When Plants Vs. Zombies started eating our son’s brain, we had to help him overcome a gaming obsession and make crucial decisions about the kind of person he wants to be. I am so proud of the changes he’s made and the boy he’s become.
He’s doing great, but even so, we are experimenting with a new plan—a strategy that is not only keeping his technology usage balanced, but is also… (but wait, there’s more!)… inspiring him to love reading.
Yes, you read that right.
A game-loving boy who also loves to read!
A strategy that helps him maintain a healthy, balanced relationship with technology and develop lifelong reading habits!
I know, it sounds too good to be true. And I sound like an infomercial. Sorry. I’m just really that excited. We are so thrilled with the new plan that I had to share it.
Even though technology isn’t a problem right now for our son, his interest in reading recently hit a low point. Last year, he got hooked on the Harry Potter series. He spent months devouring all seven books, and I must confess… during those months, watching him laugh and cry and gasp over my favorite books, I was the World’s Happiest Book-Loving Writer-Mama. But ever since he finished all 8 million pages of the Harry Potter series, it’s been tough to get him excited about another book. But Minecraft… yeah, he’s still excited about Minecraft.
So here’s the new reading-meets-gaming plan:
Every week, he gets to “earn” his iPad time for the following week by reading. He can earn up to two-and-a-half hours of iPad time per week, depending on how much he reads. (That works out to about 20 minutes of reading/gaming per day.) If he reads 2.5 hours this week, then he gets to play 2.5 hours on the iPad next week; if he only reads an hour this week, he only gets an hour of iPad time next week.
So far, the new plan is working beautifully. Our son remembers how fun it was to be excited about books, and so he has embraced the new plan. Because he is a diligent kid, a goal-oriented person who thrives on systems and schedules, he loves the idea of planning ahead and having some control over his own choices and free time.
But best of all, after just a few days of reading, he has already rediscovered the joy of books. He keeps coming to tell me what’s happening in his novel, wanting me to laugh with him at all the crazy parts. Here’s hoping that this new plan helps to inspire a lifelong love for reading and habit of reading, while also allowing him to enjoy a healthy system of reward with the games he loves!
What a balanced relationship with technology looks like
In case you’re still suffering in the My Kids Are Obsessed with Games and I’m Losing My Mind Stage (a thousand sympathies, friend), I thought I’d back up for a minute to paint a picture of what a healthy relationship with technology looks like. After some painful mistakes, many heart-to-heart talks, and a lot of family soul-searching, here’s where our son is now:
He still loves to play, but the games are no longer the highlight of his life or the center of his thoughts. He has developed a conscience about what is healthy and pleasing to God, and what is not. He has learned to monitor his own time and mindset, to evaluate whether or not he’s becoming obsessive and selfish, and to take breaks when he needs to free up brain space. And even though he’s doing well, my husband and I continually reevaluate how things are going. Every few weeks, my husband checks in with him to discuss basic questions like,
“How are you feeling about iPad games?”
“Are they taking over too much of your thoughts?
“Do you need to spend more time with people, or more time playing outside?”
— Click here to check out 26 Questions Every Parent Should Ask About Technology.–
Those simple conversations have gone a long way toward helping our son develop his own convictions about having healthy priorities, godly thoughts, and an unselfish focus in his life.
If you try this reading-meets-gaming strategy with your kids, please let me know how it goes!
I’d love to hear about your experience. And if you have any other creative strategies for helping kids take a healthy approach to technology, please share them in the comments section below, or email me—I’m always looking for new ideas.
If you scroll to the bottom of this post, I’ve included a fantastic graphic on Children’s Media Usage from California Cryobank. It gives a fair, balanced perspective on the pros and cons of children’s media usage, with helpful suggestions for parents. I hope you find it as helpful as I have!
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The Pros and Cons of Children’s Media Device Usage – Brought To You By California Cryobank