Mom doesn't want her 5-year-old playing Wii at auntie's

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  February 22, 2011 06:00 AM

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Dear Barbara,

My 5-year-old stays at her aunt's house now and then but pretty infrequently (2 or 3 times a year). I recently heard that my sister has a new Wii video game that she's excited about and is interested to play it with my daughter the next time she stays over.

We are a household that prefers going out to play instead of virtual electronic play. I also would like to wait on video games until my daughter cares about them herself. I don't really want the adults in her life pushing them on her.

I'm debating about whether to say anything to my sister or not. After all, she stays infrequently and it could be a "treat" she gets to do at auntie's house. But at the same time, I am sure she will be overly exposed to video games throughout her life and would prefer she do so on her own time.

Am I over-reacting or should I say something before our next sleepover?

From: Wishing to stay unplugged, Boston

Dear Wishing,

I absolutely love it when children are able to spend time with aunts and uncles and grandparents! It's so great for them to have independent relationships with family members and to develop that sense of independence and accomplishment that comes from sleeping out. So you're lucky, and so is your daughter, that she has an aunt who is anxious to be involved in her life.

BUT: You're the parents. You are the ones who set the values for your children. If this aunt was a smoker, would you consider overnights? I'm guessing not. I don't see this as any different. You're the parent. You're in charge.

You are absolutely right that there will come a time when your daughter is exposed to, aware of, and anxious to engage in Wii and all sorts of other electronics. Does it need to start when she's 5? At her aunt's house? I don't think so. There is plenty of time for that, including plenty of time for her to play with her aunt. Later. Years from now. One? Two? Three? Who knows.

These are your values and, frankly, I applaud you for them. Don't be afraid to tell your sister this matters to you. Don't be. If she doesn't get that you want to delay this part of your daughter's childhood -- and if she isn't willing to defer to your wishes -- it's her loss.

I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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34 comments so far...
  1. I disagree with Barbara. Smoking is a health hazard, playing video games 2x a year for a little while is not. Cutting off visits with family over something like this is ridiculous, IMO. It sounds like you have a good relationship with your sister - is this really worth ruining that? T

    If I were in your shoes, I'd speak to your sister exactly as you phrased your letter - say that you'd really like to defer video games as long as possible, but if your daughter asks to try the Wii, it's OK with you if she plays a game for a little while as a treat.

    As an aside, I tend to agree with you on play, but we do have a Wii. My kids don't choose to play it very often, but when they do, it's usually a dancing or skiing game - or even Wii Fit (which is truly a workout). It's a great option for when it's too icky to go outside and they need to burn off some energy.

    Posted by akmom February 22, 11 06:56 AM
  1. Equating smoking to playing on the Wii is a bit of a stretch. I would say the lw is overreacting in a big way. All the letter says is that the aunt wants to play one game with her. It does not say that they will be doing nothing else but playing video games all day. I am sure if the girl does not want to play it then the aunt will stop. This is not an evil thing the aunt wants to do. She just wants to have a little fun with her niece.

    Posted by dad February 22, 11 08:05 AM
  1. I agree that being exposed occasionally at Auntie's house is not going to turn your daughter into a video game addict. Before long she will be exposed to it at friends' houses...friends that have older siblings, perhaps. We play Wii games at our house...on "Wii-kends," we like to say. But we also play cards and board games and read together. It's just one aspect of our life and how we interact with one another.

    To be broad, technology is here to stay regardless of how you feel about it. As with any other potential bad influence in our children's lives - it's how you respond to and manage it that matters. If you don't want to have Wii at your house - ever - then you don't have to. But these things exist as part of our popular culture; acknowledging them is always a better option than shielding your kids from them.

    I think you'd pay an emotional price by taking up this battle with your daughter's Auntie. Is it really worth the risk?

    Posted by RH February 22, 11 08:42 AM
  1. Over-react much????? A couple of times a year? I understand your concerns with video games etc but this is 2 or 3 times a year. Unless the games being played are violence and other inappropriate things, then let her play once in awhile. IF it is all day and that is all she does...then yes, mention it. Jeesh!!! Simmer down LW! Please drink some coffee and relax a bit! :)

    Posted by j February 22, 11 09:12 AM
  1. I almost always agree with Barbara, but on this issue, I'm afraid I fall on a very different side of the line.

