Defeating the Middle School Video Game Zombie


I bet all of us have seen them: tweens and teens hunched over a video game remote, eyes glazed over, barely grunting in answer to any question. Now, before you get the idea that this is a diatribe against video games in general, let me assure you it is not. I enjoy video games. In fact, one of my favorite memories as a child is the Christmas we received our Nintendo. Instead, I am going to discuss how we balance video game use and keep our middle schooler from becoming one of those video game zombies.

How We Chose a Video Game Console for our Middle Schooler

To put it mildly, today’s technology is not your mama’s video game system. Literally. I think fondly of the geometrically shaped Mario Brothers and the completely ridiculous, but highly entertaining, Bubble Bobble. The current technology allows for veryrealistic-looking graphics, complete with blood and guts. My husband and I agreed that even with careful monitoring, we didn’t want our children sitting and using their thumbs to push buttons, especially since there was a much better option out there: a Wii. And since realistic graphics aren’t a high priority, the Wii fits us just fine. By carefully choosing the games we buy, we ensure that our children need to move in order to play. It also makes gaming a fun family event. No glassy-eyed zombies around here!

Using the Wii in our Middle Schooler’s Homeschooling

Don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest that a whole curriculum can be made from playing the Wii, but we do take advantage of ourgaming system in our schooling. (Tweet this!) We use it as part of our Physical Education program. A few years ago we purchased the Wii Fit program, as well as Wii Winter Sports and Just Dance for Kids. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that any of these programs should replace good, old-fashioned outdoor exercise, but for a good part of the year it is really cold here. A stimulating round of Just Dance or some time playing Wii Fit keeps my kids moving, busy, and just makes everyone feel better. My middle schooler loves keeping track of her best scores, and besting mom or dad is a real treat.

Keeping Video Game Play to a Reasonable Amount

Even though my husband and I are happy with our choice of video game system, we still need to monitor our middle schooler’s screen time. It is easy to get busy and suddenly realize that way too much time has gone by. Here are some tips we have used to keep a handle on the amount of video game time our middle schooler enjoys:

Location, Location, Location: Our Wii is in our family room. It is much easier to keep track of how long she has been playing when she is out in the open where I can see (and hear!) her.

Tokens: I have used a video game token system. I’ve done this two different ways. At first I gave my middle schooler a set number of tokens per week. Each token gave her fifteen minutes of video game play. When the tokens were gone, video games were done for the week. Another token method I have used is to have my daughter earn tokens by reading, doing chores, completing homework on time, etc.

Timers: If I know I will be busy working or cleaning, I sometimes set a timer when my middle schooler is playing video games. It helps us both keep track of the amount of screen time she has spent.

Play Along: Not only does playing video games allow me to have a good time with my middle schooler, it helps me keep track of the amount of time she is playing.

With some careful choices, we have been able to balance video game playing and keep the video game zombies at bay in our home — and you can, too!

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