Childrearing

I Can’t Blame My Son For Being Obsessed With The Computer When I Am Too

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While I am at the office two days a week, my mother watches my children. When she comes, she brings her iPad. We don’t have one at home so my 3-year-old son was instantly enthralled with the high-tech gadget.

Excitement quickly turned to obsession.

It’s gotten so bad that he asks me when the iPad is coming over without referencing his beloved grandmother.  Now he has discovered he can play many of those same games on our home computer.  As soon as we walk in the door from school, he barely says hello to anyone else before immediately begging to turn on the computer.  Aside from reminding him of his manners, I am torn on how to handle this situation.

When he’s playing video games, they are always age-appropriate.  Super Why teaches him to read, Elmo sings him songs and Dora introduces Spanish words.  I know very tangibly he has learned a lot from his exposure to these programs.  In addition to the games, he knows how to take pictures of his sister and he loves to watch videos on YouTube.  He has a comfort and familiarity with computers that I didn’t gain until I was in high school.  It all seems so natural to him.  I imagine him down the road as the next Steven Spielberg or Steve Jobs maybe, and I hope these moments of watching him play will be the start of him finding true passion in life.

Or you know, he could just be a typical boy who is obsessed with video games, but that excuse doesn’t let me off the hook for letting him have his screen time.

That’s the other side of this dilemma.  It’s convenient for me.  While I am making breakfast or sorting laundry it is easier to give in to his incessant requests to play games on the computer.  It’s not without consequence to him and he knows he must help me a little before expecting to get what he wants.  But the give and take only goes so far with a 3-year old (after he folds his socks and underwear, what more can he really do?) and I always say yes to more screen time.  It’s easier and quicker to get certain chores done if I am only entertaining my daughter while doing them.  There are no fights between the kids, there is no arguing about who gets to do what and I don’t have to wrestle the kids away from the stove in our impossibly tiny NYC galley kitchen.

As I stress about how to handle his growing interest in video games that knows no bounds, I realized something about myself.  I’m the one setting a bad example. I work a lot from home and my blogging requires me to scour the Internet to find stories to write about, parenting trends to keep up on, unpopular opinions to defend. The moment I wake up, I power up our laptop with the sleep still in my eyes. When we come back in from playing at the park, I sneak a peek at some articles.  If my son wakes in the middle of the night, chances are I am awake and camped out in front of the computer.  All my free time away from my children is spent staring at a screen and typing furiously away at the keyboard.

I am facing a far bigger dilemma than “how much Sesame Street is too much?”  How can I teach my son that the computer is something that needs guidelines and restrictions when my actions ignore that very premise?  It’s not as simple as saying I will force myself to detach from the computer more often when it’s your job.  I attempt to explain that to him, but the truth is playing and learning is the job of a 3-year-old.  It’s what he should be doing.  He gets his time with friends at school, he gets his time with his blocks, he spends time reading and coloring.  He wants his time with his computer games too and I can’t say no.

“Do as I say, not as I do” never seems to work out for parents, does it?

(photo: Gts/ Shutterstock)