Resisting the Lure of Electronic Games
The following was written by Alison, a Waldorf homeschooling mom who started a thread on my online discussion forum about electronic games and gave a version of the following story. I liked it so much I asked her to write it up so that I could include it on my blog and share with all of you – as this is a huge issue which effects us all.
Sometime while Lydia was 8, she figured out that I’m the one who generally chooses her birthday and holiday gifts.
I’m the brains behind the Waldorf in our lives, but my husband has been a Waldorf trooper from the start. Kevin explained the value of delayed reading to his parents. He has contributed plenty to the fairy fancy in our home. He listens to me talk about the nine year change.
With her ninth birthday a few weeks away, Lydia announced to her father, “You need to get me a Dad-gift.”
Most nights, after Lydia goes to bed, Kevin catches up on work, and I conquer the battle zone that is our kitchen. Later, Kevin takes a break, and we talk while I finish up.
One night, he brought up their last Dad and Daughter grocery-shopping trip. Lydia asked to stop at another store, to look at video games. We’d attended a family music camp a few weeks before, and Lydia saw kids there who had Nintendo. She didn’t always care what other kids were doing, but times have changed.
Now, Kevin thinks Nintendo would be a good gift for Lydia. I’m wiping the counter but out of the corner of my eye I can see Kevin is trying to read my face.
It looks really good. The counter, not my face.
“That girl from camp she’s pen pals with,” he says, “they could play over the internet. Lydia could get a little computer experience.”
Like other Waldorf dads I’ve come across, Kevin can have moments of impatience with the Waldorf curriculum’s lack of obvious skill building. He once suggested less time on storytelling and more time on reading road signs.
He smiles with pride. “You should have seen her. We got hold of a salesperson and Lydia asked great questions. She notices absolutely everything.”
I shake some basil scented scrubbing powder into the sink. I find it fragrant and soothing.
“And the reason she notices absolutely everything is precisely because of the things she’s done: Waldorf. And the things she hasn’t done: video.”
I recite a short list of the research on the bad health effects of screen time and the world of rapid video. “Her brain will never be the same.”
“They’re just games,” Kevin says. “There’s one called Baby Sitter. Lydia loves babies. Baby Sitter doesn’t sound so bad.”
I stand close and look up at my husband. On another night there might have been a kiss. Instead, I whisper, “ Please let Lydia be a child awhile longer, let our home be a refuge from the electronic onslaught all around. Do you really want to bring the launch pad to virtual-land right to her bedroom? Our family will never be the same.”
A few moments later I stood in the kitchen alone. Kevin grumbled as he walked out and I didn’t ask him to repeat what he said. I hoped that somehow, the universe would find a way to help him see things clearly.
The next night, just as I finished stuffing the chaos into the dishwasher, Kevin appeared at the kitchen entrance. I closed the dishwasher door. Our eyes met.
“I saw an interesting family today.” Kevin enjoys the variety of people he encounters in a workday, and the snippets of human drama that happen by in his presence. The family included a grandma and 2 young children. The bespectacled boy had a blue Nintendo and the smaller girl with the two ponytails had a pink one. Kevin found himself eager to engage the kids, and proud that he knew enough about Nintendo to interest them in talking to him.
No such luck. He said the kids kept their faces to the screens and did not respond at all. The grandma told him that the OTHER grandma gave the games to the kids. She talked about how awful they have made life, how everything now is about how much time on the game, or how much time on the computer, the kids never want to go out, play, do crafts, do anything but be at the screen.
All the while, the kids were oblivious to everything but the screens, their fingers a frenzy at the buttons. Kevin has worked with addicts, and to him, these kids looked just like addicts.
He told me, “The grandma said she wishes the things had never been given to the children and now it's ‘impossible’ to take them away.”
Just days before Lydia’s birthday, Kevin was suddenly inspired to introduce Lydia to his own childhood passion: stamp collecting. The two of them can sit for hours together. She picks out her favorites. He finds their places in the big collecting book, sticks them in, and reads her the little stories about them.
I’m happy that the soft strains of Waldorf continue to play in our home, supporting the whole family through her Lydia’s nine year change and beyond. Kevin is glad to have come up with something “educational.” Lydia loves these ultimate stickers with their tiny portraits and landscapes. Even more, she’s pleased that with the stamps come an even better gift – the gift of Dad-time.
As a follow-up, Alison sent this link to an article about the effect of electronic games on reading – not very surprising to us Waldorf folks!
Posted on October 5, 2010 in Family Life and Parenting, Technology
Great article – thank you for sharing!
Thank you for writing this – I needed a reminder of why I say no to video games at our house. I work as a family therapist and kids bring their Gameboys to sessions – so I talk to the adults (usually where the work is needed anyways).
It is the most sad to see the children with labels using these machines – taking them father and father away from the interactions that would be the most healing for them :((
Lovely article. Although my son is still young (almost 3) I am adamant that he should not play video games in our home when he is older. Trouble is, my husband’s degree is in video game design and he does not quite see eye-to-eye!
Thanks, that is a lovely story!
There is a great film just being made about this with a lot of the ideas from the excellent book “the last child in the woods” there is a lovely trailer at http://www.playagaintrailer.com which would be useful to get it out wherever you can, for the childrens sake. It’s pretty hard to ignore. x nicole
oops the url was wrong – try this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjCr3h1MOYw&feature=player_embedded
Thanks for this Donna:) Wonderful to read.
There is so much truth here. Electronics are stealing much from our children and families. I have to ask though about balance.
When my son was 10, he wanted a hand held game system more than anything. He saved money from his job taking care of the neighbors puppy and asked if he could spend it on a Nintendo DSi (wish I had some basil scented spray that day :)) Since he had already saved a significnt amount of money in a bank account and donated some to several charities, it was time for me to examine my Waldorf roots and take a look at the apparent fork in the road.
My husband and I ultimately decided to let him buy the game, with an agreement. He could play on weekends only, for a set amount of time, never during family gatherings, conversations, meals or events. Games would have to be pre-approved by us and purchased by him. He agreed to these limits and bought his game.
I am happy to report a year later that my son has happily lived within the boundaries, still maintains active hobbies (currently he is making elaborate paper airplanes and launching them from the backyard treehouse-which he built with his dad this summer) and continues to be a social, interested and active child who is happily engaged with the world around him.
I think as ‘Waldorf-types’ we need to be careful to maintain balance in our own homes, and not fear or demonize everything that is ‘of this world’ so quickly. A life led in balance, created by setting reasonable limits, is what we all aim for.
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