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Posted March 25, 2013 by Hanna in Family Fiends
 
 

Family Fiends: Spring Break Gaming v. Real World

Family Fiends: Spring Break Gaming v. Real World
Family Fiends: Spring Break Gaming v. Real World

Spring break has a whole set of connotations associated with it, pending upon who you ask. I have fond memories of when spring break was all about getting together with friends – hanging out at someone’s house for slumber parties; staying over at someone’s house staying up late watching Wayne’s World on SNL then Headbanger’s Ball; staying out late on a date night because we didn’t have school the next day. While I worked full time and went to school full time in college, I had friends that did their girls gone wild stint. Just before I sat down here to write, I asked my teenager what he was looking forward to the most this spring break. “Being with friends, hanging out and playing games.” I think Disney was on to something. I’m feeling a lot like Simba with Elton John playing in the background.

Family Fiends: Spring Break Gaming v. Real World

Spring break to me is all about a break from routine: no car lines, no lunch prep, no rules, just right. Jammies all day. We’re in a community where there are several friends that are taking their families to celebrate spring break in warmer climates. For us, it will be a staycation of sorts. For me, I’d like to take the time to clean up this cesspool in preparation for the eldests’ 8th grade graduation. Not the perfect set-up for fun – or is it?

We’re a plugged-in family. We have 5 gaming consoles, 4 iPod Touches, an iPad, two Kindle Fires, two Nooks, several Nintendo DSs – maybe a DSi or two – and an obscene amount of computers and laptops. Oh, I guess our smart phones fall into the mix somewhere. The Teenager’s school, in their effort to go green as well as focus on STEM education, have iPads in class to supplement their learning. My husband is an IT Manager. I’m the Community Manager for two sites plus volunteer our technology services to local fundraisers. It’s ingrained in our lifestyles, our culture. It’s what we enjoy – but it’s not who we are.

On Saturday we picked up three games – Tomb Raider, Sim City and Need For Speed: Most Wanted. It’s certainly been months, if not close to a year, since we’ve picked up a game. The minions flitted about, enjoying all the wares and excitement of playing a new game. Their iPod requests have halted while they obsess over finding cars and looking at the stats of the cars. We’re at the stage where I can threaten they will never see the game again if they don’t behave. We purchased the games because of a great sale, but had in the back of our minds that it would be a great Easter gift and perfect for Spring Break. But it’s with their obsession in mind that I can’t help but wonder if I’m contributing to the corruption of society.

A few of us were emailing around, talking about Family Fiends and its lack of…what we had originally intended. We tried to wait until things had calmed down, a chance to get to a plateau in life. Team member are expecting new arrivals into their lives and with at least thirteen kids between the rest of us, we’re busy people. Amy was joking about spring break, that they always, “start out with fun ideas, books to read, outings – but by the last day they all end up sitting in front of a screen while I rock back and forth waiting for the coffee IV to take effect.” I laugh because I’m the opposite. I start each day slowly, sipping coffee, surfing the web. I, nor my minions, change out of their PJs until the afternoon – if even then. It’s by the second to last day that I go in a panic because I’ve convinced myself that I’ve ruined their spring break by my lack of creativity and we rush around in a flurry of hysterics, cramming in events. See, both Amy and I are stay at home mothers – the menfolk actually get to leave the house for adult interaction while we’re in charge of domestic duties, including raising responsible and respectable children to set forth into society to do good deeds. For me, a full cup of warm coffee uninterrupted is a perfect vacation – if I can get it while the digital media takes care of my kids, so be it. It’s that time management thing though, when time escapes me and I get the text from my husband that reads, “I’m shutting down now,” where I realize that the digital media has taken over my kids’ day. It’s not like I didn’t feed them or didn’t interact with them – it’s that black hole where time seems to escape.

