Mom, Can I Use The iPad Pleeeease

It’s the first week of school holiday and my boys can’t get enough of screen time! It is driving me crazy and I am tempted to just ban them from the iPads.

That would be ultimate. They will get bored and they will find things to do and they will survive like how they have survived through many of our road trips and holidays without gadgets.

But I am also caught in a dilemma, that using electronic gadgets is not all bad. In fact there are so many things they’ve learned on the internet and through playing games. The latter might not be apparent but I am slowly changing my views. Result of the many conversations and arguments with my elder boy which shall be dealt with in another post.

Ultimately, they need to learn about self restraint, discipline and balance. That seems like the biggest challenge. How can I teach them when I am still constantly working on these things myself?

In an attempt to take control of the situation, I decided to set down a couple of rules. They will be given access to the computer based on these terms.

1. If they are learning something new
2. If they think of a project to work on

My 13 year old is trying to convince me that working at improving his gameplay and climbing up the rankings satisfy the terms that I’ve set. We are still in the midst of negotiation and discussion. Currently he is earning his screen time by doing chores around the house.

The other day, he scrubbed the toilet, mopped the floor, washed the dishes and made me coffee to earn enough credits so that his friends could come over for a gaming session. It made me feel like an evil step mother but I think that’s what they mean by tough love.

As for my 8 year old, the rules help to set some guidelines and boundaries. It gave him something to work on other than playing games.

He found out that he could make some really cool animations using Scratch and has been working on his ‘project’ the last couple of days. So far, it seems like a good way to train his patience, use his imagination and stimulate his creativity.

He realised how tedious it is to make an animation. Creating so many different frames just to animate a simple movement. It was quite amusing and entertaining to watch him act out the moves before drawing them out and putting them on the screen.

So while I continue to struggle with how much screen time my boys should be given, take heart that even Elon Musk, the mind behind Tesla, Space X and Solar City, who is a gamer himself, struggles with the same challenge with his 5 boys.

The biggest battle I have is restricting their video game time because they want to play all the time. The rule is they have to read more than they play video games. They also can’t play completely stupid video games. There’s one game they downloaded recently called Cookies or something. You literally tap a fucking cookie. It’s like a Psych 101 experiment. I made them delete the cookie game. They had to play Flappy Golf instead, which is like Flappy Bird, but at least there is some physics involved.

― Ashlee Vance, Elon Musk: Inventing the Future



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