It may be reasonably obvious at this point that I am somewhat of a free-range parent. Sure, I have my lines, my boundaries, my helicopter moments, but for the large part I firmly believe that staying a bit hands off produces more self-reliant, independent, and creative children. Lenore Skenazy has a great way of pointing out that there is a difference between RISK and RISKY. Risk is a natural part of life after all, there is a 1 in 700,000 chance each year that I will get struck by lighting if I go outside (Risk), but that chance goes up dramatically if I hike to the top of a hill in an empty field while carrying a metal rod in the middle of a lightning storm (RISKY). I’d like you to keep all that in mind as I continue.
It might be controversial of me to say this, but video games taught my children how to read. Yah, you heard me, VIDEO GAMES TEACH CHILDREN! You know that old saying that goes, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Well that is doubly true of media usage by children. Video games can, indeed, teach children things. I’ll even go so far as to say that video games CAN teach children that violence is acceptable, but ONLY if the parents are reinforcing that belief by either normalizing the violence in the child’s every day life OR by not parenting at all.
Which brings me back to video games teaching my children how to read. When our daughters were 4 and 2 1/2, respectively, we purchased the V-Tech V-Smile for Christmas. We wanted to give them an alternative to our PS2 and Nintendo Systems. Something that would allow them to participate in the same activities that my husband and I enjoyed, but didn’t require us to hold their hand while they were enjoying it. The V-Smile was specifically marketed as an educational console system, with a controller that was built for little hands and games that were both appealing and, well, educational. Our girls loved it, but they were desperate to play with mommy and daddy. Unfortunately for them, we had an appallingly low patience level and so if they turned on one of our games and landed on a screen with a text narrative, we’d say, “YOU CAN’T PLAY THAT UNTIL YOU CAN READ IT!” Poor neglected tots. (Granted, they also got to play City of Heroes with their Grandpa, who lived 3 states away… so that was cool.)