Wow!!  I have been researching this stuff for years, but am still amazed at the info I learn.

I LOVE the idea of an electronic fast for our children.  Especially in light of the knowledge that our children’s brains are not fully developed until 25 and sometimes longer for men!!  There are some really great videos on Families Managing Media explaining our children’s brain development and how DETRIMENTAL video games and even just looking at screens (think scrolling on social media) is for our children’s brains, including our adult children.  They have extensive information on screen/video game addiction and how we should not be fooled that our children can not get addicted to screens!!
I came across Families Managing Media when looking into the video game Fortnite. If your children play Fortnite, I highly recommend watching this video.  There is a short part where she references sex so you may want to listen on headphones first and then watch it with your kids who play video games knowing where to mute it for 30 seconds.  My son was very interested in listening to it and learning all the information they shared about brain development and the intent of video game makers.
The video reveals that these video games are being designed with the help of neuroscientistsis that know how the brain works and what things to design into it to keep people (kids) playing them more and more, very much like a slot machine in a casino!!  This is seriously alarming, but TOTALLY unsurprising!!  
In an article on Medium.com entitled “The Tech Industry’s War on Kids”, Richard Freed the author states:

What none of these parents understand is that their children’s and teens’ destructive obsession with technology is the predictable consequence of a virtually unrecognized merger between the tech industry and psychology. This alliance pairs the consumer tech industry’s immense wealth with the most sophisticated psychological research, making it possible to develop social media, video games, and phones with drug-like power to seduce young users.

These parents have no idea that lurking behind their kids’ screens and phones are a multitude of psychologists, neuroscientists, and social science experts who use their knowledge of psychological vulnerabilities to devise products that capture kids’ attention for the sake of industry profit. What these parents and most of the world have yet to grasp is that psychology — a discipline that we associate with healing — is now being used as a weapon against children…The parents I work with simply have no idea about the immense amount of financial and psychological firepower aimed at their children to keep them playing video games “forever”…Put plainly, the science of psychology is hurting kids more than helping them.

Freed quotes Tristan Harris saying “Never before in history have basically 50 mostly men, mostly 20-35, mostly white engineer designer types within 50 miles of where we are right now [Silicon Valley] had control of what a billion people think and do.”

These designers are “brain hacking”, not just our kids, but adults too.  Many UX designers are utilizing what is called Persuasive technology with the help of psychologists and neuroscientists.  Again quoting from Freed’s article  “The Tech Industry’s War on Kids”

In the Venice region of Los Angeles, now dubbed “Silicon Beach,” the startup Dopamine Labs boasts about its use of persuasive techniques to increase profits: “Connect your app to our Persuasive AI [Artificial Intelligence] and lift your engagement and revenue up to 30% by giving your users our perfect bursts of dopamine,” and “A burst of Dopamine doesn’t just feel good: it’s proven to re-wire user behavior and habits.”

Ramsay Brown, the founder of Dopamine Labs, says in a KQED Sciencearticle, “We have now developed a rigorous technology of the human mind, and that is both exciting and terrifying. We have the ability to twiddle some knobs in a machine learning dashboard we build, and around the world hundreds of thousands of people are going to quietly change their behavior in ways that, unbeknownst to them, feel second-nature but are really by design.” Programmers call this “brain hacking,” as it compels users to spend more time on sites even though they mistakenly believe it’s strictly due to their own conscious choices.

I HIGHLY recommend reading Freed’s article in it’s entirety!!  It’s a fascinating and infuriating read.  There is enough info to, hopefully, propel you to take action to protect your kids from this “Persuasive Design” that is used to keep people, children, in the bondage of addiction.  It is documented that these designers are using their knowledge of addiction and how the human brain works to ensure we stay on and keep coming back.

Video Game RULES!!!

