Tag Archives: parenting

WSJ: Banning Tablets Is Best for Children

Christopher Mims, The Wall Street Journal:

Friday, the American Academy of Pediatrics validated my experiment, recommending that children younger than 18 months get zero screen time, and those ages 2 to 5 be limited to one hour a day—half of its prior recommendation. The group recommended that the hour be “high quality programming” that parents watch with their children.

Later in the piece, Paul Bettner, co-creator of Words With Friends and founder of Playful Corp:

“I’ve seen from my own life and my children that there’s great social interaction, great hand-eye coordination stuff, lots of storytelling and getting involved in the narrative, a lot of learning and skill building when children play videogames alone or together,” says Mr. Bettner. He limits his children to two to three hours a day, and encourages them to play videogames rather than watch shows.

In my post Nintendo Switch and Parents, I wanted specify that while the Switch might be a boon to both parents and children, by no means should a device be used as a replacement for babysitting nor physical modes of play.

I think the title of this Mims’s piece is misleading. That said, I like Bettner’s philosophy.

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Nintendo Switch and Parents

Parents surrender their phones and tablets to their children. E.g. child clamours for device—iPhone, iPad, or otherwise—the parent surrenders said device to child. Child commences gaming and/or YouTube.

This is anecdotal, of course. My wife and I have no children. But we’ve seen this time and time again with friends and family.

And if it’s not the guardian’s own device, it’s a separate device dedicated to gaming and/or YouTube for the child.

From the POV of a parent, wouldn’t it be nice to keep your device on your own person?

From the POV of a child, wouldn’t it be nice to have your own device dedicated for gaming/YouTube without the other unnecessary calendar/email/messages/etc apps?

Enter the Nintendo Switch. A dedicated seemingly state-of-the-art-ish portable/home console multiplayer-ready uncompromised gaming device, surely ready for YouTube when on wifi (an optional data plan would be even better), by the greatest game designers on the planet, Nintendo.

While none of the talent in the trailer appear to be under the age of 20—even donning red cups at a rooftop party!—the Switch could be a game changer for the household.

Of course, it will come down to Nintendo’s ability to attract third-party devs—a feat they have struggled with since the Nintendo 64. And not just any third-party titles, but titles outside of Nintendo’s own legacy: education, infants, toddlers, etc. Lock down the third-parties with simple development and distribution, and (price willing) the Switch will be a boon for parents and children alike.

Children: here’s a device for the things you care about.

Parents: take your devices back.

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Chronological Console Crash Course

Very interesting read.

Andy Baio:

What happens when a 21st-century kid plays through video game history in chronological order?

Start with the arcade classics and Atari 2600, from Asteroids to Zaxxon. After a year, move on to the 8-bit era with the NES and Sega classics. The next year, the SNES, Game Boy, and classic PC adventure games. Then the PlayStation and N64, Xbox and GBA, and so on until we’re caught up with the modern era of gaming.

Would that child better appreciate modern independent games that don’t have the budgets of AAA monstrosities like Destiny and Call of Duty? Would they appreciate the retro aesthetic, or just think it looks crappy?

Or would they just grow up thinking that video game technology moved at a breakneck speed when they were kids, and slammed to a halt as soon as they hit adolescence?

I’ve always wondered how this sort of thing would play out. For the selfish sake of revisiting the past, I’ve always envisioned doing the same with my future children.

On the topic of experimentation, I was forced to play baseball, soccer, and piano with no interest in the topics. I wanted to be around computers and gadgets. While I ditched soccer and (regretfully) piano after two or three years, I ended up playing baseball for ten with a peak batting average of .069. Needless to say, my time spent on the diamond is not a fond memory, but my parents insisted I play an organized sport. Turns out I learned more playing bass in a high school punk band, collaborating, booking, planning, and managing finances, than playing organized sports. Some kids enjoy music; some enjoy baking; some enjoy technology. Find their jam and run with it. There are ways to develop well rounded people outside of their passion.

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Right and Wrong

Jessica Chobot on The Nerdist Podcast:

This is not a kids (necessarily) hobby anymore. When you’re selling game consoles at like 600 bucks a pop and games at 60 bucks a piece (or AAA titles because you’ve got your indies and they’re a little cheaper, but you get my point), that’s not just a child’s hobby.

Chris Hardwick replies:

And not only that, but I think the inherent value of , just like you said with your dad, is how you guys bonded. That’s how Chloe [Dyskra] and her dad bonded.


