has dropped to less than an hour, and I won’t embarrass myself by letting on exactly how many hours they were consuming before.  Some days when I was on vacation, the TV stayed off all day.

The bad news is, they have a new addiction of choice.  You see, my three year old and my five year old are now bona fide computer game junkies.

Sigh.

Their drug of choice is Star Wars Lego, and I must admit that it baffles me just a little bit that a Star Wars Lego video game even exists.  The boys love it, though, and would play it for hours at a time if I let them.  They also play a few other games, like Pixar’s Cars, and the Lego Island and Curious George paint games I got at the grocery store, and Simon especially likes the games on Nick.com.

So on the one hand, I’m okay with the reduced consumption of TV because at least with the video games, they’re engaged and doing something.  They’re forced to share and to take turns, but they still play collaboratively.  They’re problem solving, thinking, and developing at least some cognitive skills.  Not to mention memory:  Simon, who doesn’t yet clearly identify the letters of the alphabet let alone read, can click through six or seven layers of menu screens based solely on having seen it done a few times.  It’s actually kind of amazing to watch.

It’s also hilarious to hear them integrate the language of the video game into their regular play.  "Let’s play another level," said while leaping forth with lightsaber in hand, means "Let’s keep playing."

And yet, I have to admit that I am not completely at ease with this newfound addiction to video games.  First, at least when the TV is on the boys drift in and out of the room, playing with their toys and each other while the tube drones on.  With the computer, they stand fixed in front of the monitor, fingers thumping on the keyboard, for as long as we’ll leave them to it.  And I’m already becoming rather tired of hearing "But Moooooom, just let me finish this level!" whined at me each time I tell them to move along to something else.

I’m thinking of getting a timer and limiting them, maybe to 20 minutes each per day.  But, true confession time:  it’s so easy to let them play.  They’re engaged, they’re content, and most importantly, they aren’t pestering me or each other.  Computer time is free time for me, and at this stage in my life, I’m willing to trade dilligence for indulgence.  Call me lazy.

What do you think?  Are computer games better than TV?  Is there room for video games in a balanced day, even for a preschooler?  How much is too much?

And most importantly, how on earth can I justify limiting their computer time when I spend countless hours glued to the monitor myself?  Hypocrite, thy name is blogging mother…


{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kim August 8, 2007 at 1:53 pm

“And most importantly, how on earth can I justify limiting their computer time when I spend countless hours glued to the monitor myself?”
There’s the rub right there! It’s the same for me, and at ages eight and ten, my kids are quick to realize that and point it out when I try to get them to get off their computers! (OK, yes… they both have their own computers. We’re a techie family!)

2 Kim August 8, 2007 at 1:53 pm

“And most importantly, how on earth can I justify limiting their computer time when I spend countless hours glued to the monitor myself?”
There’s the rub right there! It’s the same for me, and at ages eight and ten, my kids are quick to realize that and point it out when I try to get them to get off their computers! (OK, yes… they both have their own computers. We’re a techie family!)

3 Ann D August 8, 2007 at 2:51 pm

“Just let me finish this level.” Every kid starts with that. Oh no….. 🙂

4 Ann D August 8, 2007 at 2:51 pm

“Just let me finish this level.” Every kid starts with that. Oh no….. 🙂

5 Chris August 8, 2007 at 3:16 pm

Delurking to say this…
My 8-year-old loves the computer. He can’t wait until I am finished working each day so he can get his computer time in. It sort of bothers me sometimes, but it has to be better than Ed, Edd and Eddy, right?
It is sort of why sometimes I say cake is okay for breakfast…it has eggs and milk and flour…same as pancakes! While he is playing, he has to read, he has to type, and he has to google stuff, so, in my opinion, I say that computer time is most definitely better than TV time.

6 Chris August 8, 2007 at 3:16 pm

Delurking to say this…
My 8-year-old loves the computer. He can’t wait until I am finished working each day so he can get his computer time in. It sort of bothers me sometimes, but it has to be better than Ed, Edd and Eddy, right?
It is sort of why sometimes I say cake is okay for breakfast…it has eggs and milk and flour…same as pancakes! While he is playing, he has to read, he has to type, and he has to google stuff, so, in my opinion, I say that computer time is most definitely better than TV time.

7 Bethany August 8, 2007 at 5:31 pm

I am such a bad example for this… my kiddo LOVE video games. As does his father. And that whole “Wait til I finish the next level” thing? Well, the kiddo learned from the best.
What’s a mother to do?
Personally, I think that it can’t hurt the kids to be familiar with computers or gaming. It is a large part of our culture (as is television). For us, it is a matter of finding the *right* kind of video games for him to play right now. And that is what we limit more than the hours or play.

8 Bethany August 8, 2007 at 5:31 pm

I am such a bad example for this… my kiddo LOVE video games. As does his father. And that whole “Wait til I finish the next level” thing? Well, the kiddo learned from the best.
What’s a mother to do?
Personally, I think that it can’t hurt the kids to be familiar with computers or gaming. It is a large part of our culture (as is television). For us, it is a matter of finding the *right* kind of video games for him to play right now. And that is what we limit more than the hours or play.