Our family has always had fairly strict rules for video games and video game time.  They started out less strict and progressed over the years until our children always had to buy their video game time with their Virtue Reward cards and by then it was only allowed on weekends.  However, at some point, years ago, when our oldest was in his teens we just took it all away and said everyone is grounded and just never got it back out as they shortly found other interests outside of video games.  The older ones don’t really play video games and the younger three occasionally ask to play the Wii…it’s the original one.  Via my 13 year old: the games we have on it are Wii Sports, the OLD Mario, Bionicle Heroes, a few Zelda (including Twilight Princess but he says they are not allowed to play that one.  I don’t remember why.) and Star Wars Clone Wars.  I guess we used to have Lego Star Wars and Super Smash Bros, but they are broken.  We play it so rarely that it is just not an issue.  When they are allowed to play it and the five year old is around the only game he is allowed to see is Wii Sports, Mario and part of Star Wars.  The only game the 5 year old is allowed to play on the Wii is Wii Sports and we have let him play Clumsy Ninja on the iPad a handful of times.

This Fortnite thing though!!

My 13 year old was apparently hearing all about it from several friends.  In a, not so rare, hectic moment at our home he came to me and said “May I please get this game on the iPad”  Of course, I asked what game?, he told me Fortnite and named a few of his friends whose parents were letting them play it.  Unfortunately, I said yes and downloaded the game for him without any further investigation.
Thankfully, computer, video games, iPad, TV usage are still HIGHLY regulated at our home.  EVERY single device is locked down with a parental code.  My husband and myself are the only ones who can open the iPad, we have allowed our 21 year old daughter to have the code for the TV.  Each child (except the 5 year old) has their own account on our iMac, of which all are locked down with the Apple parental controls and Covenant Eyes monitoring.  They only have these accounts as we homeschool and they need access to certain things on the computer for this, not always internet related either.  For the younger children (13 & 11) their internet is completely locked down.  This means the ONLY websites they can goto are ones I specifically add to their “white list”.  NO ONE has the wifi code except myself and my husband (wifi will be going completely away in our home soon, you can read why in the world I would want to get rid of wifi here.).  The wifi shuts off at 10:30 and doesn’t come back on until 7 am.  We can also go into Covenant Eyes and set specific times each child is allowed access to the internet, just in case they figure out how to flip the switch on the light timer, like this one, we have hooked up to the wifi and router.
Back to Fortnite, so I downloaded it and my son played it once or twice.  Then he had two friends, who play Fortnite, spend the night.  He asked if they could play Fortnite on the iPad.  This is when I learned that Fortnite was a internet based game.  I learned this as they had a third friend on the phone who was going to be playing it with them and knew of an older boy from our parish who was going to play it with them as well.  This gave me pause and I reluctantly agreed, but only allowed them to play it for 30 minutes and promptly shut the iPad down at the end of the time.  This was the last time my son played the game.  Then the video mentioned above came across my path.  This video shed some light on what exactly Fortnite is.  While it is not a first person shooter it is a third person shooter, where the kids are “hunting” other humans.
Another VERY strict video game rule my husband and I have ALWAYS held is NO FIRST PERSON SHOOTER games!!!  We had this rule from DAY ONE, our oldest is 23 so A LONG TIME!!  We knew back then that first person shooter games only trained these poor children’s brains to form pathways to accept shooting someone much more easily.  It has now been revealed that this is IN FACT what the military uses to train soldiers for battle, so they will not freeze up when faced with shooting an actual person.  We also held to the rule of no THIRD PERSON shooting games, unless the shooting was not of a figure that looked like a person, for instance Star Wars, Clone Wars is tanks shooting tanks for the most part and at some point shooting aliens.  Knowing now that the human brain is not fully formed until the age of 25 makes this decision even more solidified for our family!!
Over the years we have had a pretty consistent pattern of reducing video game usage.  We started out way more lenient than we are now and as we observed our children’s behavior with video games the rules got more strict and the video game time allowed less and less. Here is the progression of the video game rules I used to print and hang up.  The files were so old I couldn’t open them, so they had to be converted to Simple Text.  Imagine these were much more fun looking for kids.  🙂
These were rules early on…
Summer Rules Early On…
See the progression to LESS time…
So…Used to is the key word.  We have gotten so strict that we rarely let them play. Then times occur that they end up playing way more than they should.  I’m busy, distracted, time flies by too quickly and I DON”T have rules hung up anymore.  Writing this post has inspired me to make up another Video Game rule chart (much more strict than the others) and hang it up.  That way there will be no discussion or me trying to remember what I had said last week about it.  My younger kids also seem to have a hard time with the timer thing.  They either forget to set it or ignore it when it rings.  I come in and they have that zombie look on their faces.  After reading Richard Freed’s article on “The Tech Industry’s War on Kids” it is apparent that they are probably zombie faced out on all the mind control that is put into these things on purpose!!  Sadly, research shows that many young men in the US are opting to stick to their video game habits instead of becoming productive members of society and join the workforce.

