Thursday, December 17, 2009

Screen time and Creative Play

Hmmmm, as an 'unschooler' I try my best allow the kids screen time at their will with distraction used as a tool to move them on to other more interesting/active things.....
It got a bit out of hand here with the TV and "Destroyed in Seconds" when Holdy was sick for a month and TV addiction was threatening. Then you take the kids to the cabin with no TV and they forget about it and play play play and get along. When I have to drag them inside for dinner or at bedtime....(which is firm but flexible....)...I am a happy momma, and boy bedtime is smoother when they are exhausted.....
Then computer time and the "free" games at miniclip and related sites come along and the boys are totally fixated on the computer - won't come for meals, don't hear me, don't want to do anything else, fighting and no physical activity....having not moved from the puter all day....
What to do? what to do?
I guess I'm not an unschooler cuz I don't like it. At all. Period new paragraph.
So after repeated requests to get off the computer a password was put on the computers.
And there is a return to creative play, and peace, and building stuff, and playing outside, and reading, and helping Daddy renovate.
It really is an immediate obvious transformation.
I've read all the pro-gaming stuff, pro-computer stuff and I'm not for making screen time the "forbidden fruit" at all and prefer it if they self regulate. But these games are designed to keep them at the screen. They do eventually move away from the computer but there are literally HUNDREDS of games to choose from, new all the time, multilevel.
The free play games they make up - shopping, moving, hotwheels stories you name it are so so cool and cooperative. I have to think that they are better for them, physcially, emotionally, and mentally. Maybe some of the critical thinking games are good for their brains and hand eye coordination, but really most are driving tanks and bikes over obstacles.....(Can you tell I'm not a gamer at all??? Sometimes I have to haul all 4 of my boys off the puter.....)
They still have lots of computer time and I realize that I use the computer for 3 or so hours a day (after they're in bed) and that computers are and will be a huge part of their lives, but at this point in their lives, they need to learn that there are lots of other cool things to do......


anno said...

Right there with you. Trying to let them (especially the 6 1/2) choose their own times to play. BUT he is happier when we set limits. Really he is. And old enough to realize that he actually appreciates the limits being set by me....when he starts I ask how long he thinks he should play for (before he gets buried in the games). Then we set the timer and he is cool with letting it go (most of the time.) I;m flexible with it, if he really wants to finish a game/movie clip/level, etc) but for the most part he thinks it's cook. The way we got to that point was I let him play as much as he wanted for a couple of times, and then we talked about how he felt when he was done (angry, upset, aggressive, etc). At his age he was able to see it.

Alison said...

I'm so with you on this one! This is the hardest part for me of moving towards a radical unschooling lifestyle.
When my boys play their video games for hours, they're rude and mean to everyone at home. Or they have meltdowns over things that would normally not bother them. Slowly but surely, the opportunities to play are diminishing.

When I really think about their use of "electrics" (as we call them - computer, DS, other video games and tv) and the radical unschooling philosophy of non-coersion (to me, treating my kids like I'd treat an adult friend), I get lost.
If it's my husband doing nothing but watching tv on his day off, I get perturbed and resentful (There are so many chores waiting to be done! I shouldn't be the only one working at them!), and so I say something to him. ("Please stop watching tv and go do that laundry," etc.)

I think it's easy to become addicted to the mindless pleasure of being entertained by a screen. I know I can slip into being compulsive, addicted to the internet or to certain tv channels. At this point, I'm not really sure that I'm finding pleasure in it anymore.
But until my kids can understand this, I struggle between wanting to limit their time and wanting them to self-regulate.

Great post :)

Ronnie said...

I know this is a tricky subject, and it's one I've been sensitive to over the course of our unschooling. The main thing that has kept me from regulating is the belief that I would only be postponing the time when my daughters would have to figure out for themselves how much time to devote to electronic activities. They can figure it out as kids, when the consequences either way are, well, inconsequential, or they can figure it out as adults when too much screen time might impact their lives in truly negative ways. They're also getting to figure out now instead of later how much sleep they need to feel good, how much reading they can do before their eyes feel tired, how much exercise they like, how consuming certain things affects them, and so on. It's all of a piece; computer and game time isn't any different.

Also, I think there's a big difference between saying, "I am the parent and I decide how long you get" versus "You've been on there for a long time and I need some help" or "How long do you want on the timer?" The latter two examples are respectful and cooperative. The former is authoritarian and, from the kid's perspective, arbitrary.

"At his age he was able to see it." Exactly. If there is an issue, your kids will see it, too. If they don't, I'd recommend spending some time looking at whose issue it is and why and what other solutions are available besides restricting screen time.