Unlimited Gaming? Not These Unschoolers!

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A few weeks ago, I had expressed my doubts about unlimited screen time. While there seems to be much to be learned from this time, there are some drawbacks, as well. I decided to try unlimited gaming to see how it would pan out in our house. After several weeks of this experiment, I can attest to the fact that, while some kids may, indeed, be able to regulate themselves, that is not the case with some of my kids. These past several weeks have been very stressful for me, as I haven’t seen that self-regulation that so many people espouse to. I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen, but I am here to tell you that it doesn’t always happen. All children are different.

I don’t know what I was expecting, really. My expectations may have been too high, but I expected something to come out of this. Even if that self-regulation didn’t happen, I would have been okay if this interest would have at least expanded to other things. For example, there for a while, Arianna was spending a lot of time watching makeup tutorials. I could have gotten concerned with that, but I was able to definitively see that interest grow from watching tutorials, to trying her own theatrical makeup, to making her own videos, to creating homemade makeup and makeup remover. You see? Her interest in this did not remain stagnant. It developed into something more.

Gaming can absolutely have value. It can inspire a desire to code or create original games. Maybe even a fictional story could be written set in the worlds that are explored. Possibly even a comic book could be created depicting the adventures that can happen. I suggested so many ways to expand this interest, but those ideas remained just that. Mom’s ideas.

Before gaming, there were so many interests running rampant through this house. Herpetology, cryptozoology, origami, drawing, and entomology were the most common. Since gaming, these flights of fancy have all but vanished. It is my deepest desire to bring life back into our home through exploration and creativity- not through blank stares in front of a computer screen.

Some people may disagree with this assessment, and that’s fine. I really do see how, in certain situations, having no limits may still be fruitful. It just isn’t here.

So, starting Monday, I’ve informed the kids that no gaming will be allowed before 6pm. I expected some protests and complaints, but do you know what I saw instead? Relief. Sometimes kids need these limits. They do. So what was the response I got when making this announcement? “Can we go to the library?” Yes. Of course we can.

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Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

37 thoughts on “Unlimited Gaming? Not These Unschoolers!”

  1. Hi, it’s Jackie stopping by from the April Let’s Homeschool High School Blog Hop.

    http://letshomeschoolhighschool.com/2014/04/01/high-school-homeschool-summer-planning/
    Thanks so much for linking up with us.

    I don’t have limits on my daughter’s gaming, but for the most part, she doesn’t overdo it. That can always change, I know. I can definitely see where limits can be necessary for many kids.

    Joyfully,
    Jackie
    Let’s Homeschool High School Admin Team

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  2. We really need to do a detox here. My girls are so used to having access to their electronics, including tv, that it seems like they have lost interest in everything else, including reading for pleasure. I admit that I set a bad example though, as I’m addicted to facebook, my blogs, forums, etc… something has to give!

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  3. I love how you’re always willing to try new things and see how they go (and share with us🙂. You must have a great relationship with your kids that they go along with your suggestions so willingly.

    I totally agree it varies from child to child. My daughter is pretty self-regulated, though she does sometimes ask me to remind her to come off You Tube.

    My son would spend all day plugged in if he could. It’s tricky with him because I’m sure he’s going to be working in IT in a few years (as my husband does) and I can tell by the way he talks about what he does that he’s learning masses even from playing video games. So with him it’s more a case of making sure his other needs are met – exercise (trampoline/dog walks), social, family, motor skills (Lego) – rather than restricting screen time arbitrarily. (And then there are days when I’m convinced I’m getting it all wrong, of course :-D)

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    1. I’m still open to allowing computer time for research, writing, etc. I realize that there are so many things to learn from gaming, but I don’t think our school district would appreciate World of Warcraft as a curriculum! So, we’ll see how this goes…

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  4. Sigh. Extremes are never good. I wouldn’t sit my son (who loves math) in front of a math book all day, would you? I also wouldn’t expect that a child who loves to read, to sit and read books all day – and do nothing else. Just because someone loves something doesn’t mean they do it and never do anything else.

    Gaming is the same. They play their games, but then they must do something else – that’s what I think. I don’t think there is anything wrong with saying – okay, you have your games, now it’s time to do something else. I don’t see why that is so bad, do you?

    I agree, that there is so much to learn by playing games. But there is also so much to learn not playing games. Just because your child loves gaming doesn’t mean that they will become a graphic designer or coder. When they are 8 or 9, who the heck knows what they will become? I guess this is what I don’t understand about unschooling. It seems like by being so liberal, you are actually limiting. The world should be open to truly explore! Everything in moderation. This way, they are exposed to many different things.

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    1. In theory, I liked the thought of no limits, but in reality, it doesn’t work here, and i’m kind of relieved that it doesn’t. The world is too big to miss out by sitting in the house all the time.

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  5. I tend to agree. We give a lot of freedom and time to Minecraft in particular but I did set up some Minecraft free computer times as I was seeing it becoming out of balance and affecting their other interests and even their health. That is what we are comfortable with at this time. I do have to say that it has helped my sons with reading, spelling and keyboard skills as well as social interactions and general computer knowledge. Plus all the things just inherently learned through minecraft. But we are also big believers in getting outside, in nature and bing active. Hard to do when behind the computer screen all day, every day.

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    1. You’re so right about this. That’s why I think I saw relief in his eyes when I put the limits back on. It was an experiment, and it did its job because now I know that it won’t work for our family.

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  6. I think you did the right thing. You made the decision based on what worked best for your kids. I think you have to take into account the child’s personality, and whether or not you feel your kid is ready for more freedom. Boundaries are important for kids, and while the goal is to eventually eliminate them and for them to have the skill of setting their own… it needs to happen gradually and in a age appropriate way. Sounds like it was a judgement call, and I agree, that unrestricted gaming time may really work for a lot of kids… it might not be the right time for your kids – yet. Who knows, maybe you can try again next year?

