Feb 19, 2009

Should Your Preschooler Play Online Games?

How do you limit you child’s game playing online? Do you let your preschooler play them? My son has just discovered online games, well really just one, Sonic.
It was not my doing, an older boy that was visiting was playing and my son watched him. Little did I know, he had figured out by himself where the game was bookmarked and has been addicted now for a few weeks. It looked harmless at first, but now that’s all he wants to do. I’m hoping this is a phase and he will go back to playing little boy games soon. Until that older boy visits again and I either let them play or tell him the computer is off limits and become the mean mommy!

We use the Internet for lessons and he goes to children’s learning sites ( NASA, PBS, etc.) by himself and plays the games and does the activities. He is very computer savvy and I can see that he has learned a lot from these sites, but this is the first time he’s played a game that has no real meaning other than winning and destroying "bad" guys (a term he never used before ).

I’m not comfortable with too much of this and can see that it can become a problem quickly. As he is only 4, I am going to limit how much time he has playing these games. At the moment I’m getting a lot of whining and tears when I tell him it’s time to turn it off.
So I’m asking you all for some creative ways to limit his game playing that makes sense to a 4 yr old, who can’t tell time.

Mommy is in the dark here. I don’t get the fascination with video games (online or anywhere else), I have never been interested in them and don’t know how they are played. He doesn’t have any electronic toys or the like, so I was very surprised to see how fast he learned to use the mouse and keyboard to play.

I would love to hear your opinions on these games and whether or not you think there is any benefit from them. I’m somewhat shocked that my 4 yr old boy enjoys them to the exclusion of other activities. Not to mention the whole conquer and destroy mentality that seems to go with along with them. I was not expecting to see that until he was older.

I know because he is a boy, he’s bound to be drawn to good guy / bad guy conflict, but as far as I’m concerned, he will never play the violent war and crime games I’ve heard about while he’s living under my roof! I also know that gaming is very popular and just because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean he won’t. That said, my goal is not to let him grow up too fast and to shelter him from much of the world’s harsh reality for as long as I can.

Can I spin this into a positive thing or are they really brain draining, character depleting activities that should be restricted? Are there skills that can be learned from these games? What do you think? What would you do?


Anonymous said...

In the end, you're the mom. If you're seeing extremely negative behaviors, you should feel free to shut it . I have heard more moms than I can count talk about the negative personality quirks and non-video playtime passivity they see after their kids' video game marathons to believe that it's just no big deal. I know lots of moms will disagree with me, and some moms see really wonderful personality traits come into being after gaming, but I really do think that sometimes you just have to pull the plug. If Padawan Learner was a wee bud again, I'd avoid them like the plague. As it is, we have a daily "screen time" limit that works well for us.

Side bar: A friend of a friend worked at a video game design company (one of the BIG ones) for a couple of years and mentioned to me that many of the designers and executives of that company don't have video game systems in their own homes. When I asked why, he said, "Video games are designed to be addictive. Our big wigs know that the real point is to get people buying more and more and more of them and playing then all the time. They don't want their own kids getting sucked in to the virtual world."

Nodin's Nest said...

Obimom: Thanks so much for your insight! I agree that the changes I've seen in his personality are not what I'd consider positive.

Lynne said...

I find what Obimom has to say to be very interesting. I would agree, it needs to be monitored. My daughter never played the internet games until she was older, but did have many cd-roms. There was always something educational in the games such as math or spelling. Many times I would sit and play along with her too.

Anonymous said...

"Little did I know, he had figured out by himself where the game was bookmarked"..."I was very surprised to see how fast he learned to use the mouse and keyboard to play"...sounds like you have already identified the positives in the situation. You state that you don't play or understand the games - try finding one you can both enjoy and do it together. as my five year old tells me, "a little bit of a lot of things"

Nodin's Nest said...

Lynne:The educational games I do find useful and he enjoys them, but these others seem too fast.
Anon: The computer skills he has are growing fast because of our lessons, but I agree his control of the mouse is better with the games. Perhaps I will find one we can play together. I like your 5 yr old's quote!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I am much more machiavellian. I think you have a new tool in your parenting belt!

My kids play computer games (including my preschooler) but they have to earn every minute. Do a chore immediately with no complaining? Great job, you earned 5 minutes. Finished your homework quickly and neatly? Terrific, 10 minutes. Max 30 minutes per day.

Even a 4-year-old can understand a timer. If he earned 15 minutes, you show it to him when you set the timer. When the timer goes off, if he turns the game off with no complaining, he just earned 5 minutes toward tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

My 3 and 5 year old have a terribly mean mommy. They have to earn their game time. And their tv time! Not only that, but they can only bank three 15-minute game blocks per day for games and two 30-minute tv blocks. They can, however, save up on tv time for a longer movie, but they have to figure out the math for how many blocks they have to save. Double mean -- I make them do math if they want to watch a movie!

The 3-yr old has issues with turning things off from time to time, but he usually responds to either logical reason or diversionary tactics, depending on the time of day. The easiest way to keep things mellow is to use the same timer for time-outs and game time -- that was, the sound is almost Pavlovian for the end of an activity/event.

Fun Online Games for Kids said...

it seems to be good post, i also give my child free for two hour to play online KIds Games. and he is happy with my condition.

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