• Jude-Anne Phillip

I let my 5 year old play video games and I am not ashamed

My son loves video games... if there were a stronger word than love I would use it instead. He gets this from his father the "PlayStation King" himself.

Before I met my husband I knew absolutely nothing about video gaming except for my preconceived notions of what gamers looked like. You know, bedroom dwellers who didn't shower for days, possibly weeks and who have pizza toppings stuck in their beards.

Well obviously this description doesn't match my gamer husband and over our years together my opinions on video gaming and gamers have changed a lot. I even enjoy the occasional game myself, although I would never admit this to my husband.

When my son was born, he was exposed to video games from the very beginning. He would sleep on my husband's chest while Battlefield roared in the background, until eventually the sound of explosions became my baby's soothing night time sound.

At the time, as a new mother, I was not sure if I was comfortable with this. I was fine with my husband playing video games but I was not fine with my son being drawn into this world from such a young age.

I had dreams of my son's preferred pastime being reading or him doing advanced calculus at the age of 4 and surely sitting in front of a box playing video games all day would just stunt his mental capacity.  After all, all of the experts say so.

Well, as my son got older he inevitably started to play video games, but I started to realize that video games could be wonderful learning experiences for children.

Just two caveats ... parents you need to be engaged in the game together with your children, so no digital babysitting allowed and secondly no online gaming, the dangers are too many for children at this age.

So let's take a game like Grand Theft Auto or GTA (yes THE GTA that reports blame for every violent act that has ever taken place in the world).  We do let our son play the game in story mode but to be fair all he enjoys doing is driving the cars around the neighborhood.

Games like GTA do allow players to conduct violent or immoral activities but  it is up to the player to actually action these activities.

So this is where learning lessons come in, while our son is driving around town and crashes his car a million times into walls, trees, other cars and sometimes people we explain the importance of being vigilant and cautious. When his car is no longer functional and he wants to take someone else's shiny, new car, we talk to him about stealing and the consequences of taking something that does not belong to him. If someone in the story uses a bad word we talk to him about why he must never use those bad words. We explain the difference between fantasy world and the real world and encourage him to play the game morally, as an example of how he should behave in the real world.

Other games that he plays have also developed his problem solving skills, reading skills and hand-eye coordination and I am always amazed at his overall development because of his love for video games, not in spite of.

What is even more surprising is that although he loves video games, he has absolutely no qualms about turning off the game to go ride a bike, play with his dinosaurs, paint or color, without me or his father having to prompt (force) him.

At 5 years old he understands balance and he has not let his love of video games become an unhealthy addiction.

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