Why moms give in to video games

Do I love my son less than other parents because I never bought him a PlayStation?

Mothers despise video games. Here's what they say: Video games are addictive; they leave less time for reading; they are violent; they are the cause of endless arguments.

Why, then, does almost every young boy in my neighborhood own a video-game system?

"They nag you so much you finally have to give in," said one mother. "It's all a matter of guilt. If everyone else has video games, we feel we should have them, too," said a friend.

Are mothers to blame, then, for the short attention spans and the lagging test scores that are sometimes linked to video games? I think we are.

We complain to one another about the hours wasted in front of a screen and then spend exorbitant amounts of money and violate deeply held beliefs to ensure that our kids won't be pariahs in the playground at recess.

And what can we do? All the boys are playing. So our moral core erodes.

"It's because their parents love them. That's why all my friends have PlayStations and I don't," said my 13-year-old son. When he was younger, I let my son play a limited number of games on the computer. The computer is broken now, and he thought it would be an ideal time to upgrade to a video-game system. Do I love my son less than other parents love their children because I never bought him a PlayStation? Or do I love him more because I insist that he spend his time reading or playing outside?

Of course it's not a question of love, but of endurance. "If I don't give in now, he'll rebel later on," said one mother after deciding to buy a PlayStation.

We tell our children to "just say no" to drugs. Resist pressure from peers, we say, while simultaneously doing our utmost to make sure our children fit in.

And we grasp at anything to help us feel good about our decisions. "Did you read the latest study?" a friend asked me recently. "Children who play video games are better coordinated and make decisions faster than those who don't," she said.

When a study shows that children who play video games can read a 300-page book with lots of dense text or feel sympathy for the poor, then I'll be the first one in line at the computer store. But it's not only the content of the video games that is so destructive. It's what boys are not doing with their time: They aren't studying, they aren't playing, and they aren't talking to one another.

"If parents are not a moral and intellectual corrective, then they fail in their duty, and they fail to see their child become a self-disciplined, considerate citizen of the world," said a teacher to whom I turn when I feel I am losing ground. After a long search, I discovered a neighborhood boy who doesn't play video games. He and my son commiserate together. But they have started a book group, and they play board games. It would have been much easier to have given in. But I won't. And so the battle continues.

Janine Wood is a homemaker and writer.

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