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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Hip Homeschool Moms

Sorting Things Out- Limiting Screen Time


This is a sight you will frequently see at my house. My husband and kids are tech junkies. I’m not necessarily saying it’s a bad thing. Technology is the way of the world today, and it’s here to stay, so being knowledgeable in this area is certainly an asset. Having said that, it brings up certain issues regarding boundaries. Specifically the dilemma of limiting screen time.

Now, when I say “screen time,” it can mean anything, well…with a screen- TV, computers, tablets, etc. I know TV is a problem for many people, so the same discussion can be applied to that, but our main issue is gaming. My kids (and husband) love it.

I’ve read literature supporting both sides of the issue, and, to further complicate things, there are arguments that I agree with on both sides. (I find that I’m always complicating things for myself. It’s in my nature.) So I’m going to work through these arguments and see if I can come to some sort of conclusion.

I guess I’ll start with the unlimited screen time point of view. First of all, there is much to be learned from any of the applications these mediums can be used for. The internet is great for researching, reading, and connecting with friends. Who needs encyclopedias when we’ve got Wikipedia, right? And while many people outright loathe gaming, there are so many things to be learned from it.

For example, in Minecraft, geometry and logic, at the very least, are used to build structures- elaborate structures. There’s math. You can make maps. That’s geography. You have to learn what substances to mix with what in order to make things, such as glass (fire and sand). You can also use flowers to make different types of dye. Science. And there’s also an abundance of vocabulary words shown. When you hover over an object with your mouse, it will tell you what the object is. It can be as easy as “wood” or as difficult as “iron ingot.” Language Arts. That’s coming from my limited understanding of the game; I’m sure I’m missing a lot, but, hopefully, I’ve made my point.

Another game popular with my family is World of Warcraft. Again, I wasn’t too thrilled when my husband went out and got the WOW accounts- until I actually took the time to watch this game for a few minutes. There is so much strategic planning and so much going on at once that my head would be spinning, but my kids are great at it. They’re better able to focus on more things at once while still noticing little details in the background. And mapping? Let me tell you, because of this game, my kids’ map skills blow me out of the water. If we ever get lost and have only a road map to help us, guess who’s going to be navigating, and it’s not going to be me!

Pretty cut and dry, right? My kids are enjoying themselves while learning so many things, so what’s the problem? Well, that’s what I’m getting to.

The use of electronics, especially gaming, can be extremely addicting. And I know that I’ve said before how it’s great when my kids can immerse themselves in their interests, so what’s the difference? Well, it’s a fine line for me. First off, kids need exercise. They need to get out and breathe fresh air. I also happen to know that there are so many things that my kids truly enjoy that will get neglected if I don’t step in. Devin enjoys reading and art and Sherlock. Dillon loves origami and drawing and science experiments. These aren’t interests that I’m forcing on them; these are passions of theirs that they, unintentionally, start to neglect because of being unable to self-regulate. Devin has always been the type of girl who will easily read 3-4 books a week. She used to sit and read for hours and hours everyday. Just recently, however, she asked me to remind her to read because she forgets when she’s on her computer. Okay, that’s a big mayday. Devin never needed to be reminded to read before, and she recognizes that there’s a problem, so she’s asked me to intervene. Not good.

Right now I do have a period of time everyday that the TV goes off and all electronics are to be turned off. You would think I was pulling their teeth at the looks on their faces. And then come the excuses.
“Mom, can I look up science experiments on YouTube?”
“Can I go online and look up Mongolian Death Worms?” (Yes, Dillon actually did research them the other day.)
“Can I watch a makeup tutorial? I want to know how to make my own eye shadow.”
“Can I go on Minecraft and build a donjon instead of drawing one?”

And now I’ve gotten to the heart of the problem. I truly do think that there has to be a limit on electronics, but the harsh reality is, even if these are excuses, they’re still supporting the exploration of other interests- and that’s what I’m trying to promote in the first place! I just can’t win! Am I actually hindering them with this rule by removing the best tool there is for researching? It’s so exasperating!

And here’s where you come in! This is where I need your advice. Have you been through something similar? Do you regulate screen time, especially if you’re unschooling? How can I find a happy medium? I can’t tell you enough how much I’m looking forward to some fresh opinions on this topic. Hopefully, I’ll talk to you soon!

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