So, I’ve got kids. 2 girls, 7 & 10. We’re a normal family with normal issues, including the worry about screen-time. I had a good conversation with my girls and we all agreed what was useful for young brains and what was not. I started by comparing how much they created inside the game with how much everything was given to them by the game. In Moshi Monsters Village, for example, we agreed that there was no trick to it, it was just buying or choosing from all the stuff to give to the monsters etc. Nothing in the game was made by my girls.
We talked about how amazing they feel when they’ve actually made something or finished a drawing and how much they always want to show me. My girls agreed that they didn’t always get that feeling from the games as much as they did from making real things or even making stuff in Minecraft.
Playing or Making
I told my girls that I would be happy for them to have more iPad time if they were creating things, experimenting or learning new things. We needed to restrict the amount of time gaming as their mum and I could see it having negative impact on our girls’ relationship as they often fought over who’s turn it was or that one would not share access to an iPad. (They don’t have their own at the moment, although that’s just about to change!)
I said we would decide on a total amount of screen time for a day and then decide how much could be spent gaming and how much extra we’d allow if they were making things.
The Minecraft debate
This was a tricky one. Yes, Minecraft is used by millions and seems creative and open-ended but I pointed out that after hours of playing it, the girls rarely rushed to show me their creations and this might have been because they sort of made things up as they went along and never knew when they’d finished. This aspect put it more in the gaming category as they were not yet building planned or team projects. We decided we might change which category Minecraft fell into if they were more organised about what exactly they were going to build and why.
In a previous post, I’ve highlighted the positive effect that comes about from playing puzzle or logic games. I can see at home how calming the right game can be and sitting with my girls trying to conquer levels together is a great experience. Saying that, they do still add to overall screen-time and without having a direct creative output, they seem to add to what seems like a minor iPad addiction. I must admit that this addiction is also seen in the parents to and is common to many families in 2014.
Laying down the Law!
The result of these debates was our collaboratively designed family poster to remind us what we could do on the iPads and for how long. It was difficult for me to consider time-limits on something like reading as this seemed counter-intuitive. But given a free reign on iPad reading time would often mean 20 minutes of gaming followed by 60 minutes of movie making followed by hours of reading resulting in whole evenings looking at the screen and no time conversing with the family. My daughters, of course, have many standard paper books to read and have free reign on those.
Some parents might find it useful so here it is. Note: Making Games is fine!