• Mon, Oct 21 - 11:00 am ET

Twinning: I’ve Become Less Anti-Video Games As My Kids Have Gotten Older

kidsonipadHaving twins can be the most amazing experience of your life. It can also cause you to wake up in the morning wishing you were someone else. Twinning offers an honest depiction of life with twins from a mom who tries to keep things somewhere in the middle.

When my twins were three, my stance on video games and iPhone apps was pretty extreme: not allowed. I wasn’t anti-technology; I just felt that 3-year-olds would benefit infinitely more from doing things in the real world rather than on a video screen. I wanted to make sure they could use actual crayons and markers before they had a virtual palette at their fingertips. I wanted them to be able to kick a ball across the yard before they tossed them across video fields with a controller. I also saw no need to introduce them to the world of video games when we’d just barely introduced Candy Land.

The kids’ 3-year-old friends who were adept at using their mother’s iPhones didn’t impress me. If anything, they cemented my resolution that my phone is not a toy, and I was not going to be commanded to hand it over every time Allie and Nick felt bored. At that time, I hadn’t made the switch to the iPhone, so there was no real temptation anyway to hand my phone over for anything other than looking at pictures.

My anti-video game stance continued as my twins went from preschool to kindergarten. I still felt that they had so much to discover in the real world, anything less than hands-on interaction seemed like a waste of time. Watching my friends’ older children ignore everything and everyone while hunched over a DS or some other gaming device didn’t make me want to run out and buy a couple for my kids either.

But while I shunned video games, it wasn’t like I was raising little Amish people. I was well aware of the value of being computer-savvy in today’s society, so I was careful to keep what I considered an age-appropriate amount of technology available to them. My kids had Fisher Price laptops, toy cell phones, and plenty of interactive Leap Frog toys. They were as comfortable Skyping with our British relatives on my laptop as they were asking “Can you Google that?” when I didn’t know the answer to one of their many questions. They didn’t know how to play Angry Birds or work an iPhone, but computers and modern technology were nothing new for them.

When Allie and Nick were five, my parents bought them an iPad for Christmas. I was reluctant to introduce it to them at first. While I’d read a few articles that said video games could have positive effects on children, I wasn’t completely convinced. Memories of my Tetris addiction and the hours I wasted in high school perfecting the jab/punch sequence need to knock out Mike Tyson made me wince with regret. I didn’t want antisocial children who buried their heads in a gaming device, and I didn’t want couch potatoes who’d rather play football on a DS than in the backyard.

But at the same time, I’d heard great things about the iPad so I decided to start slowly, purchasing an app called “Montessori Number Board.” It’s possibly the most boring “game” you could play—putting tiles numbered 1 to 100 in order on the screen—but I liked it because it was educational and the kids thought it was amazing because they hadn’t seen anything like it before.

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  • Magrat

    “Both kids quickly became Minecraft addicts, and when it got to the point that they were arguing over it and ignoring me when I told them to turn it off, I “deleted” the app”

    I never had video games as a kid, and somehow my sister and I found all sorts of things to fight over. Taking it away was the correct response, but I don’t think I would chalk this up to video game addiction per se.

  • Carinn Jade

    I’m still very anti-video games, but then again my kids are still little (2 and 4). You’ve given me some hope that there are good games out there. I’m not raising little Amish children either, so we’ll eventually have to find balance!

  • Blooming_Babies

    My kids are allowed a bit of both educational and mindless apps, I find the little ones play with the educational games a lot it’s my eleven year old whose the problem. He falls into a YouTube hole and never wants to come out.

    • Alicia

      That YouTube hole is hard to climb out of.

    • meteor_echo

      Easier than the Wikipedia hole or the TvTropes hole. The latter sucks you in for hours at a time.

    • Muggle

      I swear TvTropes should be illegal, it’s so addictive. And it totally ruins your life.

  • Hezekiah Stephan Shabazz

    Meh, wrong.

  • Kheldarson

    As a gamer parent, I approve of Minecraft so hard. We’re hoping to have decent computers for the whole family to play on by the time our little guy is able to start playing himself.

    I do agree that limiting the time that your kids play is a good thing, but I would recommend that you start looking at the “normal” range of video games as well. A lot of those games, particularly the iconic RPGs, teach some awesome cognitive skills in terms of puzzle solving, reaction time, and the basic lesson of try, try, try again. As long as you are fully aware of the content of the games and are willing to check it out, that will be better for you and your kids in the long run :)

    • Simone

      Craft the mine!!!

    • nancylucas87

      before I looked at the check ov $4001, I didn’t believe
      …that…my best friend was like really making money parttime from there
      labtop.. there great aunt has done this for only fifteen months and recently
      paid for the mortgage on their apartment and bought a great new Aston Martin
      DB5. we looked here, bay35.com

    • meteor_echo

      Exactly. “Normal” games teach lessons, too.

  • Jessica

    While I certainly hope I never raise little screen addicts, you might want to give more thought to a Wii. There are lots of kid-friendly games, including exercise games like WiiFit, DDR, etc. Good for rainy days when they’re bouncing off the walls. Additionally, Wii games tend to have “reminders” periodically to take a break/go outside/do something else for awhile.

