By Yoyo Chiang 10:34 am PST
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My fifth-grade son had used his iPad for gaming for about half a year now.

Before this, my son was the single child in his class who played no online games. During the fourth-grade, he had some discussion with me about allowing him to play games. For over a year, I didn’t lift my ban on such activities. However, last October, shortly after he became a fifth-grader, he asked me yet again. Since many of his classmates talked about gaming during their break time, he was the only one excluded from their discussion. I thought then that he really want to play. Like a child who had never had the experience of being burned, he couldn’t be aware of the danger of playing with fire. He couldn’t understand the negative consequences of something he had not yet experienced.

Therefore, with my conditional approval, he was allowed to start playing. At first, I required that he should only download normal games suitable for those aged between 6 and 12, that is, games free of violence and sexualized content. In addition, he was only allowed to play games for a maximum of 20 minutes per day. With these conditions, he finally was able to experience gaming, and to have something to discuss with his peers.

Months later, he hoped to download new games. Given that he had followed the rules over the first few months, I allowed him more freedom. In fact, I knew it was easier to loosen the reigns and harder to tighten them. I also wanted to see to what extent his self-discipline was capable of. 

After while, he told me he would like to download a kind of online shooting game to play with his classmates. Such shooting games were purposefully designed to attract children, and once they started playing them, it would be very hard for them to resist the temptation. Yet somehow, I gave him my approval.

Over the next few days he began to indulge himself in the shooting games, but the gaming time was still restricted to 20 minutes each day. Then one night when he arrived home, it was his first time to call his classmates to play games online. I knew he had much fun, since he could enjoy gaming while chatting with others. Of course, 20 minutes was not enough. When his time was up, the game was still going on. He insisted that he was teamed up with his classmates, and could not go offline. Finally, after 30 minutes of gaming, I couldn’t help but ask him to go offline and to tell his classmates time was up. Unwillingly, he obeyed.

I told him, “You see, gaming is so addictive. Once you are in it, you can’t easily drag yourself out.” Upon hearing my words, he nodded and got my point.

A few days later, after school, on our way driving home, I sincerely talked with him about the negative consequences of gaming. “Today I read a report on an American young man who randomly shot at pedestrians on the street, robbed a driver of his car, and then drove the car to kill someone. What happened was just like the plot in your game. Though I am not sure if that young man had played such games. If people continue with such activities, they might very well end up being that kind of person.”

I wanted him to give our conversation some thought. I also told him I had difficulty resisting games when I was a student. Only after I graduated from school and started working was I aware of the danger and damage caused by gaming. Gaming not only hurt my eyes but also wasted my time. Worse yet, its violent plots and logic would negatively influence my mind and personality. As a result, I took the initiative to refrain myself from it. In fact, adults can also be addicted to gaming. Some parents of my son’s classmates are also addicted to gaming and play games with them, instead of limiting their children’s screen time

My son listened to me speak, and said no words in response. I told him to be responsible for his own life, and how to make the choice was up to him.

After our arriving home, I waited to see what he would do. In the past, he would usually take out his iPad for gaming. Tonight however, he took out his model kits, saying that he would assemble the small pieces tonight. Therefore, he had no gaming that night. 

I was delighted that he had chosen to be responsible for himself. I even admired him for his determination. Removing gaming addiction is as hard as removing a mountain for a boy at his age, who was just earlier having much fun with his games. Yet he amazingly made it.

As for me, I should more carefully examine my own behavior. If my son can take responsible action to remove his attachment of gaming, how can I, as his parent, make up excuses for many of my own wrongful behaviros?