A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Monday, January 3, 2011

Parental Controls

During the holidays, I noticed that my 12 year old son was spending an inordinate amount of time on the internet playing a computer game.  Given that executive function doesn't fully develop in the brain until about age 25 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52687-2005Jan31.html), my wife and I agreed to install parental controls on our computers.  We installed limits on the number of hours and times of day.  As I explained to Joe, who has been trying to renegotiate ever since, parents sometimes make decisions for children when children are unable to make proper decisions for themselves.

As a parent and a teacher, my goal has always been to help children learn how to evaluate their choices and make smart decisions.  I used Excel to create a bar graph that compared the amount and percentages of time that he was spending on various activities.  In the discussion that followed, I learned that it wasn't that Joe lacked goals, but that his goals seemed inappropriate to me.  I learned that he was methodically implementing a plan to become world class in a computer game (I'm too embarrassed to say which one).  To help Joe process the new time restrictions, I used open-ended questions such as, what do you feel would be an appropriate use of your time?

One of my pet peeves is that children waste too much daylight, and I explained that I restricted usage after 4pm to encourage him to go outside after he finishes his homework.  To provide a replacement activity, I purchased a batting tee to go with his new batting/pitching net.  Hopefully, Joe will become as addicted to improving his batting swing and throwing motion as he has become to scoring points on his video / computer games.  Joe's withdrawal pains are painful to watch, and he communicates the extent of his suffering so well, but when the Spring baseball season approaches, hopefully, Joe will to enjoy the benefits of a level swing.

As I often explain to Joe, sometimes its more important for me to be a dad than to be a friend.  Maybe he'll understand what I'm talking about in another 12 years.