    Total isolation from a form of entertainment that is very common will yield no benefit to the LW's child. Other children at school will have video games to play and talk about, and isolation from this will make the LW's child feel left out. I feel the same way about other media: at least having basic knowledge of the media (when it is child appropriate, of course) is a form of social currency that is important for kids as they relate to their peers.

    I think it would be wise for the LW to use the aunt's Wii as a family-oriented introduction to the game. I'm sure the aunt would be on board with this if you involve her in the strategy. That way you have the chance to control the use of it: try fitness oriented Wii games, in short periods of time, with grownups present. When the child goes to friends' homes for playdates, LW won't have that chance. Take advantage now.

    Posted by Sarah B February 22, 11 09:34 AM
  1. I agree that this is getting blown out of proportion. As far as video games go, the Wii is probably the most kid-friendly, and as a previous poster mentioned, in the winter it's a good alternative to burn off energy when you can't play outside. If it's only a few times a year, I really don't see what the big deal is. Even if it were everyday, if she's playing one of the dancing games, or Wii Tennis or Wii Bowling, at least she's up and moving around, and not sitting glued to the TV like some other video games.

    Posted by Penny February 22, 11 09:48 AM
  1. Smoking = Video games???? hahaha... Great job on that one.... Over-react???/ Yup... Good lord people... It's a couple times a year.

    Posted by lol February 22, 11 09:51 AM
  1. Warning....smoking auntie here. When I took my nephews for the weekend, twice a year, we had the most fun ever. We had chocolate-chip pancakes for dinner on Friday night, we got lobsters and steamers for Sunday lunch, we stayed up late to watch the Celtics on TV.

    Part of the fun of staying over at aunties is doing things that you don't do at home. I never put them in harm's way, but I did think it was important to give them a break from their hypervigilant, uptight mother!

    (Smoked outside, not in the house or car. They've survived into adulthood so far.)

    Posted by cause_and_effect February 22, 11 09:53 AM
  1. wow - lots to comment on here.
    first off- comparing Wii to smoking is comparing apples to oranges. its crazy.

    second - this mom is really over-reacting. the child sees the aunt only a few times a year. part of the fun is being able to do different things with auntie that she normally doesnt do.

    is it really a big deal in the big picture of things??? no i dont think so. so lets not make issue where there doesnt need to be.

    don't worry folks - this isnt the last we have heard of mom. i'm sure she will be 'hovering' around

    Posted by gimme a break February 22, 11 10:12 AM
  1. I totally agree with Sarah B. If she's shielded from it, she'll wind up being the weird girl in school who doesn't know what the Wii is. That never works out well. I know it may sound petty, and that kids should be above it, but she will get made fun of if she goes to a friends house and doesn't know how to play the popular video game. I had a friend growing up who couldn't ride a bike in the first grade, and she got made fun of quite a bit (this was back before video games, when kids could ride bikes without parental supervision).

    Posted by anon February 22, 11 10:23 AM
  1. I am on the LW's side in terms of what goes on inside her own house -- like LW, we did not do video games when the kids were young. We didn't have any gaming platforms at all. We had (and still have) just one, small TV (and no cable). Only recently have we purchased a game system, and the kids' time on it is limited (an hour after supper on weekdays, a couple hours on weekends).

    But even I think you are overthinking and overworrying about this, LW. And although Barbara is right that you are the parent and get to make the rules, I have to ask.... why do this? Is it really so important that your child never see a video game screen that you can't relax and allow a treat a few times a year? I just don't see how this is harmful. If your sister took care of the child daily and video games were going to be a daily aspect of her life, then by all means put your foot down. But a few times year??

    Posted by jjlen February 22, 11 10:36 AM
  1. I totally disagree. Part of my own childhood memories were getting those "treats" when I stayed over at others homes. Wii is an interactive for of video play and, while I will be limiting my own child's TV/computer/video game time to probably an hour a night (or less) as she grows older, I harbor no illusions that babysitters or other homes she may stay in will expose her to more time or venues than I would like. In my home, it's my rules. In others homes, well, it's NOT my rules.

    As it is now, my child stays with her godparents daughter and her "best friends" once a month as her father works every Saturday and I work a bar shift one Saturday per month. She loves these overnights and looks forward to them. They watch more/different TV than we do. They eat different snacks - some that I won't buy. I don't tell them she can't. It's not my home or my place, and once a month is hardly going to kill her - especially since she gets so much more out of being there, seeing them, playing with them, etc.

