Taming The Little Angry Birds At Home

We all have some sort of devices (phones, tablets, laptops) and chances are we have games installed (pre-installed or otherwise) in them. Those who are concerned about the well-being of their children would have this dilemma: Should I allow my kids to play these games? If yes, how would I put control on it?

These devices are a necessity. But we know that excessive use of electronic devices can have adverse effect on children’s cognitive abilities, their health and even their social skills.

Kids, just as adults, need recreational activities. Of course there are better ways of relaxing the mind after long hard hours of mental exercise, and we should always go for ‘healthy’ recreational activities such as playing outside or activities which involve all the family members. On the other hand these devices are also handy, so to some (if not most) people playing games is an option. In addition, you don’t need a good sunny day to blast those bad piggies.

I know how good it feels to bash those mischievous pigs after a day of hard work

I know how good it feels to bash those mischievous pigs after a day of hard work

If you can raise your kids without the involvement of these devices at all, then you have my respect. And you should keep it that way. But to me such technologies have their bads and their goods, we can (and we should) control them to our benefit.

So here’s what we practise – games are ok, only in controlled moderation. And by this I mean:

  1. Have time limit. We allocate total playing time of half an hour per day maximum for each of our kids. Empower them to monitor their own time usage, using the timer app that comes with your device. At the same time ensure they honour this rule by carrying out random check (I leave it to you on how you would do this).
  2. We parents decide what they play, and what they cannot play. I am not mentioning exact game titles as I’m sure we are smart enough to think and to choose for our kids.
  3. Disable the internet / wi-fi (or alternatively put the device on ‘flight’ mode) when they play. Most of the free games have in-app-advertisements and in-app-purchases. You don’t want the kids to click on these and be transferred to some ‘unbecoming’ web sites.
  4. Put preconditions before they can play. There are things that must be prioritised over games. For example, there are no games in the day for our kids until they have had their Qur’an lessons, have done their academic assignments (our kids are homeschooled) and some individually assigned house chores. Also, games must stop come bedtime (whether they have used up their allocated half-an-hour or not).
  5. It should come as given, but just make sure there are no games come salat (prayer) time. In fact when you hear the adhan (the call for prayer), all other activities must stop.
  6. Interacting with these devices comes at the expense of personal contact with the people around you. I think excessive use of these devices can make you anti-social. Therefore no devices at the dinner table. No devices when people are having a conversation with you (e.g. when there are visitors at home). How many young people nowadays are more interested in entertaining their devices rather than talking to people around them, you don’t want your kids to behave the same.
  7. Instil in them that playing games are something extra and non-essential. Just because we allow them to play games it doesn’t mean they always need to have their games. So occasionally there are days where we tell them, ‘No games today,’ and no questions asked. They should understand that.
  8. If you can, plan a deliberate involvement with their play. Occasionally I also play what my kids are playing and we compare scores. Once in a while I check the houses and buildings which my kids has built in Survival Craft (it is a game in which you can build and create, er, almost anything). This way I can show genuine interest in their achievements, giving motivation and even strategic advice (you may be surprised at how advanced the level of thinking is required to play some of these games). Should we not be part of our children’s life – be it in the aspects of academics, spirituality and recreation?

So there go some of our practices on allowing games at home. Feel free to adopt where appropriate, or even share your own practices with your children.

Ok, time to see whether I can beat Hasan’s new score at Robo Defense.


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