Ssshhhh, don’t tell my son — but he just might be the last eight-year-old around who doesn’t have a handheld video game unit like the DS.
The original verdict came down from my husband about four years ago. We were having dinner in a restaurant where the family next to us included two bug-eyed boys glued to their handheld video games.
“He is not getting one of those.” And with those words, the ban was in place. (This coming from the guy who was sitting with his feet up on a desk, playing Playstation with a friend in a college dorm room, the first time I met him.)
I went along with the ban on handheld video games though, because I also agreed that we were seeing more and more instances like this where kids were detached from anything going around them — whether it was a visit to grandma’s or a trip to the beach — all because of the hypnotizing force field they held in their hands. But I also thought it was one of those parenting decisions we would gradually let slide, giving in to what is socially acceptable.
In the meantime, when L. was five, we bought an Xbox 360 for the house. (See, we’re not ogres and didn’t really intend to deprive him of the video gaming experience entirely.) It was different (or so we reasoned) because 1) it wasn’t portable and wouldn’t interfere with our family activities and 2) even his time at home playing video games would be limited since he was in school or playing sports outside most of the day anyway.
It turned out to be quite the male bonding experience, father and son, facing off in football, baseball and hockey. To this day, these remain the only games that interest him. Once he gained some skill (and outgrew the whiny remote-throwing phase), I could see where video games might actually be a welcome presence in our home.
So while still being DS-less and PSP-free at this age certainly puts L. in the minority, he has never challenged our decision (translation: we’ve never had to enforce it). He seems content to get his fill of gaming on our console unit. Even after all the times he’s peered over a friend’s shoulder at a party or on a playdate, he never comes back and begs for one.
I think he’s just figuring out ways to respectfully outwit us at this point. He has been zeroing in on my husband’s smartphone more often — and most noticeably on a recent family trip while we were in restaurants waiting for our food (the art of conversation just might die with this generation). Only an incoming call from work prompts L. to break free from his baseball video game or fantasy football trades and hand the phone back over to his father.
But I guess we’ll let it slide at this point, because he seems to (mostly) know the place and time for things like that.
The only thing I’m worried about (after attending a recent demo on robotic surgery technology at work) is that we might have to eat our words someday. I can picture it now: L. ends up in medical school, but is left in the dust by all the other PSP-trained surgeons who are seated at their video consoles suturing ten times faster than him.