Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Computer versus TV

The good news is, the boys aren't watching a lot of TV these days.  I'd say the daily consumption has dropped to less than an hour, and I won't embarrass myself by letting on exactly how many hours they were consuming before.  Some days when I was on vacation, the TV stayed off all day.

The bad news is, they have a new addiction of choice.  You see, my three year old and my five year old are now bona fide computer game junkies.


Their drug of choice is Star Wars Lego, and I must admit that it baffles me just a little bit that a Star Wars Lego video game even exists.  The boys love it, though, and would play it for hours at a time if I let them.  They also play a few other games, like Pixar's Cars, and the Lego Island and Curious George paint games I got at the grocery store, and Simon especially likes the games on Nick.com.

So on the one hand, I'm okay with the reduced consumption of TV because at least with the video games, they're engaged and doing something.  They're forced to share and to take turns, but they still play collaboratively.  They're problem solving, thinking, and developing at least some cognitive skills.  Not to mention memory:  Simon, who doesn't yet clearly identify the letters of the alphabet let alone read, can click through six or seven layers of menu screens based solely on having seen it done a few times.  It's actually kind of amazing to watch.

It's also hilarious to hear them integrate the language of the video game into their regular play.  "Let's play another level," said while leaping forth with lightsaber in hand, means "Let's keep playing."

And yet, I have to admit that I am not completely at ease with this newfound addiction to video games.  First, at least when the TV is on the boys drift in and out of the room, playing with their toys and each other while the tube drones on.  With the computer, they stand fixed in front of the monitor, fingers thumping on the keyboard, for as long as we'll leave them to it.  And I'm already becoming rather tired of hearing "But Moooooom, just let me finish this level!" whined at me each time I tell them to move along to something else.

I'm thinking of getting a timer and limiting them, maybe to 20 minutes each per day.  But, true confession time:  it's so easy to let them play.  They're engaged, they're content, and most importantly, they aren't pestering me or each other.  Computer time is free time for me, and at this stage in my life, I'm willing to trade dilligence for indulgence.  Call me lazy.

What do you think?  Are computer games better than TV?  Is there room for video games in a balanced day, even for a preschooler?  How much is too much?

And most importantly, how on earth can I justify limiting their computer time when I spend countless hours glued to the monitor myself?  Hypocrite, thy name is blogging mother...