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Game Over: What to Do When Technology Takes Over Quality Time

​​This information is included in our Guide to Parenting in the Digital Age. Click here to see the rest of the guide.

A family vacation is right around the corner, and Mom and Dad are excited about what they have planned: staying in a lakeside cabin, fishing, spending time on a boat and experiencing nature first-hand. When they arrive at their destination, their 15-year-old son has plans of his own – he’s brought his video game player with him on the trip.

The teen refuses to go fishing and spends most of his vacation inside playing video games. His parents are disappointed but don't know how to handle the situation.

This story reminds us that just as parents teach kids, kids teach parents. This particular child taught his parents that playing video games was a higher priority for him than their vacation plans. He drew the line and didn’t allow them to cross it. For the entire trip, what he wanted to do trumped what his parents wanted to do.

Issues like these are familiar to many families. On average, kids spend 35-40 hours a week with TV, movies, video and computer games, and DVDs. Some of these distractions can isolate them and immerse them in dangerous behaviors like sex, violence and materialism. But video games and TV are not surrogates for a parent, and you must act as a parent to control the content and the amount of media used by your child by: 

  • Making sure you really know what your child is reading, listening to and watching.
  • Setting clear media viewing rules for your child. 
  • Using available technology to block objectionable media from entering your home. 
  • Helping your child be media aware, and explaining media content so he or she understands it.  
  • Encouraging him or her to enjoy healthy entertainment and activity alternatives.

Although you can't control the larger cultural environment, you can create an "oasis" for your children in your own home. Television sets, iPods, DVD players and computers all come with "off" buttons. Don't be afraid to push them! Turn down the volume of pop culture by creating quiet zones and quiet times in your home where family members have time to read, play, think and talk to each other. This will encourage your kids to develop other resources and skills so they don’t have to depend entirely on the media to be entertained.

From: Who's Raising Your Child?, by Laura J. Buddenberg and Kathleen M. McGee

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