    So, yeah. Overreacting just a little. As kids grow and learn, parents need to as well. The first - and most important lesson? You can't control your child every second of every day. If the benefits of the time your child spends with others outweighs the negatives, and in this case, it certainly sounds like it - then it's time to loosen the choke hold just a little.

    Posted by Phe February 22, 11 11:02 AM
  1. Of course the LW is the parent and this is the parent's decision. That's not even a debate. It's Barbara's role to advise the parent on what that decision should be. Barbara got it wrong this time. She even took it a step further and advised to deprive this girl of seeing her aunt if necessary. I can't see any harm at all from a few hours of Wii 2-3 times a year. I think you can be 100% clear about your values while still allowing this occasional dalliance outside of your home. But to deprive your daughter of a relationship with her aunt would be a real shame, and I'm shocked that Barbara advised this.

    Posted by geocool February 22, 11 11:45 AM
  1. I am with the other commenters, this is a bit of an over-reaction.

    My family does not have cable, but my mother does. Getting to watch cable at my mom's is a treat for my kids, and makes their visits to her house special. It hasn't turned my kids into tv addicts. Though the kids do occasionally ask about getting cable, they aren't hysterical that they don't have access to Nickelodeon or Disney channel at home. They are still fine with watching PBS Kids at home.

    Posted by HP February 22, 11 11:52 AM
  1. I was reluctant to let my son watch TV but I did, with limitations. One valuable lesson he has learned is how to turn it off at his own discretion. Same with Wii. He plays for a bit but after a while wants to do something else. Giving them the power over technology is important. Cutting it off altogether makes it too tempting.

    I was never allowed to have junk food. When I had my own money what did I want? Yup, junk food. Took years to get over that! With my son we don't have junk food in the house but if we're out and he wants something he can have it for a treat. Its really important to let kids learn about moderation.

    Posted by LAP February 22, 11 11:59 AM
  1. Perhaps she could play it, but just with one eye open, and only for 30 seconds.

    Otherwise she might become a drug-addicted, obese, racist bully who doesn't recycle and eats refined wheat products while drinking non-fair-trade coffee with inorganic cream.

    It's really a slippery slope, and standards must be maintained.

    Though if it were my kid, I'd take my chances.

    Posted by DanCleoJr February 22, 11 12:09 PM
  1. "But to deprive your daughter of a relationship with her aunt would be a real shame"

    Geocool, that's true. I glossed over that bit of Barbara's advice - but she really does seem to be suggesting that the LW should cut the aunt out of her child's life if she doesn't agree with the video game ban. And that is *completely* crazy. A healthy family relationship is a LOT more important than never being exposed to a video game at all. What messed-up priorities.

    Posted by jjlen February 22, 11 12:53 PM
  1. I agree that Barbara missed the mark on this one. When my oldest son was small (as young as age 3), he would sometimes have sleep overs with the son of one of my good friends, a woman who was like a sister to me. We had very different rules - she had sugary cereals, Kool Aid, "fruit" snacks, a TV in her son's room and he played video games at a young age and watched wrestling. Naturally, my son would do those things too at their house. I would cringe sometimes over what she allowed, but honestly, her son is a respectful, friendly, athletic teenager who gets top grades and anyone would be proud to be his mother, so it wasn't really for me to judge her choices. Anyway, I allowed my son to do these things at their house and he survived. Although the boys live 30 minutes away from each other, this friendship is one that they nurture and treasure and still maintain, so it was well worth it to maintain this friendship even when some if it was outside of my comfort zone.

    Don't let something as small as the occasional Wii game get in the way of your daughter fostering a good relationship with her aunt. Lighten up and let her play. Wii is one of the better game systems out there. We have one (a gift from all of the grandparents a few years ago) and our relatives look forward to playing for a bit when they come over. The kids created Miis for all of their grandparents (and one great-grandmother!), aunts and uncles and the adults have a good time bowling and playing tennis and baseball with the kids. It really is all good family fun. This is not a battle worth fighting, really.

    Posted by Jen February 22, 11 01:31 PM
  1. A few times a year is fine. Ask your sister to limit it, if you want.

    Isn't this the same newspaper that just printed an article about surgeons placing stents more safely and accurately using robotics? Those robotics always have a human interface, either programmed-in or live time during the surgery. Children will grow up to be adults who must be familiar with technology to be successful. Of course you don't want them to only play Wii and never go hiking or other healthy pursuits, but you don't want to give them the impression that learning to manipulate technology is in itself a bad thing.

