When I was a little girl, I loved making mud pies. I would sit outside for hours in my pretend kitchen and cook for all my imaginary guests. Of course, there was no such thing as Minecraft back then.
Don’t even get me started on Barbie! My dream was to be a hairstylist, so I would give my Barbie dolls haircuts and beg my little sister to not tell on me.
I had two imaginary friends, Taco Salad and Barbeque Lisa. Don’t ask me why I chose those names, but I’m guessing it’s because I really like food. All of my free time was spent using my imagination.
I’ve Never Been A Gamer
I’ve never been a big gamer. When I was young, my family owned the original Nintendo and I enjoyed playing Duck Hunt, but it didn’t hold my attention for long periods of time. As an adult, I occasionally enjoy Candy Crush and if I’m at an arcade I like racing games.
My boys, on the other hand, LOVE video games! They were thrilled when their uncle bought them a PS4 for Christmas, and then the following year their grandparents bought them one to keep at their house. Over the years, they have owned PSP’s, Playstation 2, Wii, PS4, Ipads, and iPods.
My kids are very involved in music and sports and that takes up most of their free time. In the past, video games have been used as a reward for good grades and behavior on the weekend or played in the summer and their screen time was always monitored and limited.
Last year, my boys introduced me to Minecraft. It was confusing to me and I didn’t really understand the game, but I thought it couldn’t be that bad because they were building things. Right?
I woke up one day and realized my children had changed right before my eyes. It was as if video games totally consumed their thought life.
Always Thinking About Gaming
When we would go out to eat, they asked to bring their iPads to play games. If we were with grandparents, they asked to play on their phones. Buffalo Wild Wings became their favorite restaurant because they offer tablets for kids.
As summer progressed, they stopped wanting to play outside. They started begging to play video games. I would comply and let them play thirty minutes at a time. When I would tell them to turn it off, they would almost cry.
The youngest three boys’ love for Minecraft was close to becoming an obsession. I began to notice that while they were playing they would fight the entire time, “You killed me!” “Stop tearing down my house!” “I hate you!” Wait. What? My sweet, well-mannered boys are yelling at each other and using language that isn’t permitted in our house??? Shut the front door! I knew something had to change.
Decisions, Decisions About Minecraft
I was faced with the question of what to do? Do I limit their game time even more? Do I make them play one at a time? I pondered on these questions and talked them over with my husband.
I Watched a 20/20 Episode
One night as I was channel surfing, a 20/20 episode caught my attention. The show was about video game addiction. It featured two teens and a grown man who was addicted to gaming. One of the teens was given an MRI to see if the games had affected his brain. The areas that should have been lit up were gray. He was taken to a wilderness camp to help overcome his addiction. When he returned, he was given a new MRI and this time all the areas that were gray before were now lit up. Playing video games for long periods of time was killing his brain cells! Pictures of my kids growing up and being addicted to video games flashed before my eyes, and I knew what I had to do.
I Made a Decision to Kick Minecraft to the Curb
I made a decision, that at this time in our lives, my three youngest kids are done with video games. Done, as in not playing them anymore. They will not play them here or there. They will not play them anywhere. Not in a house, not in a tree…(sorry, I love Dr. Suess) I sat them down and delivered the news. At first, they missed playing, but after a week I noticed that my children were back to being sweet, little boys instead of video game monsters. They were playing together like they hadn’t done in months. They were actually playing with toys and using their imagination!
Is This a Forever Decision?
So, how long will this last? I’m not really sure. My oldest is 13 and has never had a tendency to be addicted like the youngest 3, so we occasionally let him play. He mostly likes to play sports games. He’s played once in the last two months and hasn’t asked to play. I’m not saying that my kids will never play again, because as they mature they may be able to enjoy it occasionally.
Doing What’s Right for my Family
I want my children to grow up having a childhood like mine and I want them to allow God to fill their imaginations with creativity and ideas.
Instead of Playing Minecraft, I want them to:
- Roam outside, climb trees and explore nature.
- Build things with their hands and not just bricks on a screen.
- Develop relationships with people in real life.
- Be content riding in a car playing I spy.
- Pick a restaurant because they love the food.
- Experience life outside of a screen.
Special Note: Some kids are able to play video games, put them down and walk away (like my oldest child), but other kids seem to crave video games and become addictive. I’m not picking on Minecraft! It just happens to be the video game my kids love the best.
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