Boys, Toys, and Video Games

usa-001I just spent ten days with three boys, aged 8, 7 and 3. Like all children they were cute, surprising, hilarious and exhausting. Their dad, Brad, is an Army Captain deployed overseas; their mother Caitlyn is a deep reservoir of calm patience. (All the names are changed in keeping with Army privacy protocols for deployed soldiers).   I went to ease Caitlyn’s load and give the boys a break from after school programs. If the definition of vacation is to immerse in a different pattern of life, it was the most complete vacation I’ve had in years.

imgresThe older boys, Nathan and Sam, got their own Kindle’s days before I arrived; little Kyle inherited an older model. Caitlyn programmed the devices to approved games for a maximum two hours a day. During our first few days, most adult / child conversations revolved around negotiating allowable games and time limits. Without restraints, the boys would rove their thumbs over tablets from dawn until dark.


imgres-1On Tuesday, Caitlyn announced that tomorrow would be our Kindle-free day. The boys groaned but didn’t revolt. Wednesday was an early release day. During snack they talked about school, mostly the drama of recess. They did homework without complaint, taught me Uno, and we all played Life. Following a round of after-dinner wrestling, they went to bed with less fuss than usual.

But first thing Thursday they clamored for their Kindles once more.

On Saturday morning three-year-old Kyle managed to circumvent his mother’s diligence and downloaded a shooting-based video game. By the time Caitlyn discovered the breach, all three were deliriously shooting up bad guys. The rest of their morning romp was gunplay.

imagesThere are no studies that link toy guns to real life violence, contradictory evidence of the benefits and pitfalls of violent video games, and real evidence that computer games enhance anxiety. I was not privy to any controlled study. I just observed three ordinary boys for a week. I witnessed how they mirror adult responses to the wired word, in a very direct way. When they were fully unplugged, they were most fully alive and connected to each other. Yet whenever available, they craved wired connections. Then they mimicked what their virtual worlds revealed to them.


About paulefallon

Greetings reader. I am a writer, architect, cyclist and father from Cambridge, MA. My primary blog, is an archive of all my published writing. The title refers to a sequence of three yoga positions that increase focus and build strength by shifting the body’s center of gravity. The objective is balance without stability. My writing addresses opposing tension in our world, and my attempt to find balance through understanding that opposition. During 2015-2106 I am cycling through all 48 mainland United States and asking the question "How will we live tomorrow?" That journey is chronicled in a dedicated blog,, that includes personal writing related to my adventure as well as others' responses to my question. Thank you for visiting.
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3 Responses to Boys, Toys, and Video Games

  1. I’m happy kids are into Minecraft still. Its a good creative game. As for appropriate games. I was pretty shocked when my sister let her 6 year old play some zombie shooting game.

    Also video game free days are good. I say that as a person that games like 40 hours a week. Its just good to get away from the crutch of video games. As for your new game of life, my cousin has that and its awesome. We’ve even played a game with the maximum moves. I think that was on a New Year’s Eve.

    Sorry to post all this on your blog, but the topic inspired me. The new version of Life took me back though.

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