So what is a parent to do?

Well, a Hammer is an option!!

No Seriously…

If you don’t want to be as drastic as taking a hammer to all your electronics, here are some things I recommend:

  • First start by observing your own digital habits.  If you are spending too much time on your phone/computer/TV, you will need to seriously curb your own habits.  Kids are smart.  They will see you over using your digital devices and wonder why it’s OK for you and not them.  Parents ARE NOT immune from screen addiction!!!
  • If your kids don’t have an interest DON’T START them on screen/video games.
  • KNOW your kids temperament!! Certain temperaments will need more strict rules or just not play AT ALL!!!
  • Make sure they have a love for other things: outside play, sports, nature, biking, etc. BEFORE you EVER let them play video games.
  • Find friends that don’t play video games or have similar STRICT rules.  (This is a HARD one.  Even if your kids have friends that will play things other than video games with your children, I have found that the kids that play video games more than my kids can’t seem to talk about other things when they are over!!!  Most conversations will revolve around video games they play)  This has always ended up making my kids feel left out and “different”.
  • Don’t be afraid to JUST SAY NO to video games ALL TOGETHER!!!
  • Once they start playing video games if you see their love for other things fade, detox them from screens immediately!!!
  • Seriously LIMIT video game time.  I suggest Fridays after dinner and only after all duties are completed, Saturday and Sunday only after morning duties are complete and not near dinner time when this will interfere with dinner chores.
  • I also don’t recommend letting kids play video games before church on Sunday’s.  I think this just sets a stage for them to be thinking about the games during the church when they should be meditating on our Lord.
  • Don’t let them play for more than 20-30 minutes on the days they are allowed to play.
  • Purchase an egg timer and MAKE THEM USE IT!!!
  • DO NOT let them combine times.  If you have two kids that want to play together, they start at the same time and end when the 30 minute timer goes off.
  • Have some system where they MUST earn/purchase video game time.  I am a little partial as the inventor, but I HIGHLY recommend The Virtue Reward Program!!
  • If they throw a fit when they have to stop playing TAKE VIDEO GAMES AWAY for, at least 3 weeks (4 is best) to give the brain a chance to detox and reset.
  • If they nag you to play, set a rule…nag about video games…loose video games for 3 days or the upcoming weekend.
  • If you are like me…spread thin and a, not so great, short term memory from homeschooling, running a home with 6 children, etc. Put up a white board where you will write down who is grounded from video games, for how long and what reason. (In fact, write all your rules, consequences down.  I forget so much with managing lots of kids)
  • Type up ALL these rules on a piece of paper, print them and HANG them up!
As always with Swell Living we don’t want to just sound the alarm bells, drop the mic and leave you hanging.  We aim to help you have the wisdom and knowledge needed to implement some very practical steps to solving the problem we have brought to your attention!!
Leave a comment and let us know what you think and share your tips for managing video games in your home!!!

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