Tuesday, 3 March 2015

You're The Devil In Disguise

Yes you are. The X-box. I'm convinced of it. As I mentioned in a previous post our little devil is now in the loft.  Its been up there for nearly 4 weeks and I have to say the house is a happier place without it. I no longer have to shout, at various times during the weekend, "COME OFF IT NOW!"  That was becoming number one on my top 10 mothering phrases.

So why the hating on the X-box? Asides from it eating away the soul of my eldest it was highly addictive. Now you won't find many parents who don't say "we limit the amount of time they play on it" but the truth is, yes there is a limit, but 9 times out of 10 the limit has been exceeded. This is easily done as you lose track of time - you can get stuff done. Its harder to be regimented with the use of the x-box.  The kids are happy. You want your kids to be happy and you're able to get on with jobs minus interruption. Its easy parenting. Its lazy parenting. Its armchair parenting. 

My son only played on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He always came off when he was told but the time at the weekends were slowly increasing. He would play in the morning come off - go back on maybe after lunch and that would be fine. We'd get out for a walk, he'd do his chores, guinea pigs etc. All was okay. Then slowly he wanted to play a bit before tea and then after tea.  

In addition, prior to this increase in game play, we let him have one hour (which was regulated) on a Tuesday and Wednesday when our youngest was in bed so he wasn't exposed to game play.  He is doing well at school and has never really been any great hassle to manage - where's the harm?

Well then that wasn't enough. He wanted to play on a Monday, he wanted to play before our youngest was in bed, he started to count down when he could next go on the X-box, when we were out he was asking what the time was - working out how much X-box time he could get in during the day. When he wasn't on the X-box he was on youtube looking at people playing his chosen game!! Are alarm bells starting to ring yet?  

In addition to all of this, I noticed a shift in his behavior (which could also be put down to his age - 11) he was more aggressive, swearing and generally a bit of an arse.  The final straw was when he'd joined a forum to ask for more players on his chosen game - Destiny.  

The plug was pulled.  I googled "son addicted to x-box" and the sheer scale of the problem is quite disturbing.  Mother's across the land saying exactly the same thing - one mother even said her son had started to punch her if he couldn't play his game. She hadn't told her husband as she didn't quite know what to do.  And if you want to really get a feel for how devastating having their X-box removed is for boys (primarily) then search it on youtube. Comical and disturbing in equal measure.

As exciting as watching TV indoors as a child in the 1970s/80s. For those of you too young this fixed screen appeared before some crap programme was about to start!
The trouble with this technology is we don't really know the effects of what it is doing to their young brains but I don't need to be a scientist to get a fair idea and it ain't pretty. In particular X-box live is a huge problem as the game is always live so the player feels they are letting down the team if they come off.  So you'll find your child can't just play an X-box game anymore it has to be live to make it worth their while.

No wonder we went outside for hours on bikes, skateboards, roller skates or played 'knock down ginger' where you'd knock on some poor old fella's door and run away. Hard core! 

So yes the plugged was pulled as ultimately I am the parent and know best. I regained control of the situation. I knew this was going to end badly.  My son, naturally, wasn't best pleased and thought it was the end of his life. I joked that he was on suicide watch for the first week but all jokes asides he was depressed about this turn of events.  He would flit between being okay to then remembering his world had been taken away from him.

Things brightened up in the 80's with a cassette and headphones after, of course, taping the Top 40 on Radio 1 on a Sunday evening. Some of us mastered the art of hitting the pause button before the next advert.

By week 2 there was a vast improvement and by week 3 we were pretty much home and dry. He'd gone cold turkey and whilst there were times when I wanted to give in and hand back his X-box - my hubbie talked sense and said "if he were a heroin addict would you give it back?" Of course not. An addiction is an addiction and whilst the child is going to hate you ultimately you're doing it because you love them. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Enter this bad boy - the height of technology with Tetris but even then we weren't addicted!
I have seen the effects of a youngster who was allowed unsupervised access to their laptop (taken to bed, no restrictions etc) from this age and was very bright. They are unable to function properly outside their virtual world which they seek comfort from. They are now failing at everything unable to focus their mind on anything other than mindless social platforms. Sad thing is they'll soon have years to do this as their prospects are bleak. Had restrictions been put in place and proper parenting then the outcome would certainly have been very different.

In the grand scheme of things the percentage of when your child is at secondary 11-18 is a short compared to their life in total. However, the impact of that short time affects the rest of their life.

Our favorite family game at the moment 
I know of parents that let their children have their x-box in their room. This will all end in tears. One parent found her son playing in the middle of the night. If your child is doing well at school prepare for them not to be and if they're not doing well (incidentally most who aren't spend more time on their X-box than they do on their homework) well have a think about why that is.  Even high schools are noticing this distraction is having a negative impact on education. I looked up my son's high school reading recommendation list for year 7 and at the top it said "we know its hard to get children off computer games".  What a sad state of affairs when schools are having to say can you please get your child read a book.

I've told my son that when he's 18 and on benefits (if he'll get benefits by that time and its not just workhouses) he can play all the X-box games he likes.  He'll have hours to waste as will all his friends. This was after he said his friends were allowed to play for hours. These friends are also in booster groups at school and will always be trying to catch up. I bet they're on some great level on Destiny or Halo though as that'll stand them in good stead won't it? 

The best thing about all of this is the good old family activities that have emerged following the removal of technology. We've discovered Blue Peter and its competitions, draughts, darts, art competitions and crafting. The 1st week also happened to be half term but the kids decided to make body armour using recycling. Because they knew they weren't going on the X-box they would stay engaged in activities for longer.  There were no more countdowns when out for walks and life has been pretty good.  We may re-introduce it for Minecraft as my daughter wasn't addicted and is now unable to play her favourite game but I am very reluctant to do so at the moment. They have had the use of the Wii to do dancing and sports when it was cold and I've found that to have far less of an addictive influence. 

In any event, I'm pleased to say I've got my son back!  You have been warned!

Until next time...

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