Resources for the Intentional Parent

Addicted to Tech

If you ask my six-year-year-old son what his favorite thing in the world is, he will tell you without hesitation that it is video games. If you ask him his favorite thing to do with me, his dad, or even his classmates and friends, he will answer the same, “Play video games.” The ironic part about his love of video games is that it is at the top of our list of things in our house we adamantly restrict. So what is driving his unhealthy obsession?

To get the whole picture, we might need to rewind a couple of years. You see, having three kids aged six and under, there was a time in our household when I wasn’t as worried about technology. In fact, when my kids would ask to play on a Leap Pad or MobiGo or even watch a movie/TV show on my tablet, I would jump at the chance to be able to have them occupied for a minute.

We travelled a lot in our first years as parents. I was on the artists’ circuit, and it was easy to travel with kids that weren’t yet in school. So we started them early, even with the blessing of our then pediatrician. “A little movie in the backseat isn’t going to kill them,” he said. And he was right. They watched their movie, ate, and slept,and we drove (for the most part) in heavenly bliss all over the country. So if you ask me when my oldest son started his obsession with video games, I honestly would have to tell you it goes all the way back to portable DVD players in those first couple years of his life.

When my son was four, we were given an Xbox and a Kinect for his birthday. I loved it. We enjoyed some of the best family time playing the dance games together (laughing so hard we were in tears many, many times). Then we graduated onto the log-ride games and everything else in between--but all fun, active, kid-friendly games. In my mind, not a problem. My son couldn’t even turn on the Xbox without us there to help, so why would we have to worry about that silly video game system? Then he was gifted a game--a real, use-the-controller-but-still-kid-friendly game for his fifth birthday. He was most definitely in heaven. He played that game every waking moment for a month after his birthday. At first, he played the game with his dad … then it was without his dad, trying to beat a level to show his dad after he got back from work. Then we transitioned into my son wanting to play before bedtime, before school, and all weekend long. I thought for sure the novelty would wear off, but a couple of weeks in, I started to second-guess my decision to allow him to have it without restriction.

And THAT is when it happened … I took it away. And not for good, not forever, but I simply asked him to put it away for a couple of days as I missed hanging out with my little buddy. I can honestly say I never thought I would see that much explosive anger from my sweet little boy. He was mad, inconsolable, and irrational--all over a video game. It was a big reality check for me; technology had done something to my sweet little boy that wasn’t pretty. I don’t know what exactly happens in their little brains as they play those games, but I do know that someone very close to me who is well versed in gaming addiction told me this: you can tell if your child is addicted by how big of a jerk they turn into when you try to take it away.

Gaming addiction is something that I knew ruins marriages, but that was about the extent that I had heard of it. My husband and I had never really had a gaming system around, but I know of lots of my friends who have struggled with being a far second place to the games their husband plays. I can’t imagine the struggle of trying to limit screen time, video time, and gaming time with a child while they are simultaneously seeing tech consumption at an addictive level from someone they love, trust and mimic.

This t is why I signed up for the Kudoso service. Here is the deal: I don’t want to be the bad guy. I am a great mom, but a busy one too. I love my son, but I am awful with sticking to my guns when it comes to saying “no” or turning off the video game system after his earned time is up. I avoid the tantrum and enjoy the peace and quiet that comes with having an occupied little boy who might otherwise be bouncing off of the walls. I do still say “no” more than I say “yes”--a lot more--but I am still asked A LOT because video games are his favorite thing.

Kudoso allows him to earn that video game time that he so values by doing the tasks I want him to complete FIRST. Kudoso monitors them, reports back to me, and--the best part--when his earned time is up, Kudoso turns it off and locks it down! I don’t have to be the video game police. I click a couple of times on my phone and voila! … He has a set of responsibilities and expectations, and no amount of arguing, negotiating, or guilt-tripping will matter. He has to work hard for those golden minutes. It is a win-win for both of us. I honestly have never seen my son so eager to help, to pitch in with his chores, and even to be on his best behavior (like being kind to his sister) for bonus minutes.

Kudoso, I think I am addicted to YOU! Thank you!