My sister's kids are a few years older than mine and I've noticed she'd get a little more stressed out when school let out for summer break and how relieved she seemed when her kids went back to school in the fall. Now, I know how she feels. If Spring Break is any indicator, it's going to be a long summer break trying to keep the kids away from video games, computers and television.
My "Mom Versus Media" battles are nothing new. We've all heard the warnings of too much media for children. It's becoming increasing difficult for kids to find something to do that isn't plugged in. My son will play Wii and when I tell him "no more Wii," he'll jump to Spongebob. When I tell him "no more Spongebob," his next choice is the computer. It's a vicious circle. My daughter is slightly better about the routine. I stay vigilant, but sometimes it's difficult. Sometimes I feel like I have to physically take the kids outside. "Play dates," sadly, aren't much different. Play dates just mean my kids have a new friend to play Wii with. Have you ever been asked by your kids "what can we do?" and your response is "I don't care, as long as it's not TV, Wii or the computer"?
I used to feel guilty about nagging them to go outside. Surely, I'm not wrong for limiting my kids from media and making them play outside but I felt like I somehow "screwed up" because they want to play online all day or plug into video games. I used to feel like the despised "helicopter parent" because I often have to intervene to set my kids to a direction away from their computer. It seems like a holy war sometimes to get the outside play happening. As soon as school or practice is done though, they race for the TV. The guilt is leaving me now, though. The audible groans of disgust when I send them outside for some fresh air just roll off of me.
So, who is to blame for kids wanting to "veg out" in front of the TV playing video games all day? It's so much different now than when we were little. When I was my son's age, we had an Atari. Sure, we loved that Atari but the games would eventually become stale. You could only play Pitfall for a half-hour or so before getting bored with it. My son's video games look like action movies. No wonder I can't pull him off it without a struggle. Also, when I was my son's age, we had 5 channels to watch on TV. At 2p on a summer day my TV choices were Soap Operas and PBS. No thanks. No wonder I was always outside. I did notice that once we got MTV (and basic cable) that I spent a lot more time watching the tube. I can't blame my kids for having dozens of channels to watch with children's programming. Computers? Forget it. We had Oregon Trail and Lemonade Stand on a Commodore 64. Fun, but not all day fun like some kids websites. My generation had more fun outside because there wasn't anything better to do inside. Now there is and it's becoming extremely difficult for kids to function without media. Sometimes throwing a frisbee around in the yard just can't compete with Mario Kart.
Don't get me wrong. I know the onus is still on me to keep my kids active without TV and video games and I do so. It's just becoming increasing difficult as they get older. Despite the TV and the video games, my kids are in great physical shape and participate in athletics and music programs. The hardest part seems to be the initial nudge in the right direction (toward the front door). Once they get outside, they have such a great time that I wonder why it was such a struggle to get them out there in the first place. I'm still winning the war, but the battles are becoming tougher.
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