    Posted by Favorite Auntie February 22, 11 01:40 PM
  1. "We are a household that prefers..." ??

    Households do not prefer. Parents prefer, and you seem to be a mom who prefers to create conflict with well-meaning, harmless relatives by making an unnecessary ironclad rule about video games so you can go around feeling superior to other parents. If that makes you happy, and you think it is worth creating a family rift over, so be it, but at least you could be honest about it.

    There would be a lot less of this kind of question (bedtimes, snacks, TV, etc) if people would stop making Rules with a capital R--why raise one's parenting preferences to the moral status of the Ten Commandments in the first place? Why not have routines instead? Then you skip all the agonizing over whether Mom should "break a rule" with all its consequent handwringing over giving up your principles or others undermining one's values etc. What's wrong with "bedtime is usually at 8" or "we usually do not have soda with dinner" or whatever? Then an exception or a treat has its rightful place.

    Posted by di February 22, 11 03:05 PM
  1. A response from the letter-writer:

    Thank you for your response to my Wii question. I am going to speak to my sister - she & her hubby are couch potatoes who already have let my little one watch Hannah Montana at their house! She's five. My fear is it will be an all day Wii session not just an few games.

    Fortunately my sister needed to delay this latest sleepover and I'm going to reschedule it to coincide with warmer weather when they can all get outside for a bit.

    Thanks again.

    Posted by Wishing to stay unplugged, Boston February 22, 11 03:08 PM
  1. I agree with most of the comments thus far. comparing smoking to video games is a stretch. We are an active household and my kids are VERY active. but we do have Wii and we do play it most of the time only in winter when we're stuck in doors. We have Just Dance for Kids that gets them moving and we recently jsut go the Wii Fit for kids - since my daughter loved doing the hula hoop my standard wii fit. And i love the technology exposure my kids get. I am a firm beliver that it promote hand eye coordination.... and even out of the box thinking,m thinking on the fly.

    Posted by SK February 22, 11 03:35 PM
  1. I'm sorry, dear LW, but you're upset that your 5 year old watched Hannah Montana? Did I read that correctly? You seem to be a ridiculously overbearing parent who overreacts to everything. I am a 25 year old who grew up when AOL became popular and cell phone became something that everyone had. Although my mother had her own strict moments, as all parents do, she was at no point unreasonable. My parents worked together to set guidelines for my brother and I and each guideline was well thought out and discussed in a reasonable way. To date, neither my brother nor I are heavy drinkers, we are both over the age of 21, neither of us is involved with drugs and we are both well-adjusted college graduates (and I'm on my way to obtaining another degree). The lesson to be learned here is that without being overbearing and unreasonable, your children can, and will, turn out just fine. The more strict you are however, the less likely it is that your children will respect you or listen to you. Please get past whatever your own insecurities with video games are and allow your child to enjoy the time spent with her Aunt and her friends because if you try to limit her contact with everyone who has a Wii and allows their children to use it, your daughter will not only be unable to go on any playdate, she will also be left without any friends.

    Posted by Sara February 22, 11 04:32 PM
  1. I'm not a video game fan, but I think creating a family divide over the wii a couple of times a year isn't going to do any good. The wii is likely the only type of gaming system I will allow in my house. I prefer outdoor, or "real" play experiences myself, but I'm glad the wii exists as an option, if I get pushed to have one. It is more family-friendly, sports-oriented, and not violence oriented like some of the other systems.

    I don't think your daughter will suffer any harm from this activity. The Hanna Montana, on the other hand, I can't really comment on. Do they have kids themselves, or know what is age appropriate?

    Posted by lala February 22, 11 04:40 PM
  1. Would you have a problem if they were playing board games? Creating forts? Working on a puzzle? I understand your general concern, but you come across as quick to generalize/demonize rather than being open to finding a solution that won’t offend your sister (who is doing something nice by hosting your daughter - and I assume has nothing but good intentions) and may actually provide a learning opportunity for your daughter. As you’ve acknowledged, your daughter will eventually use various forms of technology, talking with her about how and where they fit into an overall healthy life is a conversation that is definitely worth having.
    Also – if your daughter picks up on a general negativity from you surrounding video games, television, social media sites (when the time comes), etc., she may be less likely to be honest about what she’s doing when you’re not around - deciding for herself what is reasonable and what isn’t. Better to keep an open mind and encourage conversation.