9 Fawn August 8, 2007 at 5:41 pm

I’m pretty sure that there have been studies that prove video games improve hand-eye coordination, and they’re certainly a lot more active than TV. (With TV, you apparently actually burn FEWER calories while watching than you would if you were just sitting and doing nothing!)
Having said that, I can understand that you don’t want them to play endlessly, since there are other worthwhile activities for kids to engage in. How about only allowing them to play during a certain period, or on certain days? I dunno, I haven’t had to navigate these tricky waters yet!

10 Fawn August 8, 2007 at 5:41 pm

I’m pretty sure that there have been studies that prove video games improve hand-eye coordination, and they’re certainly a lot more active than TV. (With TV, you apparently actually burn FEWER calories while watching than you would if you were just sitting and doing nothing!)
Having said that, I can understand that you don’t want them to play endlessly, since there are other worthwhile activities for kids to engage in. How about only allowing them to play during a certain period, or on certain days? I dunno, I haven’t had to navigate these tricky waters yet!

11 Fawn August 8, 2007 at 5:42 pm

But I don’t buy the “large part of our culture” argument. Just because a lot of people do something, doesn’t mean it’s worth doing. We don’t watch much TV in our household, and I never did growing up. I had no clue who She-Ra was and I don’t think that was a detriment.

12 Fawn August 8, 2007 at 5:42 pm

But I don’t buy the “large part of our culture” argument. Just because a lot of people do something, doesn’t mean it’s worth doing. We don’t watch much TV in our household, and I never did growing up. I had no clue who She-Ra was and I don’t think that was a detriment.

13 Kris August 8, 2007 at 10:36 pm

OH, Gosh, it is STAR WARS LEGOs at my house too! I made the mistake of buying that for my son’s seventh birthday in May and they are both obsessed with it. I have to finish this level!!! I try to limit it to two 20 minute sessions a day, but it usually ends up being about an hour a day each.
My seven year old has questioned why I get to use the computer during quiet time. I told him it’s because I’m working, not playing. Little does he know…. so far

14 Kris August 8, 2007 at 10:36 pm

OH, Gosh, it is STAR WARS LEGOs at my house too! I made the mistake of buying that for my son’s seventh birthday in May and they are both obsessed with it. I have to finish this level!!! I try to limit it to two 20 minute sessions a day, but it usually ends up being about an hour a day each.
My seven year old has questioned why I get to use the computer during quiet time. I told him it’s because I’m working, not playing. Little does he know…. so far

15 Batman August 8, 2007 at 10:46 pm

You need to get them on Facebook so they can play Pirates. That game is a great mind waster…I mean time waster.

16 Batman August 8, 2007 at 10:46 pm

You need to get them on Facebook so they can play Pirates. That game is a great mind waster…I mean time waster.

17 BeachMama August 9, 2007 at 1:18 am

We have similar issues here. First it started with the Lego Star Wars, but thank goodness our 360 broke and is gone for repairs. Before the breakdown it was video games every night before bed with Daddy. I do not play games, thus it is Daddy time. Since the breakdown J has played more on the computer, but seems to stop himself when he has had enough. If I feel he is on too long I shut it down and make him play with his actual Lego. So far so good it hasn’t become an issue. And watching/listening to A and his obsession with gaming, I dont’ want J to go that way at all.

18 BeachMama August 9, 2007 at 1:18 am

We have similar issues here. First it started with the Lego Star Wars, but thank goodness our 360 broke and is gone for repairs. Before the breakdown it was video games every night before bed with Daddy. I do not play games, thus it is Daddy time. Since the breakdown J has played more on the computer, but seems to stop himself when he has had enough. If I feel he is on too long I shut it down and make him play with his actual Lego. So far so good it hasn’t become an issue. And watching/listening to A and his obsession with gaming, I dont’ want J to go that way at all.

19 Shan August 9, 2007 at 2:21 am

I usually set a timer for computer/video game time. Abby has a couple of computer games and likes treehousetv.com. As for video games she has the V-Smile which is educational video games, but I set a limit on that too. I don’t see anything wrong with it provided there is a balance. Good news is she doesn’t really like to play all that long so it’s not a huge issue for us. She’s more of a movie girl, so I make sure we have lots of “nothing with a screen” time and at that point she needs to find some toys to play with or colour or head outside. We have lots of kids in our neighbourhood so there’s never a shortage of things to do.

20 Shan August 9, 2007 at 2:21 am

I usually set a timer for computer/video game time. Abby has a couple of computer games and likes treehousetv.com. As for video games she has the V-Smile which is educational video games, but I set a limit on that too. I don’t see anything wrong with it provided there is a balance. Good news is she doesn’t really like to play all that long so it’s not a huge issue for us. She’s more of a movie girl, so I make sure we have lots of “nothing with a screen” time and at that point she needs to find some toys to play with or colour or head outside. We have lots of kids in our neighbourhood so there’s never a shortage of things to do.

