Thursday, March 18, 2010

Video Game Competition!

How does homework and academics compete with video games?

In the news this morning was a short article that stated, “Study: Video Games Can Hurt Schoolwork. Study suggests new video gamers face immediate drop in reading, writing skills at school.” (Here’s the link if you would like to read the article).

My response to this new finding is ‘duh.’ Surprise, surprise, kids would rather play games than study. Okay, in all fairness, the authors of the study state that while the conclusion seems obvious, “it was important to scientifically prove that conventional wisdom was correct.” I agree, it is nice to know that our common sense holds up in the scientific study. But what is a parent to do? Here are our thoughts…

First, wait. Don’t introduce a gaming system into the house while the kids are young. We waited until our kids were 8 and 10 before we got our first gaming system. They had plenty of other interests and were both avid readers before this decision was made. They had friends over, and wrote and acted out plays with them as one of their pastimes. We knew they were developing socially and creatively before we got the system. Before this, they did play some educational games on the computer, such as Reader Rabbit, but we had no gaming system.

Second, no gaming system until all homework is done. We have a strict routine in our house that is printed and posted. Get home from school, hang up your coat, eat your snack (they usually visit and chat over their snack to provide a nice break and transition), then finish homework. No electronic entertainment until homework is finished.

Third, set strict time guidelines for play. For example: our kids (who are now 12 and 14) are allowed three – 30 minute turns* on either a game system or the computer (after each turn, they must offer the game to anyone else in the house who might want to play, they must also record the turn on a dry-erase board kept near the computer). After those turns, they can read for 1 hour to earn three more turns. After that, they are done for the day, they cannot earn any more turns. (We have made exceptions to this during vacations or school holidays and allowed them to read additional hours to earn more turns.) We have several kitchen timers around the computer and in the living room for them to track their time. And if we find that they don’t have the timer set, then their current turn is immediately over, they must offer the game to others.

Finally, the above guidelines would be adjusted based on the school performance of the child. If certain academic areas suffer, then gaming time would be reduced and replaced by work in that area.

Do you have some ideas or thoughts on how to win the ‘video game competition’? Please comment through the blog or drop us an email and we will post it.

* three – 30 minutes turns will be too much for a family that watches television. In our house we don’t watch TV (None. Zero. Really, it’s true.) In a home where the kids watch TV, this should be adjusted downward according to the time spent on TV. The same guideline could be used for all video-based entertainment, that is, three – 30 minute turns of TV, computer, or game system, then 1 hour of reading to earn more turns.