I’m Okay with My Son Playing Video Games For Hours on End and Here’s Why
You’re Not a Bad Mom For Letting Your Son Play Video Games for Hours on End and Here’s Why
We are still in quarantine, and like other families, it has been hard for my kids to adjust to this new way of life that seems to never end. They miss all their sports and activities and friends- they long for the life they once knew.
To survive this seemingly endless isolation, the #1 thing my son loves to do is play video games for hours on end. I’ve loosened up the gaming limits because he is responsible with his schoolwork and chores and getting outside to exercise when the weather allows. Although we have done and continue to do a lot of different activities away from our screens, there’s still a ton of time for him to spend in the virtual world with his friends. But like many other parents, I worried about all the time I’ve allowed him to spend in the basement, immersed in the virtual world.
There’s a lot of information about video games and how it affects our kids and how much of this activity is too much. But our old rules and guidelines were blown out of the proverbial water when our lives shut down and we’ve all been stuck at home.
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Most parents are giving their kids permission to play video games much longer than they ever have before because, at the very least, it gives them something to do.
I’ve thought long and hard about this issue and have since realized that playing video games actually meets many of my son’s needs during this long quarantine. All the hours he spends battling in the virtual world aren’t a total waste of time, they are actually helping him more than anything else these days.
I wanted to share my insights with hopes that it might encourage other parents to feel less guilty about it and a little relieved too. I’m no expert, but I know what my boy needs and I’m just grateful that playing video games is meeting some of those needs right now.
Playing video games meets these five needs for my son:
Playing video games gives my son the socialization he needs.
Like many other boys, my son’s social life revolves mainly around sports and activities. He isn’t one to reach out and facetime a friend to talk or participate in a zoom call with other friends to catch up- much like girls would do. Instead, he socializes with his friends in the virtual world. They meet there to play various games together while engaging in battles, often yelling and laughing, and strategizing too. There’s a special comradery he has with his gaming friends, that gives him the connection he needs.
My son schedules his day around the designated times he and his friends set to play together. He’s told me he’s grown closer to some kids he has always wanted to get to know better and he was really happy about these new budding friendships. Playing video games is actually making him feel seen and valued, and not so alone. This activity is giving him a place to belong- and my gosh, I’m okay with hours of that.
Playing video games gives my son the mental stimulation he needs.
My 14-year old boy is very intelligent and he gets restless without regular mental or physical stimulation. His options are limited on how he can find an outlet that gives him that kind of external input he desperately needs. Playing video games fills this need in many ways.
Playing video games demands his utmost attention and he has to stay alert and hyper-focused to do well. He must constantly use fast problem-solving skills with a quick reflexive response to stay in the game. The desire and determination to play well excites him and keeps him engaged in a stimulated action-packed activity that energizes him and satisfies his restlessness.
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Playing video games meets my son’s competitive needs.
My son has a natural competitive spirit which is why he loves to participate in multiple sports. Since he can’t be on the field playing in heated soccer tournaments right now, he’s getting this need met through gaming.
He gets excited when he plays in various competitive arenas and he’s thrilled when he accomplishes a goal to hit a new level or come in a higher place. He constantly talks about his plans and strategies with friends and when he does something really good, he runs upstairs to tell me all about it. He’ll ask me to come down and see the replay and my gosh, I’m dizzy watching the action unfold. For him, experiencing both the wins and the losses helps replace all the real-life game time he is missing on the field with his soccer team.
Playing video games gives my son a sense of purpose.
Many of the activities that gave our kids a purpose has been essentially stripped of their daily lives. We often find our identity in what we do, so when we are stuck at home unable to do those things, we lose parts of who we are and we feel lost and lack a sense of self-worth.
My son lost many pieces of his identity that he can’t get back right now, so I’m glad he has found one way he can feel fulfillment in focusing on what he can do and who he can be in the virtual world. It gives him determination and motivation and something he can put his energy into in place of all the other things he once was able to do. Playing video games makes him feel useful and valuable, while also offering him a place to play an important role during a time when most of his roles have been taken away.
Playing video games helps the long hours and days and weeks pass by easier.
This quarantine has made us all realize how long our days can really be without our usually busy lives intact. Having so much time on our hands can be really hard, especially for our kids. Although being bored has its benefits, and we are given a rare opportunity to actually rest and come together more as a family, there are still more hours in the day where our kids (and us) can be restless with nothing to do. Too much time doing nothing can affect our mental health in negative ways.
My son needs a reason to be motivated to face another day spending the long hours stuck within these walls of seclusion, and playing video games has often been that reason. I’m grateful my son has something he can look forward to doing when everything else he enjoyed has been taken away.
Thank you so much for this article, Sheryl! Its seriously what i needed. The last 7 weeks have been a struggle with me and my middle. This is his LIFE even before this pandemic hit! And when RONA came, I barely saw him. Yes he was responsible and got all his school work done and with excellence! He’s an A student, chores were being done (haphazard and quick). He was spending endless hours into the late night on his computer and FT while in his virtual world with his friends – he rarely came out to spend time with our family or outside. When we made him take a “break” to get fresh air, play outside with his siblings, join the family for movie night – he ended up having a good time, but was anxious to get back to his room. It caused me to resent allowing him to move the gaming station into his bedroom. He finally had a meltdown a couple of days ago and I realized he was sad, missing his friends, his girlfriend, golf, lacrosse and all the teenage activities in and out of school. And although he seemed to be enjoying his time on line – he was coping like all of us! I was taking it personally bc of my 3 children he stayed in his room the most and was less engaged -and he’s my sensitive mama’s boy child who shared everything with me. I felt like I was failing as a parent allowing him an excessive amount of screen time. Yelling at him for not taking a “break”, joining the family, enjoying family time without being on the phone, etc….. This article is so on point! Thank you ever so much!
Good for you! Depending on where kids are socially, emotionally, and academically, a parent might not need to worry about the amount of time they’re playing video games. I think it’s all about balance, and playing some games with your son or daughter, letting them teach you a few things, is a way to open up conversations about getting outdoor time (hard to do now), exercising despite being shut in, and academic topics. This has been a good time for convos with my son.
–Nancy Peske, the Sensory Smart Parent
Great thoughts Christine.
I think we’re too fast to demonize video game play today and loved your 5 examples.
All three of my teens love gaming, thus we always try to talk about the industry of gaming. Recently my teens attended a local conference put on by a college and hedge fund manager on the future of eSports. They were fascinated by what they learned.
If this a child’s love and passion, we shouldn’t be tearing it down just because the media enjoys using fear in their headlines and not thoroughly looking at both sides (and the data).
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