Kids and Video Games: The Couch Potato Syndrome
When Atari first hit the market over twenty years ago, everyone, young and old alike, was into video games. It was something new that we all played for hours. Now, video games have become more sophisticated and are played by younger and younger groups of kids. But, even though these games are fun, watch out or your kid could morph into the unyielding vegetable known as the couch potato.
We used to give the old man staring blindly at the television this moniker but it now applies to kids caught up in the video game craze. You’ve weaned them from endless cartoons and cop shows but they’ve traded it in for a console and a joystick. It’s not that video games are bad. They have their redeeming qualities just like television. The name of the game here is moderation… and observation.
In other words, it’s more than simply clocking your child’s time spent playing the games, it’s important to be paying attention to how and with who they are interacting when it comes to time spent with video games.
After years of hanging out with children of all ages, it’s clear to me that some children may be more inclined to isolate themselves with video games than others. That can be a red flag.
Even if you don’t know an elf lord from a troll prince you can make sure that that is not the only thing your kid knows about. Video games are a way for your kids to relax but not the only way. A good balance of physically active games (like the Ninetendo Wii
) with the more mind active games is a reasonable ‘rule’ you might consider establishing. Even with that it’s important to see your children engaging in other activities (preferably outside) to eliminate worry about the couch potato cycle.
Endless video game playing has added to the sedentary lifestyle of today’s youth. Instead of playing outdoors with balls and bats they are inside sitting comfortably on the couch or one of those gaming chairs and signing on for virtual worlds unknown to most parents.
Yet are you willing to provide your child with the opportunity to freely and creatively play outside? I remember a phone conversation I had with a friend a couple of years ago. I was out in my yard with the children in my daycare who were up the hill in the woods building a fort… and when I said something about it to the friend on the phone she was blown away… because though she had an 18 yr old daughter at the time, she hadn’t even heard the suggestion of ‘fort building’ for many, many years. And proceeded to confess that she had never felt comfortable about letting her daughter go out into the neighborhood alone to play with friends. I certainly hope she’s the exception there, and it might be worth your while to consider where you stand on the issue of letting your child have the freedom to play and invent ‘games’ in the real world with ‘real’ friends on a regular basis. ;-)
Obesity is now an epidemic with our kids. They lack proper daily exercise to keep their weight under control. By exercise, I’m talking movement. Kids exercise more than you think. Walking to and from school or dancing to their iPod tunes keeps the body active enough to burn excess calories. They don’t even have to play a sport to get what they need to stay healthy.
Video games are mostly played sitting down. That’s how they were designed. Think of it like an office job. Computers were designed to be used sitting down. It’s a necessary evil but it doesn’t have to ruin your health.
One solution is a set schedule for their afternoon. When your kids get home from school, let them know the order of the day. With their input and keeping their temperament in mind, you can come up with a schedule that gives homework and chores an equal priority with game play.
What do you know; it’s now time for dinner. After dinner, they have a choice of television or video games or a good game of ‘Kick the Can’ with neighborhood friends. All of the other things are done so they can relax and unwind with their choice. This limits their time to one or at most two hours of gaming a day as their last activity before bed. After all of the other stuff you’ve given them to do, they might just fall into bed early.
Break the couch potato cycle with a balance on video games and other creative ideas.