Totally. But you always hear the shit stories about, “Oh, kids are shooting up because they play too much Call of Duty.” Well, what about the father and daughter relationship that grew…


It all boils down to your responsibility as a parent. And video games can be amazing if you’re a responsible parent, if you’re engaged. If you’re not a responsible parent, video games are not the thing that fucked your kid up. Something was going to get that kid sooner or later; (joking) whether it was backward masking on record albums or Devil worship…


Elvis dancing in front of the television…

I will stick with this until the day that I die: There is no excuse for parents to complain about games giving their children bad ideas to go do awful things because there are parental controls on the consoles, there are parental controls built into your TVs now, there are warning labels on all of your games, you have to have a license to even purchase them.

Yes, if they really wanted to go out there and get it [they’ll] find it. But if they are trying that hard to get on something you’ve told them “no” to multiple times and you have no idea what the hell is going on, then that lies in your lap, nobody else’s.


I also feel like “things,” like games, “things” are inherently neutral. They don’t have any value except for the value people place on them. If someone has the right value system going into something, they’re not going to interpret that thing as, “this is what I should go do.” They need the right system in place in order to process those things.

My parents let me watch all kinds of stuff when I was a kid. The reason I became obsessed with stand-up was because my parents didn’t censor, I mean I couldn’t watch porn … but the idea that if you have good values going into something you’re probably going to take it in a better direction than if you didn’t.

But I’m talking out of the side of my face because I don’t have kids.


Just to play Devil’s advocate, I’ve only had one time where I’ve played a game that I walked out and the first thing I saw were targets. That would be Grand Theft Auto.

That’s when I was like, “Whoa. Now I can kind of see the angle of that argument.” But still, you have the morals in check because you were raised properly, and also the fact that I’m thirty-something-years-old and I can play a game like that and know the difference between right and wrong.

I’ve had similar feelings after long sessions with GTA. I’ve also had similarly profound feelings after watching movies, if not more so. A good adventure movie can make me want to adventure. A good motivational movie can pump me up. A good action movie can give me fantasies about speeding around traffic or doing impossibly dangerous stunts. Nevertheless, I don’t engage in dangerous or immoral behavior because I know the difference between right and wrong.

Is it possible that movies offer heightened emotive states due to their passive nature versus the participatory nature of video games? Does being able to participate in virtual acts of running, jumping, and shooting allow us to vent those fantasies rather than creating curiosity after simply watching?

On the note of parental controls, willingness to learn new technology is a huge factor in parenting. That said, tech developers also have a responsibility to provide clear and accessible controls for their audience. Not because older generations may struggle with implementation (heads up, many millennials are now parents), but because consumer UI should not be difficult to use.

Last bit: ET scared me. The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is dark. Gremlins appeared to be a children’s movie but felt creepy and disturbing. I look at movies like Super 8, Transformers, and the new TMNT reboot and have to wonder if “children’s” movies are slowly harkening back to the darker tones established in the ’80s and early ’90s.

I spent a lot of my early childhood watching movies like Alien, Predator, Fire In The Sky, Conan the Barbarian, and Mad Max. I’d like to say that I turned out to be a pretty decent human being.

Alas, I too am talking out of the side of my face.

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Polygon: ‘How gaming in wartime connected soldiers, a father and a son’

Richard Grisham, host of Press Row Podcast, writes for Polygon:

Modern communication technology has made the hardship of deployment easier both for soldier and family, but the close connection in the field still can create an awkward burden. One night, Fields called back to his family at “kind of an emotional time.

“I heard my son talk in the background and he said ‘Dad, I can’t wait for you to come home and be safe’,” Fields said. “It was his concerned voice that told me he was reaching out to try and make a link.

Fields felt the need to “meet him halfway.” He thought back to Call of Duty, and if he could play it with his son when— or if — he returned home.

“I immediately walked up to the battalion aid station because I knew …there was a young kid, one of those guys that wasn’t that guy who’s gonna be in the gym lifting 300 pounds and chewing tobacco, and a ‘man’s man’; he is a little soft-spoken and a lot of people thought that he was a kinda odd,” Fields said.

Still, this odd kid, Spec. Jameson Lindskog, was well known for his skill at Call of Duty. Fields, a 20-year veteran and command sergeant major, approached him.

“I said ‘Lindskog, your job is to teach me this game,'” Fields remembered.

Connection between two soldiers; connection between father and son. Powerful story. One hell of a read.


The story of Fields and his unit is depicted in the documentary The Hornet’s Nest, which premiered in theaters on Friday.

