Ok, perhaps not entirely serious, but it’s as a result of these “conditions”, that things have a’changed in our household recently. Ignoring a fairly major blip over the Christmas period, we have put rules in place regarding screen time for the kids. Most families I know implemented these rules ages ago, but I’m a bit of a hot mess organisationally and it’s taken me until now to sort things out.
I think it’s important to point out that I’m not anti-iPad, I really enjoy my iPad and spend much too much time on it. I also feel that sometimes it’s the most astonishingly useful device when you’re out and about or on a long journey and you need to keep the kids entertained. I just think there need to be boundaries so that it works for the family not to the detriment of it.
For some reason, the iPad or any other gaming device for that matter, has an almost mystical hold over my son. Although my girls quite like to play computer games (joining up in Minecraft is a particular treat for them) they just aren’t as interested as Sam. Maybe this is an age thing, but it seems to me that the sort of games that boys tend to prefer, trigger the following serious conditions.
1. Rage-a-tosis. When my son has been playing on the iPad for a long period of time he turns into a snarling, snappy, rude and aggressive brat. Normally, he’s an incredibly sweet-natured little chap, so this is very out of character. The phrases, “Can I just finish this battle?” Or “But I’m in the middle of a match.” Quickly turn into,”I’m not coming until I’ve finished my match!” “That’s so unfair! You never let me finish anything! You HATE me!!” and then into, “ARGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!”, or “GRAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” with a flourished collapse on the floor to full dramatic effect. Most annoying.
2. Zombi-osity This is the scientific word for whenever a kid is in a mid-game mong and turns into a Zombie. They can only see the game, they can only hear the game, they can only feel the game. These senses therefore become null and void for anything other than, the game. The consequence of this is that by the time I’m on my fourth, “Dinner’s ready, can you come and sit at the table please!!” I’m furious and irritable and ready to throttle him. Not a nice compulsion to feel towards the fruit of my womb and not a great starter for ten when it comes to creating a loving family atmosphere.
3. Invisibilityism When my son is on the iPad, he sort of disappears. I don’t see him and I don’t hear him. For all intents and purposes, he’s not with us. He’s in his own, very addictive, very solitary little world. I find this quite disturbing. Well, when I actually stop and think about it I find it disturbing, because what I usually do is just enjoy the silence and the lack of screaming that he inevitably provokes in the girls.
4. Anti-empatica Otherwise known as a total lack of empathy. When I’ve managed to prize my son away from a marathon gaming session, it’s quite clear that he behaves differently towards his sisters. He’s more abrupt, rude and mischievous. Normally I’m a fan of a bit of mischief but I’m not a fan of that strange post-game mischievousness which has an edge of nasty that none of us want in our lives.
5. Nagalotus Where children pester you for what they want until all your defences are worn down and you’d chew your right arm off for a bit of peace and quiet. If kids who like to play computer games feel even a moment of boredom, they ask to play on their device of choice. This doesn’t tend to happen once though. Oh no, me hearties, I’d say parents of a computer addicted child have to bat aside a constant drip of requests throughout the day if the children are not at school. It’s not surprising if we eventually give in, the nagging is non-stop and at the end of the day peace is soooooo lovely.
6. Flopaboutitus The condition that seems to strike after a particularly engrossing gaming session. For some reason when my son has just finished playing and is in the midst of a post-computer game fog, he becomes sort of mopey and sulky. It’s a bit like watching a teenager in love, mooning around and obsessing about the object of their desire. What is it about these games that’s so addictive? I feel the pull myself with Pet Rescue Saga, so odd and so pointless.
So, in response to this I’ve laid down the law and declared that Sam can only play on the iPad for an hour a day when we’re at home. That still seems like quite a lot of time actually but it seems that just having the law in place manages his expectations and therefore his reactions. He knows when time is up and he’s ready for it, so somehow in his brain it’s not so bad.
I have to say, the change to our family life is extraordinary. I actually see Sam now and it makes me realise how distant we had become with each other. The kids also really enjoy playing together. The girls adore their big brother and are delighted when he wants to play with them. The house is certainly noisier and messier, but there’s a feeling of camaraderie that isn’t there when the iPad dominates. It’s also very satisfying when they’re using their imaginations and laughing together and sorting out their own disagreements. It reminds me of watching lion cubs play fighting and rolling about, it seems like their play is teaching them “stuff” that they’ll need later in life. Not sure what that “stuff” is exactly but I’ve got a feeling it must be better than Zombi-osity…
A gently staged picture of Sam doing some maths, which he does almost constantly now that he doesn’t play on the iPad as much. Ok, that’s not true.