>> Sunday, March 29, 2009

In a world of their own
(As suggested by Alex and Annabelle Bangsoy, Johann Dacawi fills this page for the second week while I’m on seminar.- RD).

A few months after Lukie was born, I decided to buy a DVD player. It had been a long time since we’ve seen a good English language movie. While we were in Malta back then, we would spend our day offs in the cinema and now that we are here in Italy, we missed watching a good film.

So I bought out first DVD. I also registered in one of the DVD rental shops, rented a couple of disks and we watched them. I spent about 250 euros for the DVD player and my wife told me it’s too expensive for a player. She was right, but the player that I bought, made by Sony, was also a video game console. It’s actually a Playstation 2 and I told my wife that it would also be for Lukie to play with when he grows up.

The very first game I bought for my son was the Formula 1 2001, a game of racing. When I was alone with Lukie I would put him on a sling to put him to sleep and play the game with him watching until he gets tired and sleepy. Not long after, when he turned two, he would grab the joy pad and try to play. Lukie learned quickly and at age three we were already playing along side each other. He would cry when he came in second so I let him win most of the time.

When Lukie started going to daycare, his teachers asked my wife what he does in his free time. They said it was too early for him to play video games. They are probably right but he was learning how to read with the PS2 and learning a bit of geography, too. Believe me, by that age he could tell the brand of car and say where it came from or a race track and where it was located.

When he turned four he started to beat me. When he did it for the second time and then the third, it annoyed me, it really did.

One parent in the internet blogged about the bad effects of video games. She vowed never to buy any of these games for her kid even though her son was asking for one. I think that she was being a little too harsh on her decision. I wouldn’t deprive my kids on games that technology brings. To me it is only a matter of controlling their playing time and the choices of games.

My son can not play any game until he is done with all the homework he has. On school days we let him play for just 30 minutes or so. Or we would let him read and practice his writing skills before he plays. The only bad thing that we saw in our son when he plays is that he gets rude and angry when he is bothered or we ask him to stop playing. Other than that, everything is good.

The thing that bothered me was when we went to a birthday party a year ago and I told Lukie to play with the other kids. He came back after awhile looking bored and I found out that the other kids wouldn’t let him play with their video games. I felt sorry for him and told him to just watch them play and he did.

In another birthday party I was shocked to see that all the kids there busy playing some video game, except Lukie. That didn’t concern me; what bothered me was that every kid was in a world of his or her own! A boy was playing with a Gameboy, another was with a PSP, two were shooting villains on an X-box and another two were playing with the computer. I went to another room and all the children there had their heads bowed down on a portable game. There was definitely something wrong with what I saw and it hit me right in the core.

I thought about the parents of three boys in the party. Each boy had a game in hand and after eating they started to play till it was time for them to leave. The parents of the three boys must have a lot of free time to themselves, I thought.

At the party no one played hide and seek, no one played with toys, and no one interacted with anyone.

When I was a kid, I think my parents were relieved that I never asked or pestered them on buying me a video game. I guess I knew then that we couldn’t afford it. Luckily, a cousin of mine and some of my friends in our neighborhood had video games and they would let me play. They always shared back then. And when I was at a party, I always played with the other kids because it’s the thing to do.

The last time we went home, a couple of years ago, I visited my karate Dojo at the YMCA. I asked my teachers why there weren’t many kids practicing. They told me I could find them in computer rental shops. No one was enrolling because children play sports on computers, they said.

One cold Sunday afternoon in the house, Lukie was playing with the PS2, Dylan was clicking away with his toy laptop, my wife was raconteuring on her blog site and I was in Lukie’s room playing with the PSP. That day we were all in a world of our own. – Johann Dacawi.


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