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Screen Time: Draining the Brains of Today’s Kids

By: Donna Chaffins | Date: November 26, 2012 | Categories: Children, Gadgets, Guest Posts, Parenting, Technology

Guest Post

“When I was your age, television was called books,” wrote William Goldman in his book, The Princess Bride. A few years back, instead of spending hours playing video games, we played basketball, soccer, kick the can, tag, hide and seek, hockey, archery, skeet, and fishing; maybe even tennis, racquetball, gymnastics, swimming, water-polo, or volleyball. We didn’t buy software cartridges; we purchased shoes, swimsuits, and athletic gear. And we didn’t get fat until we sat down with our kids to watch television and play video games.

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Then and Now

That’s right moms and dads. Video games are destroying the children of America because of you. It’s not like these kids are sneaking around; they don’t need to sneak behind the shed. They do it right in your den; right under your nose. Of course, it was dad who insisted on the giant big screen and the best video player. (X-Box, of course.)

You are certainly surrounded by high tech gadgets, which is maybe why you have forgotten what your parents did. Have you? Remember how your parents made you turn off the TV and go play? Thirty years later, however, you use TV and video games as babysitters; but then, so do all the parents in your neighborhood.

Can It Be Considered as Bonding?

“Mom, can I go to Johnny’s house to play football?” “Sure,” you say. Your daughter then spends the next three hours sitting next to Johnny playing Madden Football. She is awesome at football! Score one for equal rights. Then, she comes home and plays for 3 more hours with her brother as they slay alien species that are out to take over the world. Hey, it’s a Friday night, right? Finally, your kids invite friends over and watch Netflix until 3:00 am while raiding your pantry and refrigerator every now and then.

Saturday, your kids are comatose. It’s supposed to be the day to be together as a family, do some chores, get the shopping done, and then have fun together – and your kids look like they might need breakfast and lunch in an IV. You mutter under your breath, “That stupid TV and video console! I wish we had never bought them.”

What to Do?

Relax. Televisions and video games are not the enemy any more than a fine Bordeaux with prime rib isn’t the cause of alcoholism. Moderation of course is the key. Just like you shouldn’t let your teenager drink alcohol without some guidelines and supervision, screen time needs some boundaries. (OK. I was just seeing if you were awake with the teenage drinking comment.) The average teen spends 50 hours of screen time per week; equivalent to a full-time job plus 10. Moderation was exceeded long ago. Not only is screen time a brain drain, kids are dying of maladies caused by sitting in one place for hours at a time. Extreme cases include a 15 year-old boy who collapsed after playing “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” for five days straight.

Setting Boundaries and Getting Professional Help

The solution to this issue concerning teens is the same as it has always been; you need to set boundaries. Establish some rules, guidelines, and restrictions. In case your teen’s problem is more serious than you thought, take him to a camp for problematic teenagers. Well, this is not always how things should turn out, but you do have to play the bad guy if you need to. It will also help if you introduce your child to books besides The Hunger Games or Twilight. Play sports with your child. Sure, you’re fat; so, this will be good for you as well. Then, play a video game with your child. Set the timer and follow it. These games are addicting after all.

Claire Smith is a freelance writer. She is also a nurse whose specialty is psychiatry. She blogs about the struggles and common problems faced by today’s youth. She also writes about coping mechanisms, therapy, and wilderness camp for troubled teenagers.

12 Responses to Screen Time: Draining the Brains of Today’s Kids

  1. Alicia Keen says:

    good advice. this worries me about the future of humanity

  2. It does bother me how immobile we are as a society these days. Fortunately, my kids were only on the cusp of the techy boom so we still played with actual toys and used our imaginations and actively played outdoors! By high school age, they used computers and video games but I had a STRICT time limit in place. 🙂

  3. Jennifer Mae Hiles says:

    Haha, I did catch the teenage drinking comment. I did a double take! I so agree with everything you said. I am fortunate to have girls that would rather draw or do art projects.

  4. Sheri says:

    My children still enjoy a lot of time outside, along with most kids in the neighbourhood. I live in a very small town where people go for a walk together at night, and children play outside and walk to school. Maybe living where there’s fewer things to do is a good thing, lol.

  5. My son was really into gaming when he was little and even today. He isn’t a drinker and he’s always had straight A’s. He’s a great young man and even went to college for multimedia and design work. I thinking gaming has a great side too and needs to be looked at for each individual as well as the parent. Making sure they have other activities and getting exercise is important

  6. Maryann says:

    I would say overall the advice is good, but I personally have a very different situation. My son has autism and very low muscle tone. He has fine and gross motor skill issues. It has taken years for us to get him to want to do anything other than electronics. We have finally gotten him interested in books, but he has zero desire to play most games or sports. He has fine motor skill issues which makes things like coloring hard and he doesn’t want to do it. What most children will do so mom can make dinner is not something my son can or will do. Sometimes we have to pick our battles and often TV is not that high on my list. We do set limits for time and now encourage reading instead of electronics, but there are times where I just have to say go ahead.

  7. I agree with this, we are turning into couch potatoes!

  8. My little one rarely stops moving. I have a trampoline set up in the middle of my parlor. She watches her shows and hops around on it…lol

  9. Charlene K says:

    Moderation in everything from food, drinks and video games. My son loves video and computer games but we encourage outside play and play with others. Technology is needed for the future and our children will have a head start.

  10. Toni says:

    ERR I won’t be letting my teen drink at all LOL. However, they do play video games but we limit them.

  11. Kris Garvey says:

    My son is only 8 months old but as my husband plays XBox or watches TV as much as possible, and my mom ALWAYS has the TV on in her house (she watches my son as we work), I’m afraid of him getting like this! Hopefully my nephew will be a good influence. He plays games and watches TV, but he still goes out with friends and plays sports often. Thanks for the advice!

  12. Colleen says:

    I hate how much my boys spend on gaming. I have to limit it.

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