How to get kids away from video games

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Do you worry that your kids are spending far too much time on violent video games, and not nearly enough time on games that stimulate their imaginations? Toy expert Chris Byrne has some tips for getting kids away from video games.

How to get kids away from video games
  • Video game playing is not actually an addiction in the classical sense. Interest in a specific game will likely wane over a relatively short time. However, left to their own devices, kids may just gravitate to the next hot video game because video games are really fun.
  • There's no way to avoid this: You need to provide behavior models for your children. If you spend all your evening hours sitting in front of the television set, what message does that send? You need to provide a '"balanced toy box" that provides things and activities that offer action, fun, problem-solving, physical and intellectual challenges, and social interaction with other kids.
  • The toy business hasn't gone completely video — there are still classic toys like Whac-A-Mole, as well as talking parrots and NeoPup, that allow kids to have new experiences, explore their world and find ways to express themselves through play — and not just one mode of play. This is very important from a developmental perspective.
  • There are also a whole new generation of video games that provide some activity and interactive play. Games like Wii, dance mats and bowling. While they are not going to replace sports and true aerobic activities, they're a step in the right direction. And a step away from the sedentary video game.
  • Don't have the time to interact with your kids? Get them to read a book, build models, do puzzles and work with construction toys. (An added benefit: These toys provide the underpinnings of abstract problem-solving so important to math, writing and other academic pursuits.) Even a simple deck of cards can provide an alternative to a video game: It's called solitaire.
Transcript

RON: I'm Ron Corning from howdini.com. Are you among those parents sitting at home wishing your children weren't spending so much time playing video games? Well, join the Parents’ Club of the 21st Century. So what's the cure for the video game epidemic? Let's get some answers from Chris Byrne. He's editor-at-large for Toys & Family Entertainment as well as Royalties, and a contributing editor for Toy Wishes. All right Chris, this is a hot button topic here, video games, because on the one hand we don't want to demonize video games entirely because I would think that too much of anything isn't good for a child. So here's the question, are video games addictive?

CHRIS: Well, not really. I mean, the kids can be habituated to them, but not really addicted to them in the classical sense. Part of it is giving kids other options and things that they enjoy playing with. Parents need to be involved. They can limit the amount of video game time and playing. They can model the behavior of doing other things like reading and being engaged in sports. Create family activities, but just don't leave kids to their own devices because they're going to go for the video games —they're really fun. I'm also thinking though like any toy, a video game, or like any activity a video game is something that a child might sort of have a fleeting interest in. They're interested in it for a time and then they moved onto something else, but they typically just move onto another video game.

RON: Right, and I think that one of the things we talk about a lot is the need to have a balanced toy box.

CHRIS: Kids need experiences; video games are part of that. There's problem solving, there's action, there's fun. All of that involved in it. But you also need to be physical, you need to be intellectually challenged, and you need to have social play with other kids. We're surrounded here by some of the other options for kids. We've got something as simple as a talking parrot.

RON: And you've got this NeoPup? Is that what it's called?

CHRIS: Right.

RON: Which is sort of the new high-tech video pet.

CHRIS: A Whac-A-Mole, and I'm thinking these things are on the market because they still also sell in addition to the video games, so this part of the toy business isn't gone, right?

RON: Right. Classic play is still there. It's all about kids having new experiences, exploring their world and finding ways to express themselves through play. Very very important, and you can't do that with just one mode of play. You talk about childhood obesity and one of the problems is that kids are sitting in front of the computer, the TV, the video games. Of course, I grew up sitting in front of the television probably more than I should have. But then that raises the whole idea of these video games that provide activity and interactive play like Wii.

RON: Would you recommend those over a classic video game?

CHRIS: Well they're definitely great games, and certainly the bowling has been great for kids of all ages even up to seniors. It's not going to replace athletics, but it's certainly going to be a step in the right direction. Fisher Price has done stuff with kids to get them active and moving. There are all the dance mats that are out there. It’s really about taking a sedentary activity and making it a little more active; but it doesn't replace, you know, athletics or aerobics.

RON: Let's talk specifically about this idea that a child playing a video game is something they can do on their own, because maybe in some cases they choose solo activities. What are some of the other options aside from video games?

CHRIS: Well, reading a book is always great one. There are all kinds of models. Puzzles are great. Construction toys are also very good because it's problem-solving in the abstract, which is going to be very important as kids get into math and writing, and other kinds of academic disciplines.

RON: How about solitaire, right?

CHRIS: Solitaire is great! It's a deck of cards; it's as simple as that.

RON: All right, good information here, Chris.

CHRIS: Thank you.

RON: Chris Byrne is editor-at-large for Family Entertainment as well as Royalties, and a contributing editor of Toy Wishes. And I'm Ron Corning for howdini.com.

meet theexpert
  • Chris Byrne

    Chris Byrne Editor-At-Large, Toys & Family Entertainment Chris Byrne, “The Toy Guy,” is the editor-at-large for Toys & Family Entertainment and Royaltie$ and a contributing editor for Toy Wishes. He's appeared on The Today Show, and written for many different trade magazines, including Toy & Hobby World. more about this expert »

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