Addiction to TV and Computer Games

by Beverley Paine

It is hard for me to comment on computer game addiction for younger children because my children weren't exposed to television during the day and had extremely limited access to the computer due to our very small power generating capacity - we were living in a converted garage off the grid from when our eldest turned 7 to 12. It was a few more years before we could let them use the computer for an hour each every day!

Basically I played with my children and they helped us build our house, grow plants and create our garden, plant trees, build sheds and fences, look after the animals, helped us with the chores and cooking, etc. We were as involved in their lives as they were in ours.

I learned to play Diablo when the youngest was about 14. When we finally had enough solar photovoltaic panels and a computer each networked together 4 or 5 of us would enjoy playing in the same game... Robin and I got our first taste of computer addiction! But we're TV addicts from long ago. What I like is the way our children, even as adults, help us turn the TV off at night still!!

When the children were little (under six) we had a tiny television but because of our addiction I felt that I had little control over it so would frequently banish it to the shed or on top of the wardrobe (depending on how insecure I felt). Back then I remember making it an issue about the kids and exposure, but really it was my inability to deal with my problem with the television.

I also remember moaning and groaning about the time my youngest spent on the computer in his teens. However I could also recognise that he was learning from what he was doing. I saw it as my job, not his, to translate that activity into eduspeak (because I valued educational learning back then still and didn't fully recognise that ALL activity brings/creates learning - we draw to us what we need to help us learn the lessons that we, as individuals, need). I had to translate what he was doing into something *I* valued. It wasn't my role to inhibit his choices because of my insecurities. And yes, that was really hard, especially as I watched his physical health suffer from endless days on the computer. And I countered that with physical days, days where we needed his help to do things that would help build his muscles and get him outside, which is where we spent a lot of time.

Before our eldest turned six we watched Sesame Street and Play School, but very few cartoons and the television wasn't turned on in the morning. I'm not sure what effect not watching morning cartoons had or didn't have. I'm still wary of making generalisations about TV, computer games and phone apps. I'm cautious about the element of addiction and the potential for lack of opportunity for holistic development, but I'm also aware that children learn differently to how I learned decades ago as a child and that technology plays a role. People have always been visual learners. Problems arise because we don't get the opportunity to exercise other learning modalities as much as distance ancestors did. We changing - is that for the better of humanity (and the planet)? I'm not sure.

Getting involved in our children's lives and inviting them to be involved in ours is what family life is all about. We can get on and do our separate things all day but what does that teach our children? Humans are social beings, we need each other to grow and learn and build strong lasting cooperative relationships that support each other and promote survival. We learn from each other. I have learned more from my children and from reflecting on my life and journey as a parent than any other time or area of my life: and I feel blessed to have had all those extra days, weeks and months that home education allowed me to be with those wonderful people.


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