Operation Supply Drop:

For more on the military and gaming, read/watch Polygon’s feature on Operation Supply Drop; a charity committed to sending video games to troops in the field.

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Webster Goomez the stuffed Goomba

Susan Senator, writing for Cognoscenti, on “Webster Goomez” the stuffed Goomba:

A day or so later, Ben remarked that Webster was ‘kind of adorable.’

Adorable? Did I hear that right? Never had such a word come out of Ben before. I quickly recovered my cool and tried not to make too big a deal out of it, so as not to embarrass him. But inside, I cradled that word, longed to hear it again, hoping I hadn’t imagined it. But no, this was for real. A few days later, I heard Ben describing a different character as ‘cute.’

Cute 🙂

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Well played: On multiplayer behavior, discipline, and new interactions

Patrick Stafford, The Atlantic:

That’s why Wiseman and Burch say game makers should feel obligated, as creators of the most popular entertainment medium for boys, to inject some emotional nuance into their work.

Making cooperation a part of gameplay is an easy way to do that. Many games already require players to use teamwork to win, but Burch and Wiseman say more can be done. Football matches require players to shake hand after every match—what if there was a digital equivalent?

In middle-school, I sent a recruitment request email to a Quake clan leader (there has to be a better term for this) full of overly aggressive sentiment and profanity from my friend’s computer. What I did not realize was that his father was able to track all outbound communication from the machine. I was later disciplined for my vulgarity by my parents and was forced to apologize to my friend’s parents. Full of embarrassment, I learned that the type of dialog I had engaged in was not appropriate. I also learned that even seemingly “anonymous” communication could be tracked.

I also recall seeing the term “gg” for the first time after a Starcraft match. After learning that the acronym stood for “good game,” I was taken aback. This may have been the first time I had seen resolute, positive communication in an online multiplayer setting. Sending “gg” at the end of each match became a ritual. This ritual can now be seen in Hearthstone. There has been much praise for Hearthstone’s use of limited speech commands, with a majority of matches ending in, “Well played.”

Fast forward a few years where I was called out by an openly gay high school classmate for being a “dick.” I am uncertain as to exact circumstance but I do recall being deserved of this title. At that moment, I had become acutely aware of my thoughts, actions, and communication toward others.

Not only does removing abusive communication from a game create an uninhibited environment for play and experience, I would bet that it has a lasting impact on real-world perspective and interaction. As long as slanderous behavior is met with positive reinforcement from in-game peers, the cancer will grow. Those shrouded in anonymity may be wise not to display this behavior in public but will continue to bank harmful viewpoints in private until disciplined by peers, companies, or guardians. Here’s to hoping Donald Sterling opened some eyes.

Discipline is necessary. I fear that those children continuing to engage in lewd behavior are not being disciplined or monitored. What is worse are the adults who continue to engage in such behavior that may never be disciplined or monitored.

One additional bit on innovative interaction in multiplayer games:

John Siracusa on Journey’s use of multiplayer interaction in “Strange Game”:

Though players can’t harm each other, they can help each other. Touching another player recharges the power used to leap and (eventually) fly. In cold weather, touching warms both players, fighting back the encroaching frost. More experienced players can guide new players to secret areas and help them through difficult parts of the game.

Journey players are not better people than Call of Duty players or Halo players. In fact, they’re often the same people. The difference is in the design of the game itself. By so thoroughly eliminating all forms of negative interaction, all that remains is the positive.

Players do want to interact; real people are much more interesting than computerized entities. In Journey, players inevitably find themselves having positive interactions with others. And, as it turns out, many people find these positive, cooperative interactions even more rewarding than their usual adversarial gaming experiences.

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59% of Americans play video games

Owen S. Good of Polygon on the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) 2014 Survey:

Other questions asked of the survey is whether parents view video games to be a positive part of their child’s life; a majority — 56 percent — said yes, though some could view the figure as low given the nature of the question.

I’d say the 56% is positive and more than likely an upward trend seeing that the average gamer age is now 31. Most of today’s parents of 0~10 year-olds grew up with games. I believe they would likely state that games were a positive influence on their lives.

Erin Hoffman, Lead Game Designer at GlassLab Games on how commercial games can engage players in social causes:

Computers and video games have a history of teaching technology skills just by being the way they are, so to be able to get them into classrooms is a very powerful thing. I think you can make the argument that the new SimCity is the most sophisticated toy that’s ever been developed, and it’s just mesmerizing to look at and it’s very real and empowering.

I’d like to think this sentiment is shared by adults who grew up with video games.

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