LAURA SNYDER: Video Game Virus Still Hangs Around
A warning to new parents: Once you allow the video game virus to enter your house, it will never, ever leave.
If you are a non-vidiot, like me, you will never understand the fascination of interacting with imaginary characters on a TV screen.
My husband became infected by the video game virus as early as Pong. Remember Pong? Picture a tiny white square bouncing around a black screen and two white lines that you could manipulate to simulate a ping-pong game. That was exciting (you should hear sarcasm here).
We married in 1981, and my first child was born in 1983. My husband bought his first computer, a TI-99, while I was still in the hospital, and I have been fighting the video virus ever since.
Everyone is so worried about the H1N1 virus, but most of the time, H1N1 eventually goes away if you get it. Not so with the video virus. Once you have it, it's chronic.
I know how to safeguard my family from H1N1: vaccination, hand washings, and lots of Lysol. A vaccination is simply taking a tiny bit of the disease and injecting it into the body. However, once the insidious video virus has entered the body, there is nothing in this world that can eliminate it. It's like Lays Potato Chips -- you can't eat just one.
Parents already know that getting kids to wash their hands of video games is like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree. I, on the other hand, have washed my hands of video games many times, but they keep coming back like a rogue nose hair. They come back in the form of a birthday present from a well-meaning relative or in the form of a download from a friend. Even the school has "educational games" for them to play on the Internet.
I've tried many times to take the games away, so they'll know what sunshine feels like when they grow up. However, my husband always brings them back. As far as he is concerned, it is cruel and unusual punishment to deprive a kid of video games, and I am a monster from which the children must be protected.
I complain that they never go outside and run around like kids should. My husband gets them a Wii so they can "exercise."
I limit their video game time to the weekends. There is constant squabbling.
"He had 10 more minutes than I did!" one cries.
"She won't let me play that game just because I erased her character last time!" another wails.
"I didn't get as much time as everyone else because you made us go to the playground," my youngest whines accusingly.
My husband thinks the obvious solution is to get them their own computers with identical games on each, and if all of the children had a hand-held video game, they could take it with them when I forced them to leave the house.
I think we should toss the ones we have in the nearest body of very deep water and so help me, I am not afraid to do it. What forces me to reconsider is this: I am not at all sure that my husband wouldn't mortgage everything we own to replace them.
It's too late for my older sons. They have been assimilated. They could not go a full month without playing a video game if their lives depended on it. The withdrawal symptoms would be shattering if they ever tried.
My 13-year-old was told that if any of his grades dropped below 85, he would lose video game privileges. This has always been a rule. His report card was abysmal. I laid down the law, and now there is a dark cloud floating over my house. It's as if someone just died.
My older sons think I'm heartless; my husband thinks I need therapy. They all think that I believe video games were the cause of my son's bad grades. I don't. He has nothing and no one to blame but himself. The truth is, video gaming is simply the only privilege he cares about losing. He has another chance to regain it on the next report card in nine weeks.
In the meantime, I get nine weeks of peace.
Is it wrong to hope that, nine weeks from now, at least one of his grades falls below an 85?
Maybe I do need therapy.
Whispering Pines writer Laura Snyder is a nationally syndicated columnist, author and speaker. Contact her at email@example.com.
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