As you might know from my other posts, I have an 8-year-old son. He is a good kid who makes friends easily, does well at school, likes to read, plays tennis and soccer and made the cross-country team. I have encouraged all these things and tried to keep him active. With the onset of both Christmas and his birthday the week after, there is only one thing on his list. A gaming console. And so, it begins. I don’t know what it is, but I have resisted for this long and I am running out of reasons to say no. Should I be saying yes? Most of his friends have one, mostly the Nintendo Switch which is commonly suggested as the most family friendly of the top three (Nintendo Switch, X-Box and Sony Play Station). You might ask if I had one as a kid. The answer is yes, but it was Atari and let's face it, it was completely exciting to have one but the games were quick entertainment and not all consuming like anything connected with today's youth popular culture seems to be.
For decades, researchers have conducted studies to find out whether violent video games lead to problems such as aggression, lack of empathy and poor performance in school. - Psychology Today
But more recent research suggests that these conclusions have been biased, drawn false positives and there is actually little link between aggression in gaming and in reality. I must say thought it doesn’t fill me with confidence. If the tide has turned, it might just turn back again. It's like when we were told to avoid the sun as it causes cancer only then to be told that we should all be spending more time in the sun. I am pretty certain that I am not the only parent with these concerns. When I typed into Google, “Do video games…” some of the top auto selections were “…cause violence, …cause obesity, …cause depression?”. As much as I want to depend on this recent opinion that gaming isn't detrimental, the jury is still out.
My son currently plays some games on my iPad and I have become one of those parents who seem to be constantly calling out, "Turn of that iPad and go play in the real world!" (for goodness sake!). At the moment picking up the iPad seems to be his default setting. Is a console going to make it even more difficult? The Nintendo Switch, while played on a TV screen, also has a handheld portable device. Herein lies the biggest conundrum. We recently went to an outdoor movie night on the school oval as an end of school activity. While all the kids were waiting for the movie to start, they were running about playing tiggy and kicking around a ball. However, my son’s good mate was in lying on a picnic rug with his eyes glued to his Switch. This wasn't in the last 5 minutes, it was for a good half an hour. His parents had allowed him to bring it along and I must admit, I was a little judgy. Thinking about that though, that was a parenting issue, not a gaming one.
The expense of the whole idea is another concern. The most up-to-date version retails for $449. But of course there is then games at about $59 each, extra controllers, game cases and all of the other accessories. I feel uncomfortable handing over a gift that costs so much money, plus the ongoing cost of new games. And let's face it, if my son does his weekly chores he gets around $5 a week so he isn't buying any new games any time soon! I also don't want to make such expensive gifts and follow up costs of games etc the norm. I don't mean that he gets them all of the time, and he is fairly appreciative of what he has, but I have a real issue about handing this money over every time that he wants something new. That is not the concept of value and money that I want to teach him.
But here's the good news: Playing video games some of the time can be OK. Choose quality games, and limit screen time — which includes TV, computer, smartphone, tablet, and video game time combined — to a reasonable amount. - Kids Health
Having said all of this there is the upside. It is something we can do together as a family. There are plenty of websites and blogs detailing the best games for different ages. For now we have a say in which games he gets (at least until we up his pocket money!) and so we still have guidance over those that err on fun and interaction rather than guns and brute survival. As far as a large console versus a hand held device goes, I would rather he play on the big screen than have his nose stuck to the iPad. I also think this will make it much easier to monitor his time on it. And finally, being an only child also surely has to bring a few perks? Right?
My final thoughts are these. I do think in the end it is more about parenting than purchasing. He (we) can use it to have fun, teach healthy moderation good sportsmanship (and the benefit of a good deal). The nice man in the shop did tell me about a certain Black Friday sale on Nintendo Switch...
Have you gone done this slope and is it a slippery one? I'd love to know your experiences and thoughts on the subject.