Rabbi Ross. Thank you for your help, it’s been much appreciated. I’m sure you received many similar questions, but I’m really at a loss. My kids love to play their iPads and iPods. It could be 85 degrees outside, and they want to sit and play, and they always end up fighting with each other about who had the longer turn. I’m scared to take it away, since they complain everyone else plays all the time. I’m so confused. A.G. – Woodmere
This is a very common issue, and there is much to discuss. Therefore, I’m breaking this down into two parts. This week we’ll analyze the issue and its repercussions, and next week we’ll work on a solution. As an added benefit, this enables me to ask all of you to share your suggestions for next week in the comments section.
It’s a new generation, and with it some interesting problems have arrived. As a kid I used to play video games as well. Donkey Kong, Tetris, Pac Man and a few others. However, the games today are very different. Here’s how it works.
Most of the games for iPads use advertising as a primary source of revenue. Therefore, they want your kids to play as often as possible so they can show the advertisers that each online player is continuously logged in. How do they accomplish this? It’s pretty simple actually.
Many of these games are created to be addictive. They require logging in to stay updated, and earn points when they spend time online playing. It becomes an actual addiction. Whereas we look at the games and think, “How can they enjoy these games?”, these kids actually feel the need to play.
However, these games are actually different than typical addictions. With a normal addiction, you feel a sense of relief after you’ve “fed” the addiction. With these games, the kids just get moody or frustrated. Many parents get equally frustrated and end up saying “That’s it! No iPad for a week!” Two hours later your son is complaining, “I’m so bored.” It gets even more tricky if your kids have to *gasp* share a device. They begin to argue about the games, amount played, and more.
There are some additional issues with electronics. I’m fond of telling over a story that happened a few years ago. During a league game of baseball, a new boy joined our floundering team. He was certainly dressed for the part; he was wearing a Derek Jeter jersey, some fancy sneakers, and sunglasses worth more than my Shabbos suit. This boy told me that he was a pitcher and a power hitter, and I was thrilled to pick up additional talent.
To make a long story short, he walked the first 4 batters he faced. He also struck out badly each time out at the plate. I went over to him after the game and said, “Don’t worry about it, it’s a new environment.” He replied, “I don’t know what happened, I’m so good at the Wii!” It seems he had never actually played the physical game in his life!
To make matters even worse, these electronics exacerbate a serious condition that is affecting the entire world, namely lack of social skills and the ability to communicate verbally. Playdates are becoming a thing of the past, and when they do occur kids expect their parents to set them up. Shadchanim have pointed out that this is negatively affecting the dating scene as well. Awkward silences have become the norm as these young men and women try to navigate through the tricky waters of dating without looking at a screen or sending a text.
If this isn’t scary enough, there are doctors that believe that this constant visual stimulation causes a plethora of problems in our children. There is insomnia, ADHD, obesity and a whole bunch more. One mother told me her kids can’t even watch a video or sports game anymore without a break to play on their respective devices. Apparently, whenever there is a talking scene, her kids quickly glance down on their iPods to update or whatever it is they are doing. Granted, this is not a problem only affecting our communities and societies, but it is definitely affecting our children.
Not convinced we have a problem? Think about car rides now versus when you were a kid. It used to be that we played games in the car, fought with our siblings, listened to music, read and so on. Now? Watching a video or playing an iPad is the norm, at times even on a short car ride. Yes, there are definitely good parts to this as well. Some games are educational, can keep the kids quiet on a rainy day, and these devices can even have a Siddur. I still think we have a huge problem.
I think the eight main questions we need to answer are:
Although I’ll be answering these questions and many more next week, I would love to hear from you all.
What are your thoughts and ideas? Please leave your comment below. We would love to read it!
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.