This thought occurred to me at a rather interesting moment in time. I had not long before heard on the radio about some recent research suggesting that parents were more and more disallowing their children from doing things they themselves did at a similar age. Riding bikes around the street, climbing trees, playing in mud were all activities which were becoming increasingly unpopular for children to be allowed to do. I believe the figure bandied about was something similar to 60% of parents surveyed would not allow their children to climb a tree.
I must admit, I am somewhat guilty of this myself. My eldest is 10, and there are all sorts of things I’d do that I’d not allow, or rather not allow. I’m still not happy about this whole walking to school unattended business. I did that from age five. Skateboarding around the neighbourhood? Nuh-uh.
None of these things killed me, but they could have. And I suppose that is where a lot of this comes from. I was an idiot1 so is it not our duty to kind of prevent these same things in our kids?
Putting that aside for the moment, when I found myself thinking I’d rather not have my kids game like I do, I had to wonder why that is. Heck, I’ve turned out OK. I hold a good management role in a large communications company, mostly I manage at a tactical level but have been increasingly brought in for project work at the strategic management layer. I have a good work ethic, work hard, have no interpersonal skill issues and even at home I’ve been fairly good at holding up my end of the house work.
So why not?
There is even other research out there to suggest that gaming can assist in development of hand-eye co-ordination, creativity and parallel thinking processes. Nor do I think that exposure to violence in games is going to turn someone into a sociopath. Although again, even though I myself was playing the likes of Doom and Descent at 10, the most ‘violent’ I’ve let my eldest son play so far is an old Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit game on his ol’ PS2. I can’t help but grimace whenever I see young ones playing the likes of CoD even though the reality is it probably isn’t a problem.
So. Why not?
Because I was an idiot. I thought we’d covered this already.
Really. Despite having come a long way now there is a sad truth of an unfortunately high number of hours and days spent… poorly. There were assignments not done for school. At both a secondary/high-school level and later at tertiary/university. Earlier in my professional career there were… Well, I wouldn’t say ‘sickies’, but any degree of being sick was good enough for me to stay home and indulge. Home life too, even. For a good while, house work was for other people.
So of course I don’t want my kids to take this particular path to if not failure than at the very least belated success.
The answer I’ve come up with so far — along with my wife, of course — is to allow gameplay, sometimes even multiplayer with me.2 My eldest son even has a PC in his room. But it is passworded and the available time on it is very limited.
I think that is likely the best compromise to be found. Climbing trees though? Will have to think about that one.
- Seriously, one time I went down the steepest hill I could find on my skateboard like it was a luge. Hit a rather large rock, ended up with a lot less skin (and flesh) on my knees… Not an isolated incident either. [↩]
- Lots and lots of Minecraft and Terraria thus far, goodness I can’t wait until Starbound is out. [↩]