Bethany Sanders: A month ago, a friend called to say that she was selling her Wii; were we interested? I jumped at it. It seemed like a good way to keep the kids moving on wet or wintry days, and a fun way to spend family time.
The kids were so excited, I relaxed my no-TV-during-summer rule. We played Wii Sports for a while -- fun and active. Then we bought "Just Dance," after my girls fell in love with it at my brother's house. And then we discovered "Super Mario Brothers" at the used-games store -- and took things one step too far.
Just a few weeks into Wii ownership, I'm starting to regret my decision.
When I declared this summer to be TV-free, no one complained. No one begged to watch SpongeBob, and both our TV and computer sat collecting dust while my kids busied themselves with swimming, playing outside and reacquainting themselves with their toys after a long and busy school year.
Not so, since Wii came to town. Now, every morning I hear, "Can we play the Wii?" And every afternoon I hear, "We want to play the Wii!" And every night I hear, "WHHHHYYY can't we play the Wii?" It's never-ending! They would literally play it morning until night if we let them.
Which we don't. I can hear what you're all thinking. "Who's the parent here? Just say no!" And I do. I do every single day. We let them have fun with it that first week, but now their time on the Wii is limited. My complaint isn't that they're on the Wii all the time, it's that this stupid little white box is creating all sorts of conflict in our usually-peaceful house.
"Go read!" I say. "Go build something, get out your craft box, PLAY OUTSIDE." It's all met with whining -- or worse, tears. I never had to argue with my kids to go enjoy themselves before Wii came along.
A recent study found that kids who spend more than two hours a day with screen-based technology are more likely to have attention problems in school. My husband and I have always been reluctant to introduce our girls to video gaming systems -- even the early LeapFrog versions -- exactly for this reason. Screen time, whether it be TV, computer or Wii, just doesn't promote creativity and learning like real-life play does. Why did I think the Wii would be any different?
On the flip side, I now have a powerful weapon to use against bad behaviors. "Stay in bed," I told my kindergartner after her twelfth trip downstairs last night, "or no Wii-time tomorrow."
"Awwww Mommm," she complained. But I didn't hear from her again until morning.
Do you ever fight with your kids about screen time?