Parenting with Shannon Caton: Wii may be game addicts

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Parenting with Shannon Caton: Wii may be game addicts

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Parenting with Shannon Caton: Wii may be game addicts
Shannon Caton - The Messenger
May 15, 2013 7:30AM

RECENT media reports suggest a four-year-old UK girl is having psychiatric treatment after becoming Britain's youngest known iPad addict.

She was one of many child patients displaying compulsive behaviour after using the iPad from an early age, adelaidenow reported last month.

Doctors say she is so addicted to games on her parents' iPad, she experiences withdrawal symptoms when it is taken away.

Poor little mite. How could the parents let that happen?

But on further reflection I had to admit that, albeit to a lesser extent, I too am guilty of employing the electronic babysitter.

In our house we have a desktop computer able to be used by each of our three children.

They each have an iPod and a DS. We have a Wii and a PlayStation. They can, with our permission, use my iPhone or my husband's iPad, each of which have numerous children's games on them.

Often, by the time I roll out of bed on a Saturday or Sunday morning, they are already up and established in front of the computer.

In our defence, we have set the computer to only allow them a set amount of screen time each day - 45 minutes for our two boys, aged nine and five, and 90 minutes for our 12-year-old daughter.

No such limits exist for the Wii, DS or iPods.

They are happy, healthy, well-adjusted children who are heavily involved in sport, learnt to read at an early age and are well socialised.

However, if I was to give them the choice of a real game of tennis and a game of Wii tennis, I am not sure which they would choose.

Psychology Kirrilie Smout, from Developing Minds Psychology and Education, says if children are using screens for endless hours a day and have few other opportunities for fun and enjoyment, symptoms of addiction may emerge.

"Technology is not bad but, as parents, we have to say 'no' to our children's screen time requests sometimes," she says.

"We must limit the time they spend in front of a computer, monitor the programs they use and make sure they have other activities they enjoy and feel good about."

My sister, whose children's screen time is far more limited than my own, recently told me her four-year-old was unable to log on to a computer and bookmark a favourite website, a skill (if you can call it that) my youngest mastered at age two.

Does that make me a bad parent? Probably.

But I will console myself with the fact they are developing valuable computer skills, an absolute necessity in today's society.

Far from being a bad parent, I am setting them up for the future.

Or at least I will keep telling myself that.

Anyone for tennis?

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