Let’s be honest. Video games (and screens in general) can make great babysitters. They are available 24/7, kids love them and you can’t beat the rate! Plus, you have work to do and gaming can’t be that bad for them, right? Maybe you even read a blog that said that it was actually good for their problem-solving skills?
When used in moderation, they seem to work for everyone. But no matter how you slice it, they really are not healthy for your kids.
8 Reasons Why Video Games Make Terrible Summer Babysitters
- Digital games stimulate the production of chemicals in your child’s brain. Most parents don’t realize this, but this fact alone can be a real game-changer as it explains the mood swings and meltdowns associated with extended screen time. With every dopamine high comes a dopamine crash. If your gamer(s) play for over 30 minutes, they will find it difficult to get off and you will end up with a frustrating problem on your hands- a game meltdown.
- Digital games stimulate the production of the stress hormone cortisol. When your child is perceiving danger while playing his video game, his “fight or flight” alarm system triggers the release of cortisol and adrenaline to prepare himself for the danger. These stress hormones raise blood pressure, increase blood sugar (see # 5) and suppress bodily functions so that more energy is available to deal with the danger. Your child is now stressed and anxious which is not a good mix with summer.
- Games replace movement, nature and real life outdoor activities and fun. It is no debate that it is hot outside. It is summer and the air conditioned den feels so much better than the heat. But a good babysitter knows that you have to get the kids outside and moving. Kids can’t play video games and run around outside at the same time! Sprinklers, picnics, swimming, a bike ride to get ice cream, hanging from a tree are all much better summer activities than a screen.
- Screen time is an isolating, addictive activity. The digital summer babysitter can set the stage for developing an addiction by the time school starts. Think ahead: do you really want to fight that screen detox battle right before school starts again? That 5 hours a day glued to the screen can’t continue during the school year. There is a price to pay.
- The game-sitter promotes bad eating habits. When gaming your child’s blood sugar will drop causing him to reach for that bag of skittles and skip a healthy meal. This is a set up for further mood swings and another hard habit to break when school starts.
- Video games steal reading time. I know you hear this all the time but summer reading is critical for building great reading habits all year long. Enjoy the relaxed nature of summer and encourage your child to read as many different books as they can. Sounds like a fun trip to the library or used bookstore is in order! And, a good babysitter also knows that reading out loud to kids, regardless of their age, is a brain-rich fun activity.
- Digital babysitters don’t believe in enforcing chores. When a child is more immersed in his video game than making his bed, unloading the dishwasher, walking the dog and hard work get thrown to the side. General responsibility and discipline get replaced by the motivation for the game. This is not your child’s fault. It is how games are designed.
- Digital babysitters do not help your kids with their problem solving solving skills. While some say that gaming helps develop strategic thinking or problem solving skills, many experts agree that developing these skills in real life in the real physical world is much more important, beneficial and necessary. Want to help your child develop real strategy or problem solving skills? Have him figure out on his own what to do when he is bored or how to fix a broken friendship – that is the skill he will need later in his life. Give your kids the gift of solving real problems through real play this summer; solving virtual problems through a video game is not the same.
In summary, the “free” digital summer babysitter is not worth the cost to your child or your family. The isolating nature of gaming and screens need to be traded for time with real face to face interactions. Summer is for trying new hobbies, making new friends, reconnecting with family and learning how to organize your own day and enjoy true down time. Resist the urge to use the game as a babysitter this summer and when fall arrives, will be happy you did.