My husband and I are having conversations right now about whether or not we keep the Wii. And if we do, how do we use it. But first, let me tell you how we got to the point where we're thinking of removing it.
It all started when we moved to Texas. We'd never had a gaming system before, but our boys were getting older and we felt that they were 'missing out' on something. We originally decided to get them a trampoline, but the summers here are scorching hot, so it wouldn't have been used for 6 months out of the year. And in base housing, sometimes you have room for one, sometimes you don't. (Then there's that nasty 'weight limit' when they move you and tramps are heavy.) We thought, "A Wii would allow them to stay active in the house during the hot months and it would be a fun activity to play with their friends."
So we bought one. At first we only allowed 'active' games and they had to stand to play it. I'm not sure how it happened but after a while we had some Lego games - to play you just stand there and move your guy from place to place. No real physical movement or logic involved. And when their friends came over they all just stood in the room, playing a game and not talking. It was like a room full of zombie kids.
There began to be fights. Major fights. "He hogged the Wii. He didn't share." There was name calling and put-downs. Sometimes they would play all day and I'd find out they hadn't let one brother have a turn. It became an obsession for them, how much time could they play? They were constantly talking about it, begging to play it, crying if they couldn't. All their imaginative play was based on the computer games they played. No more knights or heroes or soldiers or whatever. Only Wii characters. All the time. I often found them just sitting in a room discussing "plans" for the next time they got to play. And they were ALWAYS asking to play.
Sadly, it became a crutch for me. When I was sick or tired, or both, I'd tell them to go play the Wii. It was too hard for me to deal with all the whining and begging while laying in bed wanting to throw up or pass out. Part of why we're discussing getting rid of it is based on my own weakness to rely on it as a babysitter.
So, as I started to think about it my friend Misty over at Misfit Cygnet recommended that I read Playstation Nation by Olivia and Kurt Bruner. When I got it in the mail my boys were so excited - 'Mom has gone crazy and now she's going to get us a Playstation'. They were less than happy when I told them what the book was really about!
Playstation Nation talks about video game addiction and what parents can do. The authors use examples from their own family and interviews with many other people. They also discuss many of the studies done about video games and their effect on emotion and behavior, including what actually happens in the brain.
I enjoyed the stories and interviews very much, but I especially appreciated the 'science' behind it. I had already seen what it could do so it was chilling to understand what was going on in their little brains, and the damage it might be causing.
I went into the book thinking we'd just limit the amount of play, an hour a day or maybe one day a month. One particular man quoted in the book said that he wished his parents had just gotten rid of it, because even though he could only play once a month or so, he still thought about it, it consumed his thoughts even if he wasn't playing it or talking about it. I don't want video games to 'consume their thoughts' (which I had already seen that it did) and this made me think deeply about what I truly wanted for them.
After reading the book, and observing my own children's behaviors, I'm convinced that the Wii needs to leave our home permanently, never to be replaced by anything else. My husband is not so convinced. I've asked him to read the book, which he agreed to, but hasn't had time yet. One of his main arguments is that "it's fun". Well, many people would argue that taking drugs, sleeping around and drag racing are fun, but that doesn't make it right. He has also expressed concern that "we spent money on it" so it would be a waste to get rid of it. I countered with, "If you made a mistake, you correct it and move on. If you give up drinking but have a year's supply of beer in the house, you don't need to keep drinking it until it's gone. Get rid of it!" And he's worried that the kids will feel deprived or weird because they're one of the few without a gaming system. I worry that they'll grow up addicted, unmotivated, unproductive and consumed with unimportant worldly things. (Reading the book Boys Adrift further convinced me that this most probably would happen.)
At the moment we're at an impasse, but we've decided to not let them play until we make the decision. The first bit was rough, but now they are playing imaginatively again, reading books, going to the park, riding their bikes and most especially, the tone of our home is calmer and more pleasant. We don't have multiple screaming or crying fits a day. No more nagging me then lashing out because I said no. They are doing their school work independently if I'm sick or playing with their younger brothers or reading to them - they're using their time productively. Without complaint. The noise level has dramatically dropped.
We did let them play one day (on Halloween instead of trick-or-treating) and it took almost 2 weeks for them to stop asking to play, complaining, crying, or yelling about not being able to play. Now, peace has been restored and I don't want to interrupt it again!