(2010 October Family Magazine)
In this age of technology, electronic devices are without a doubt an essential part of our lives. When it comes to entertainment, it is no exception. Game consoles, hand-held game devices, and computer games fill just about every home. Some parents aptly adopted electronic games and computers as convenient “babysitters” for their children. Others, fearing their children will grow up deprived and disadvantaged without the latest electronic gadgets, reluctantly allow games to penetrate their lives.
Although my husband and I have no objection to children playing electronic games, we believe immersing in games can be addictive and simply a waste of time. Since it has more potential for harm than good, we never bought our children electronic games. They may not be as tech-savvy as other children, but that has not proved to be much of a concern. When they play video games at their friends’ houses, they pick up the skills very quickly with little difficulty. Without electronic games, we have been able to develop other areas of life. There are indeed more valuable things to do that are fun and rewarding.
Since I majored in geography in college, I have a special love for nature. Our family loves to visit national parks, go hiking in the mountains, and stroll on the beaches. We enjoy the simple joys of picking up seashells, and naming various shaped clouds. God’s creation always amazes me; its beauty calms, nurtures and inspires me. We stand in awe of brilliant rainbows after the rain, and the powerful lightning in the dark sky. All these ordinary activities are knitted together to form some of our fondest memories.
Unfortunately, I hear of children who enclose themselves in their hotel room playing computer games while they are on vacation. Even during camping trips they hide in their tent with their games. They are sadly locked in an electronic cell instead of enjoying the spectacular outdoors.
Many parents have great aspirations for their children’s success. My husband and I have a simple wish for our children: we want them to believe and fear God, be kind to others, to live happily, and love sincerely. We are not child development experts and we haven’t done studies on the impact of electronic games on children. However, from our observations, we see many children so immersed in their games that they ignore people around them and would even refuse their favorite foods served in front of them. They are seemingly detached from their surroundings and from interpersonal relationships. My husband and I would not want to see our children live in this kind of virtual world.
Childhood is an exceptionally valuable period of life to make long-lasting friendships and learn life principles. As they interact with people, they learn to see God and the world through the eyes of others. Children who are self-absorbed or unwilling to communicate have perhaps allowed electronic games to replace real life.
Electronic games may bring excitement and short term happiness, but the joy that comes from serving others is long lasting. We bring our children along when we visit the sick. We took our children to serve the needy when our church was open as the winter shelter for the homeless. Our entire family spent two summers teaching English in China. Through serving, our children are exposed to different needs, different types of people, and different cultures. These experiences taught them how to care, accept, respect and appreciate people and their lifestyles. Words cannot describe the deep satisfaction that results from serving.
To develop our children’s character of service, parents need to intentionally plan out activities. However, the acts of service do not need to be elaborate. For example, performing household chores can be equally fulfilling. While we as parents instinctively take care of everything for our children, we should give opportunities for our children to do some work around the house to serve the family. Perhaps we do not allow them to do chores because children are naturally clumsy and cannot do the job to our satisfaction. But it is necessary that we give them a chance so they can appreciate it more when others serve them.
My 13-year old son is definitely not well coordinated, especially in the kitchen. Accidents are prone to happen. Instead of pushing him out of kitchen, I have developed detailed steps for him to prepare food because I think it is crucial for him to acquire kitchen skills at his young age. As he follows along, his fears slowly dissipate. Now, he is able to help during mealtimes, and enjoys fixing his favorite after school snack without supervision.
I have found that when I nurture my relationship with my children, I am at the same time growing along with them. In order to spend time with my children, I’ve had to learn sports and activities that they want to do, such as horseback riding, attending ball games, skiing, dance, and swimming. My husband and I often have to get out of our comfort zone. It is a humbling experience to follow our children, but the process helps us understand our own limitations. At the same time, we can see more of the uniqueness, strengths, and even weaknesses of our children.
Furthermore, we have also discovered some God-given talents we never knew we had. With determination and proper training, it’s not too late for us to acquire new skills. Despite our limitations, the potential within us give me hope, anticipation, and patience. This has given me a more positive attitude and a reminder of God’s power to face the challenges our family encounter.
We have made a choice for our children to leave electronic entertainment out of their childhood. We have not seen any adverse effects; on the contrary, they have gained more opportunities for character development and deeper relationships. They’ve learned much more about life, accepted difficult challenges, and learn to set higher goals for themselves. We have no regret for choosing their childhood to be without electronic games. Compared to the rewards we have seen in our lives, winning in an electronic game is rather trivial.