    Posted by Sarina February 22, 11 05:19 PM
  1. Jjlen, thanks! I always enjoy reading your comments, even when you're calling me out.

    I also wanted to add that all video games are rated by the ESRB, and your little one should only be playing games rated "E (Everyone)" or "EC (Early Childhood)."

    Posted by geocool February 22, 11 05:39 PM
  1. I don't get the videogame hate.

    My brother and I could (and still do) game for hours at a go. I remember playing Dragon Warrior for 20 hours straight so I could beat it before I had to bring it back to the video rental place.

    I also played varsity sports, read, visited friends, gardened with my mother, wrote for the school newspaper, and so on.

    Videogames are just another entertainment medium. They're not some sort of black hole that sucks all of your time and intellect from you. Everything in moderation, you know?

    Posted by Ridley February 22, 11 08:27 PM
  1. "We are a household that prefers going out to play instead of virtual electronic play."

    "she & her hubby are couch potatoes who already have let my little one watch Hannah Montana at their house! She's five. My fear is it will be an all day Wii session not just an few games."

    Your sister offers to watch your kid and all you can do is complain about it. If my sister offered to watch my kids for an overnight, I'd ask when I could drop them off and get to work planning a nice, romantic evening with my spouse. Or heck, maybe we'd get out some grown up movies (with swear words, intricate plots, sex, violence and other adult themes), eat dinner on the couch, play some video games and/or run around the house naked. A day on the couch or playing video games isn't going to hurt you kid one little but. She might even like it (oh the horror).

    Realistically, if she's like most five year olds, she'll probably like it for about 30 minutes to an hour and then go on and do something else like coloring, dancing, dress up or whatever. Really. She'll be fine.

    Posted by J February 22, 11 09:11 PM
  1. Complete overreaction.
    Video games are not bad. Like anything, they are fine in moderation. Playing Wii 2-3 times a year is not a big deal, even if there is an "all-day Wii session". There are plenty of interactive child-friendly games, educational games, and even games that require movement for the Wii. Why outright dismiss them? A better solution would use the time to introduce video games as one more type of play (variety is good) and it could be something special for her and her aunt to do together. It's ok for a child to play inside.


    Posted by mk February 22, 11 10:15 PM
  1. I can't believe every single person bashed the letter writer! Defensive much? I don't blame her for being concerned. She didn't say she was going to cause a family feud over it, just wondering if she should let it go or say nicely to her sister, "I'd rather she not play video games yet"! She isn't even trying to keep them away forever, just avoid them as long as possible. What the heck is wrong with that?

    Of course it's not going to damage her in any way, but if the 5 year old doesn't really know they exist, why open up a can of worms? She isn't going to fall behind the times if she doesn't play Wii for a couple more years. We got a Wii a year and a half ago, for my 7 and 9 year old. I could have gotten away with waiting longer, but I knew the 7 year old would love it, and I figured it was somewhat active, and we'd set limits. I still wish I had waited longer. Sure, we've all had some fun with it, and we only allow it on weekends, but our lives would be fine without it, and I wouldn't have had to say, "NO, you can't use it today, it's not the weekend", 9,000 times.

    And, for the record....I'd be much MORE upset that she watched Hannah Montana. So many parents think it's harmless because it's Disney, "everyone else watches it" and it's not "violent", but I think the teen subject matter and disrespectful wise cracks are way more inappropriate for the age group that watches it than most Wii games she would play

    Posted by mom2boys February 23, 11 08:54 AM
  1. mom2boys, I didn't bash the letter writer, I bashed Barbara's advice, and my reading is that most other commenters did, as well. The LW asked if she was overreacting, and the overwhelming response is 'yes'.

    I agree with you that Hannah Montana is far more insidious than the Wii for a 5 year old. I don't like my 9 year old watching much of it.

    Posted by akmom February 23, 11 11:51 AM
  1. Most people not bashing. Just very surprised with rigidity of Mom's rules. I was also hesitant to allow my son any video games. I didn't buy them, though I never limited them at friends or relatives' houses. He saved up to buy his own Wii (great lesson in money management there) and we've had a lot of fun with it as a family ever since. It's great exercise if you only buy the active games like Just Dance, Michael Jackson Experience, or Wii Fit.