Family Fiends: Spring Break

My husband fondly remembers when computers were “huge and unwieldy” where games were “simply pixel blocks bumping into each other.” He’s a huge proponent of the technology, supporting the better hand-eye coordination and interactive reading apps. I know that I spent many a spring break (and summer) working the physics on Marble madness. It’s a double-edged sword: I know the joys of wasting days working on a game, competing both against myself and the game to win, as well as being a parent that knows that kids shouldn’t be plugged-in all day, wasting days working on a game, competing both against themselves and the game to win. iPods, iPads, Kindles and Nooks – they all offer unlimited access to things kids shouldn’t see through various apps. While we’ve included a filter through our internet router, that’s still not going to stop the likes of YouTube.

Family Fiends: Spring Break Gaming v. Real World

I’m not so concerned about the younglings in the house – YouTube isn’t even on their radar, really. I’ve since learned that YouTube to my teenager is like MTV was to me. Having access to technology, while it has its merits, is also worth a bit of lamenting – kids are missing out on personal interactions (with people other than family members and over the game systems), the smell of crayons and paper and coloring – paper cuts (well, I don’t blame them for missing out on those), flipping pages of a book, creating forts and destroying the house with race tracks in the living room. Without parental interaction it’s easy to see the world turning into a Wall*E scenario.

Family Fiends: Spring Break Gaming v. Real World

So what’s a parent to do? Well, for starters, get off our tuchus’. Set timers. Use games as a reward, the exception, not the rule. Interact with them – ask questions. Get involved – even play a game or two with them. Do they like Minecraft? Awesome – Legos do the same thing and they are hands-on. There are a few great websites out there that help with lego building ideas. I love the Lego Architecture series but the cost? I don’t love that. We have enough Legos to build the White House without the cost – and we’re lucky enough to live near enough to the actual White House that we can go down and see it in real life. I’m thinking we’re building and then visiting Falling Water in the summer. My kiddos are obsessed with cars, especially those on the Need for Speed series. We’ve been watching Top Gear on Netflix and a quick visit to the toy store brings us home with a mini version of our favorites courtesy of Hot Wheels or Matchbox. We have wooden blocks that they set up as racing tunnels, bridges, parking lots.

Family Fiends: Spring Break Gaming v. Real World

Are your kids fans of the first person shooters? Get some Nerf guns and shove them outside. Lock the doors. Have kids in the neighborhood? A perfect way to make friends. Have them use their in-game multiplayer chats out in the real field. Are they more sports-themed gamers? Get them a soccer ball, a basketball, baseball and bat. Sometimes kids are intimidated by physical sports. Maybe they just aren’t that coordinated. Encourage them to write and create their stories – Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer. Get their friends involved in creative play. Have them invest in a character; pick it out, paint it – they can be leaders of their own world. Offer up some chips, pizza and they are set. All of these events build character traits and help enhance the body, mind and soul.

For every online game there is a counter-balance in real-life play. As parental, responsible adult figures we need to teach children responsibility and to encourage positive character, admirable traits that will help them achieve success in life. These responsibilities are no different than how other generations taught their children. Where it differs is the technology, the accessibility of anything and everything, really, and how we use it to teach our children, the future generation. If anything, we have more to worry about, more to protect our children from. We need to encourage our children to use their limitless imaginations rather than playing within the confines of someone else’s. That’s not to say that we can’t appreciate the imagination and hard work and talent that others have created for us to enjoy; we should. But it shouldn’t define who we are, as an individual, a family, a society.

As I sit here, it’s snowing outside. Just a few days prior to our official spring break from school. The kids have already raced cars and now they are building worlds. For us, the games encourage give them fodder for their imaginations and encourage them to grab something from the playroom and go to town in my living room. I can appreciate a break from school, from routine. They’ve played longer than I usually let them. But soon enough that profile timer is going to shut it down – that’s how I know that they (and subsequently me) have had enough of a break in the fantasy world.


Hanna

 
I grew up the lone girl a then-considered nerdy household, which involved Atari, Super NES and PC Gaming. I love all things pop culture, including the geekier realm of Star Wars, Science Fiction and yes, all things vampires. I found my love match with @TroyBenedict and I'm now a Haus Frau and mother of three boys, all of whom find MineCraft to be a gift from the Gods. I'm the Community Manager of the team - for a good times follow us on Twitter at @GamesFiends.com, on our Facebook & Google+ Pages as well as Pinterest and YouTube,