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  7. Good for you!!! Gaming can be so dangerous…..and lead to lifelong addictions that can harm a person and limit their potential. Time passes so quickly anyway and there are much better pursuits….we all need to set limits. We have chosen to use our computers for work…not play, so we don’t do gaming and I am thankful.

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  8. I think it’s possible for self regulation to happen in some areas. But some games are more addictive than others. I warned you about WOW. I don’t know what it is, but it can be quite unhealthy.

    I have a suggestion. Lord of The Rings MMORPG. It’s free to play and you progress through the game just like the book. Combine the 2, Allow them to play to the point that they’ve read. You could add discussion groups, draw the maps, write differing opinions experienced by each race, let them play a different race afterwards. So many ways to keep the learning going while also letting them control their game access. You aren’t limiting their access, you are just putting it in the place it should be. Once they’ve really explored the book they can move on in the game. Also I never felt the same compulsiveness with LoTR like I did with WOW. Definitely doesn’t have the same addictive quality.

    Also I know with unschooling you want to allow them to explore their interests, but the LoTR books are so easy to get lost in. I can’t imagine it would ever be a “have to” where reading is concerned. If anything, I would bet they might get compulsive over the books before the game.

    One more thing, this is not a “boy” game. It’s really a beautiful world, there is farming, you can have a house to decorate, the clothes are very “princess” like and you can even dye them different colors. It is also lighter in feel than WOW. That really sounded so gender biased didn’t it, I didn’t mean it to be. It just has more to offer that might appeal to children with a more sensitive nature.

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    1. These are great ideas! I’m so glad you did warn me about WOW because, otherwise, I still may have been waiting for him to snap out of it. I’ll definitely check into LOTR. We all love those movies!

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  9. LOL. I tried to read the books, and while I loved the fact that life in the Shire was written about in more detail than the movies, it was too hard to pay attention with kids always surrounding me!

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  10. Kids are different. I have one (7 year old) that can self-regulate well but the 10 year old would be GLUED to a screen every second if I didn’t set limits. He NEEDS me to set those limits for him. If I don’t (I’ve tried it too) he starts getting grumpy and snappy with everyone!

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  11. We, too, have had to set limits on video games or sometimes completely cut them out for a while. Same goes for Facebook, YouTube, etc for my girl. My kids just don’t self-regulate and I see so much more creativity, reading, etc when we have limits. I’ve been mare to feel we don’t “qualify” as unschoolers if I set limits and that’s so wrong. Every family and child is different!

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  12. We do not do video games except in limited quantities on phones and the computer but no gaming systems and the reason you pointed out is one of our big reasons why which is it squashes all of their other interests! This is a wonderful post and I’d like to invite you to post on Finishing Strong Homeschooling Middle &High School Link up: http://aspiredliving.net/2014/04/09/finishing-strong-middle-high-school-2/ Blessings in the journey!

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  13. I have to admit I am surprised at the thought that some would disagree with you. I don’t think unlimited gaming is a good idea because, at a young age, most children don’t have the wisdom and maturing to set their own limits. That’s why we set external boundaries in the hopes that eventually they will set internal ones.

    For that matter, many adults struggle with too much computer time as well, lol! Thanks for linking up to Making Your Home Sing Monday!

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  14. I know a single mother with a boy with Aspergers and he left school in the 2nd grade and has been unschooled ever since. That translates to unlimited screen time for him and she spends a good amount of money buying him games he is always wanting. He games from the time he wakes up till the time she gets him back in her bed late at night.She thinks the constant gaming will wear off, she thinks he is learning alot from all the screen time and that school is unnecessary. I think she is delusional trying to convince herself that he is actually improving himself. She never sets boundaries from him and I think that is very damaging longterm

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  15. We have tried unlimited gaming a few times as an experiment and I too have come to the conclusion that it will just not work (for two of my boys anyway!). They get sucked right in and will skip meals, ignore bathroom breaks, even complain of headaches and still insist they aren’t ready to take a break. We too have rules and often take them away completely for small periods of time (as they’ll just sit around for an hour or more asking if it’s game time yet or not). I find my kids definitely need limits and reminders that there is a lot of other fun stuff out there too. I’m all for having a passion and encouraging it but we can’t all immerse ourselves into our passions and ignore everything else in life; including our own bodies clues.

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  16. My two and 5 year old have no issues limiting themsekves but my 8 year old just doesn’t. I have even had to oassword protect all of our devices because he would wake up early to game and then lie about it. So hard to see him struggle like that! He is currently on a gaming fast (we talked about how it was pulling him away from Godly behaviour) and decided, on his own, that it should last until he is 9. I told him that is 6 months away and he said he understood that but thinks it would be best for him to wait until he is better able to resist the temptation to sneak and lie and spend the time focusing on loving his family instead. Mature thoughts for one so young and I pray that it works!

    So while I understand fully that there are kids that self regulate, some need help. Just like I remind my husband every now and then when his gaming hobby starts to interfere with the rest of his life. Everyone is different and we all need help with something.

    The best part is that I help my son with his gaming (or lack thereof at this point) which is my strength, and he helps me with routine in housework, which is his strength🙂

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    1. Your son sounds like a very wise young boy. My oldest son was the same wa for the longest time- he just could not stay away from playing games constantly. We started setting limits, and things went much better. Now, at 16, he no longer has limits because he doesn’t need them. He’s outside everyday at the creek or playing frisbee golf, so gaming is really on the back burner by his own choice now.🙂

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