21 Barbara August 9, 2007 at 3:37 am

I agree that computer/video game time seems better than simple tv time. My hubby is more of a tv watcher than me but he will sit with Reid and watch her programs and that seems better than me letting her watch them while I do something else. But what I meant to say was that I read a cool idea on O2BNAZ (http://blog.o2bnaz.com/): This summer, in order to keep the TV viewing and video gaming to a reasonable level, we started having Nathon keep track of his reading time. Each minute of reading time logged in his notebook translates to a minute of “screen time” – and he can choose to watch something on TV, or play video games. When his time is up, he has to go read some more. We’ll probably keep this going during the school year too.

22 Barbara August 9, 2007 at 3:37 am

I agree that computer/video game time seems better than simple tv time. My hubby is more of a tv watcher than me but he will sit with Reid and watch her programs and that seems better than me letting her watch them while I do something else. But what I meant to say was that I read a cool idea on O2BNAZ (http://blog.o2bnaz.com/): This summer, in order to keep the TV viewing and video gaming to a reasonable level, we started having Nathon keep track of his reading time. Each minute of reading time logged in his notebook translates to a minute of “screen time” – and he can choose to watch something on TV, or play video games. When his time is up, he has to go read some more. We’ll probably keep this going during the school year too.

23 helene August 9, 2007 at 3:38 am

lol- mine are addicted to ddr

24 helene August 9, 2007 at 3:38 am

lol- mine are addicted to ddr

25 b*babbler August 9, 2007 at 1:45 pm

Hmm… this is a tricky one (and a minefield at that – everyone has such vehement opionions on it). I would have to say that computer/video games are likely better than TV, because as you said, there is a level of interaction, eye-to-hand co-ordination, co-operation and sharing between the kids, etc that doesn’t exist with TV. I would likely limit it, maybe to no more than a certain amount of time, a certain number of times per day.
If it were me, I’d probably also look at overall combined “screen” time – how much TV time combined with computer time. Maybe make it up to the kids – you get this many minutes of “screen” time, how you choose to spend it is up to you.
That said, in our house my 10-month old daughter sees 15 minutes a day of TV – it is the only way I can get dinner done at 6 pm (her witching hour). I’ve tried pretty well everything else, wearing her, putting her on the floor with toys, feeding her first. Nothing worked, so I bent my will to the TV gods. Voila! Dinner is now prepared in 1/2 the time and with no screaming.
(Oh, and I *love* Barbara’s idea!)

26 b*babbler August 9, 2007 at 1:45 pm

Hmm… this is a tricky one (and a minefield at that – everyone has such vehement opionions on it). I would have to say that computer/video games are likely better than TV, because as you said, there is a level of interaction, eye-to-hand co-ordination, co-operation and sharing between the kids, etc that doesn’t exist with TV. I would likely limit it, maybe to no more than a certain amount of time, a certain number of times per day.
If it were me, I’d probably also look at overall combined “screen” time – how much TV time combined with computer time. Maybe make it up to the kids – you get this many minutes of “screen” time, how you choose to spend it is up to you.
That said, in our house my 10-month old daughter sees 15 minutes a day of TV – it is the only way I can get dinner done at 6 pm (her witching hour). I’ve tried pretty well everything else, wearing her, putting her on the floor with toys, feeding her first. Nothing worked, so I bent my will to the TV gods. Voila! Dinner is now prepared in 1/2 the time and with no screaming.
(Oh, and I *love* Barbara’s idea!)

27 revdrmom August 9, 2007 at 3:13 pm

The Kid is 15 and a half, and we haven’t had a TV since he was in kindergarten. But he is computer addicted (like his mama). He didn’t start as young as Simon and Tristan b/c we didn’t have a computer when he was that young. I guess my biggest objection is that as they get older the games they are attracted to are increasingly violent and I don’t like that.
Limiting electronic media time in general is a great parenting challenge. I think parental involvement in/knowledge of whatever it is they’re doing is probably as important as anything.

28 revdrmom August 9, 2007 at 3:13 pm

The Kid is 15 and a half, and we haven’t had a TV since he was in kindergarten. But he is computer addicted (like his mama). He didn’t start as young as Simon and Tristan b/c we didn’t have a computer when he was that young. I guess my biggest objection is that as they get older the games they are attracted to are increasingly violent and I don’t like that.
Limiting electronic media time in general is a great parenting challenge. I think parental involvement in/knowledge of whatever it is they’re doing is probably as important as anything.

29 Flight December 24, 2007 at 8:02 pm

Back in Vegas we have bigger problems like gambling too much, so I suppose the computer is not that bad

30 Flight December 24, 2007 at 8:02 pm

Back in Vegas we have bigger problems like gambling too much, so I suppose the computer is not that bad

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