    Also, with respect to your intentions here, sometimes fun can just be fun. Not every experience needs to be educational, and a few minutes of Mario Party won’t wreck your kids.

    • Alicia Kiner

      We have the xBox Kinect w/ a couple of active games that are great for bad weather days. Kinect Adventures is awesome and 2 player ;) Luckily my daughter doesn’t really want to play long. about 20 minutes is her limit.

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    I think you’ve struck a good balance. Video games can be great for school age kids. I as well do not intend to give my boy my phone on demand for any reason. It’s my phone. I’ll just have to refrain from playing games on it, myself, in his presence.

  • Marie Caballero

    Last year Minecraft quickly took over my sons life!!! This summer, when the 3 of us would talk he would always find a way to work his current Minecraft adventure into it and it frustrated me. The other day he showed me this AMAZING world he’s created and I was in awe!!! Since school started (he has a 30 minute gaming limit on schooldays) Minecraft talk is less frequent an I have to say, I miss it.

  • Lish

    I’m a 51 year old mom of a 13 year old daughter, and I have Minecraft Pocket Edition, Stack the States AND Stack the Countries on my iPad. These apps aren’t just for kids!

    Reading about the Montessori Number Board brought back memories of my daughter when she started her second year of Montessori school (age 3 1/2), and completed the number board in her first week of school. I’m glad they made it an app.

  • meteor_echo

    I don’t really see why purely recreational games are so “evil”. They’re not better or worse than any kids’ show that your children undoubtedly watch on TV, and they can also be learning tools because nowadays, nobody is interested in games without a bit of a challenge.
    As for good games that may be fun for kids, I’d recommend:
    1) Legend of Zelda: the Minish Cap. Good quests and an occasional puzzle that a seven-year-old might find a challenge but will solve with enough persistence. Each dungeon in the game is based on challenges.
    2) The first Rayman game (if you’re tech-savvy enough to install DosBox, it’s an old game). Adorable art, and also presents some challenge in terms of discovering items/passing through obstacles. Might be a tad eerie at times, but it’s what got me into gaming and drawing fantasy stuff at the ripe old age of 7 or 8.
    3) Rabbids Go Home (a Wii game) for the family fun! This game is adorable and crazy and I love it to bits.
    4) Ni no Kuni – Wrath of the White Witch. Made by Studio Ghibli (aka the studio that produces the best animated movies ever). An amazing story that would feel like a good book to your kids!

    • G.S.

      I love Legend of Zelda! My little brother actually learned to read when he was in kindergarten from reading the little text boxes in Majora’s Mask.

      Ni no Kuni sounds amazing. I’ll have to check that out.

    • Kheldarson

      Ni no Kuni IS amazing. I still need to finish it, but outside of the true art games (like Journey, Flower, Shadow of the Colossus) which are all about the look of the world, it’s one of the prettiest games I’ve ever played. And the game play is so easy to pick up, even if the constant repetition of instructions for the emotion side quests get annoying.

      And I’ll just submit that any Legend of Zelda game would be appropriate for kids. Especially the early systems ones. Of the newer gens, the only ones I’d recommend waiting till your child was older would be Twilight Princess (it’s honestly the darkest seeming of all of them) and Ocarina of Time (dark feel in the adult world and just sheer length and involvement).

      I’m probably going to honestly use Wind Waker as my child’s first Zelda game. Cute art, basic fight and game play mechanics, and a good solid Zelda game all around with plenty of little helps to keep you on track.

    • G.S.

      Meh, to me, Twilight Princess was tame. Actually, if anything, Majora’s Mask is definitely the most dark, scary, and depressing one, despite all the bright colours and child protagonist.

      Windwaker is just all kinds of adorable. I’m definitely going to grab a copy for the WiiU as soon as I’m able to and show it to my 10-year-old cousin.

  • Werner Wurstsemmel

    I like Video Games. So much … Yeah … So Super Cool

  • SarahJesness

    I’d be interested to hear about the effects of educational games on kids. There are plenty of studies on the effectiveness, and/or lack thereof, of educational TV programs for kids, but not much on video games. I hypothesize that video games could potentially be more effective, though perhaps more for kids of a certain age range, because they feature more interactivity.

    My dad had my sisters and I do a lot of educational computer games. I had fun and all. Admittedly, doing math problems is a lot more fun when you’re using them to help Spiderman climb a building to stop the Green Goblin. (there was also a Wolverine Danger Room level with advanced problems. I’d try them anyway even though I didn’t know them so I always got Wolverine killed) I also really liked games just for fun, but until I got a GBA for my tenth birthday I was only able to play them at my friend’s house.

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  • Shellatte

    WOW, I think we’re the same person. I am dealing with my 6yo son recently being given an iPad. I just Googled “I don’t wan’t my son playing even educational games on his ipad” but my brain has been arguing with itself all morning. I downloaded a math game that feels too video game-ish. It is currently hidden in a folder so he doesn’t even know it’s there at all. I think I’ll take your path. THANK YOU! I’m glad I’m not the only one :) I want him playing in the dirt.