I was doing some research on the Media Awareness Network website and came across an interesting headline: The Good Things About Video Games. I know as both a parent and a teacher that I cringed when my son received his first hand-held video game. I was on the verge of telling my father that his first grade grandson was too young for such a thing, but it was, after all, a Christmas present. And the look on my son's face told us all that Papa had been a hero to buy him such a forbidden toy.
The game became a companion when we were out. I must admit it was much easier to go shopping or wait in restaurants when he had it with him. It even made an appearance at my sister's wedding reception. It was a life-saver the winter he had his tonsils out!
There have been times I wished that there were no video games in our house. I sometimes feel like I have to force him to go outside to play. His friends want to come over and play video games, not ride bicycles or play soccer. I've noticed that sleepovers at other friend’s houses become all-night gaming frenzies.
Video Games in a Montessori Home
I'm quite strict about which video games I let my son play. There is a rating system for video games, just like movie ratings. I prefer games rated “E” for everyone. I try to find out as much information about the game as I can, but admit to having made mistakes. One time, he bought a game with his own money, saying it was one that he just had to have. I checked the rating, read up on it, and it seemed okay. But when he brought it home, I found that even though the characters were cute cartoons, the violence was abhorrent. I made it known that it wasn't a favorite of mine and only let him play it for a few minutes at a time. I told him what my objections were and he conceded that it was more violent than he thought too. He made a wise choice and traded it in for one we both approved of.
Playing video games has become a right of passage. As informed Montessori parents and teachers, it is important for us to guide our children to make wise choices because children are playing games at the plane of development where it is crucial to learn healthy ways to relate to others and to peacefully resolve conflict. It is okay for us to set limits to what they play and for how long. Here are a few tips for the gamers in your house and Montessori classroom.
The Good Things About Video Games
- They are a fun, social form of entertainment.
- When played with others, they encourage teamwork.
- They build competency with technology.
- They improve eye-hand coordination and concentration.
- As children master the game, self-confidence and self-esteem grows.
- Some help children develop math, language, and critical thinking skills.
Making Wise Choices
- Research games before you buy. Read reviews and talk to other parents, not jst the person trying to sell it to you.
- Look for games that require strategy and problem-solving skills. Be aware that even games rated “E” for everyone, can still contain violence.
- Look for games that are non-stereotyping.
- Buy games for multi-players that encourage cooperative play so children learn to interact with others.
- Sit down and play the game with your children. We even have a few that our whole family plays together. It always surprises my son when I say, “Hey, why don't we go play a video game together.”
Setting Limits for “Screen Time”
- Research shows that children are spending increasing amounts of time playing video games - 13 hours per week for boys, on average, and 5 hours per week for girls.
- Screen time is any time the child spends in front of something with a screen: a TV, a computer, a video game. Some families set a weekly allotment. Some limit it to when the homework is done, or only on weekends.
- Banning video games is like telling children they can't have any candy. If something is seen as completely forbidden, they will find a way to play.
- Encourage other activities. If their favorite game has a particular character, why not read a book about it? Or draw pictures? Or make up stories?
As much as we may not like it, technology and video games are here to stay.
It is up to us as guides to work with our young people and encourage them to make wise choices.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, March 4, 2008.