My almost-four-year-old son can’t wait to get home from preschool to practice tennis on the Wii. I tell myself that at least it’s a sport he’s playing, and not a shooting game. Albeit a virtual sport.

Our family really isn’t into video games. Still, golf and tennis on the Wii have become a daily bonding ritual for my husband and little boy. They keep score and compete, as boys need to do. My husband even practices after the little one is in bed! And my son practices while Daddy is at work.

With all the virtual fun they are having, should I be worried?

Dr. Leonard Sax, author of Boys Adrift, calls out video games as a factor contributing to the rampant lack of ambition among boys today.

He notes that the satisfaction of achievement without the real-world risk is helping create young men who would rather spend time in virtual reality than in real reality, and thus are lacking the drive required to succeed in real life. It’s part of the reason that “a third of men ages 22–34 are still living at home with their parents—about a 100 percent increase in the past twenty years”.

I can see just how it is addictive. My son watches as his score goes up, getting closer and closer to pro status. He feels like he’s really good at it, and that makes him proud.

A pediatrician who writes for The Daily Kos shares his observations from the 2,000 plus kids who pass through his pediatric practice. Nowadays half of the boys who come through his practice list their career aspiration to be in the video gaming industry.

He explains why this focus on video games is a problem for young kids in a follow-up comment to the original post:

“The largest problem inherent with video games and other forms of modern media is not so much what children are seeing, it is with what they are not doing, tethered for endless hours to their electronic gadgets and mesmerizing screens. They are not having conversations. They are not having family meals. They are not reading. They are not playing outside. They are not building, creating, or pretending. They are not taking time to just veg. And they are not getting to bed on time, or sleeping enough.”

As concerned parents, we are aiming for balance and a focus on physical sports. We make sure he plays with other toys and games, and we are probably not going to introduce other video games beyond sports themes.

My husband and I are hoping that our son’s interest in virtual tennis and golf will help fuel his interest in the real sports. After all he’s not even four yet, so for now, this is the version of the sports that he can do best. He has just gotten his own golf clubs and has started playing on the golf course with daddy. And for now, he prefers the real thing if given the choice.

However, when he gets a bit older and starts spending time at friends’ houses, I know it’s a possibility he could be drawn into circles that focus on video games.

We hope by then that his interest in real sports will help keep him on the real playing field.

What about you? Are video games a concern for you and your sons?

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Comments (3)

  1. Jessica Beard

    I agree, having a balance is the key in this situation. I think it is great that your husband and son have found a common interest and have fun playing together. Playing outside and getting exercise by doing an actual sport is also very important. I think playing a sport on the Wii is acceptable compared to a shooting game at such an early age.

    • Lisa

      Jessica, I agree with you. However, I’m still a little nervous about his attraction to all things digital. I suppose it’s a challenge for this generation of babies, growing up with electronics all around them. And part of the struggle for me is that I prefer to spend time on the computer myself to going out and playing – it takes deliberate effort to model to my sons. But of course once you get doing something fun and physical all together, it’s just the best!

  2. Jessica Beard

    Yes, I also struggle with spending time on the computer too. I think we all do! I have set a goal for myself to spend less time on it when my son is awake. A few minutes at nap time and after he goes to bed is what I plan on doing.

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