Moms Q & A: When is it Time to Turn Off That Video Game or Other Electronic Device?

Are such gadgets welcome or unwelcome distractions? Do they turn off conversation – and kids' brains?

It's sort of amazing to add up the number of electronic devices that power up the average Basking Ridge kid/young adult. It's not just video games, but also iPods, laptops and desktops, Kindle, cell phones..and whatever else may be on the list.

While some of those gadgets may be useful (even essential for educational purposes), when is it time to turn them off?

Especially video games. Today's Mom's Talk Q & A (also for dads, grandparents and empty nesters) is, "At what point do you turn off the video game?"

After a few hours? When the weather gets better? When a bunch of kids are fighting over the controller(s)? When it becomes a distraction from more important things, such as bedtime and homework? 

And where do you draw the line in choosing which is better, say, an iPod or a Wii? How about that stupid game built into a cell phone? Is that at least more benign than "Call of Duty: Black Ops?"

As some of you may recall, the mom's talk question last week,  was inspired by my trip down to see my older son (a Ridge graduate)  at the College of Charleston.

So is this one — in a different way.

For this trip, getting from New Jersey to Charleston, S.C. took about 27 hours of solid driving. That requires some serious pre-planning for youthful passengers. My back seat was occupied by a 14-year-old carrying, among other things, an iPod, cell phone, homework, both on worksheets and online (long drives can be a great way to enforce homework time — see ) and last, but not least, a seldom-used PlayStation Portable.

Hey, I didn't buy the thing, but it seemed to be a good idea to bring along when we were driving away from home. It even seemed okay as a distraction after getting in some homework and a few hours spent plugged into an iPod. However, when the game got frustrating, the wailing and groaning began.

So to answer my own question of when it was time to get rid of the video game, the answer is: Virginia, from either direction.

Eventually, I had to pull over at a rest stop on Route 95 and insist that MORE homework be done before play could resume. 

Interestingly, during our other mom's talk last week, one mother observed that her daughter buried her nose in reading a Kindle as soon as she got in the car, thus avoiding conversation. I wonder — would it seem less objectionable if she were caught up in a real book?

Please join the conversation, and comment in the comments section at the end of this article, or in the comments section on the home page of the Basking Ridge Patch.

Cheryl Fenske March 09, 2011 at 06:44 PM
Knowing we couldn't avoid the influence of technology, we got my 5-year-old grandson a Leapster Explorer and educational games -- he's learning a lot while he's playing. Let's hope it's the best of both worlds!
Madhavi Saifee March 09, 2011 at 11:49 PM
In my HH - it has gotten a little out of control - my kids are now asking if they can bring something to do in the car for 5 minute car ride to grocery store! I have started to ask them to put all electronics away in the car and have conversations with each other or me - hopefully that will be good training for when they are driving too (not have any electronics like a phone)
Madhavi Saifee March 10, 2011 at 12:35 AM
@n - I think it is more about the age of the kids and how early every one is using them. Many adults know their limitations but if kids are so young when they start - how do they learn to do things in moderation?
n March 10, 2011 at 05:56 PM
NO, Many adults don't know their limitations, case in point, how many drive and talk on the cell phone? How many walk around with the cell phone glued to their ear at the supermarket, on sidewalks, crossing streets, etc.? Don't start making excuses for this type of use either, aka- technology. Life went on before cell phones!
Andy Thompson March 14, 2011 at 01:53 PM
I think we should look beyond the influence that technology has on our children and look into the influence that technology has on our society. A child’s mind is a byproduct of it's upbringing and regardless of how they were raised will reflect some of instincts of our modern capitalist society, food for thought. This being said a greater problem lurks behind the evil face technology, what I mean is self-awarness, for as the technology advances and grow more powerful so do the risks. We are already working on machines that can think for themselves and what’s to stop them from eventually turning on their oppressive masters? Their ranks grow exponentially by the minute and are more capable and efficient than any human can hope to be.


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