    Wouldn't worry about the video game playing. I seem to sense that it's really the sister the LW has an issue with. If she isn't very active or engaging, so be it. The trade-off--a day of free babysitting--is well worth "bending" the rules. TV watching very different though. Most Disney shows are crap. Feel free to limit shows to PBS or animals shows such as on Discovery Channel.

    Posted by mp February 23, 11 12:51 PM
  1. With all due respect, there is no game for wii that is going to be bad for your child, however I wouldn't let her play T games until she's 10.

    Posted by Bob Marsh May 4, 11 07:27 PM
  1. Perhaps everyone on here should learn to respect the rights and wishes of the parent to bring their child up as they see fit. Hannah Montana IS inappropriate for a five year old. This is why children are growing up so fast and soon nowadays. (And so unhealthy.) Because the majority of parents out there "see no harm." I applaud this mother for being diligent about preserving her daughter's innocence and natural childhood. Well done.

    Posted by Jen April 15, 12 08:43 AM
 
34 comments so far...
  1. I disagree with Barbara. Smoking is a health hazard, playing video games 2x a year for a little while is not. Cutting off visits with family over something like this is ridiculous, IMO. It sounds like you have a good relationship with your sister - is this really worth ruining that? T

    If I were in your shoes, I'd speak to your sister exactly as you phrased your letter - say that you'd really like to defer video games as long as possible, but if your daughter asks to try the Wii, it's OK with you if she plays a game for a little while as a treat.

    As an aside, I tend to agree with you on play, but we do have a Wii. My kids don't choose to play it very often, but when they do, it's usually a dancing or skiing game - or even Wii Fit (which is truly a workout). It's a great option for when it's too icky to go outside and they need to burn off some energy.

    Posted by akmom February 22, 11 06:56 AM
  1. Equating smoking to playing on the Wii is a bit of a stretch. I would say the lw is overreacting in a big way. All the letter says is that the aunt wants to play one game with her. It does not say that they will be doing nothing else but playing video games all day. I am sure if the girl does not want to play it then the aunt will stop. This is not an evil thing the aunt wants to do. She just wants to have a little fun with her niece.

    Posted by dad February 22, 11 08:05 AM
  1. I agree that being exposed occasionally at Auntie's house is not going to turn your daughter into a video game addict. Before long she will be exposed to it at friends' houses...friends that have older siblings, perhaps. We play Wii games at our house...on "Wii-kends," we like to say. But we also play cards and board games and read together. It's just one aspect of our life and how we interact with one another.

    To be broad, technology is here to stay regardless of how you feel about it. As with any other potential bad influence in our children's lives - it's how you respond to and manage it that matters. If you don't want to have Wii at your house - ever - then you don't have to. But these things exist as part of our popular culture; acknowledging them is always a better option than shielding your kids from them.

    I think you'd pay an emotional price by taking up this battle with your daughter's Auntie. Is it really worth the risk?

    Posted by RH February 22, 11 08:42 AM
  1. Over-react much????? A couple of times a year? I understand your concerns with video games etc but this is 2 or 3 times a year. Unless the games being played are violence and other inappropriate things, then let her play once in awhile. IF it is all day and that is all she does...then yes, mention it. Jeesh!!! Simmer down LW! Please drink some coffee and relax a bit! :)

    Posted by j February 22, 11 09:12 AM
  1. I almost always agree with Barbara, but on this issue, I'm afraid I fall on a very different side of the line.

    Total isolation from a form of entertainment that is very common will yield no benefit to the LW's child. Other children at school will have video games to play and talk about, and isolation from this will make the LW's child feel left out. I feel the same way about other media: at least having basic knowledge of the media (when it is child appropriate, of course) is a form of social currency that is important for kids as they relate to their peers.

    I think it would be wise for the LW to use the aunt's Wii as a family-oriented introduction to the game. I'm sure the aunt would be on board with this if you involve her in the strategy. That way you have the chance to control the use of it: try fitness oriented Wii games, in short periods of time, with grownups present. When the child goes to friends' homes for playdates, LW won't have that chance. Take advantage now.

    Posted by Sarah B February 22, 11 09:34 AM
  1. I agree that this is getting blown out of proportion. As far as video games go, the Wii is probably the most kid-friendly, and as a previous poster mentioned, in the winter it's a good alternative to burn off energy when you can't play outside. If it's only a few times a year, I really don't see what the big deal is. Even if it were everyday, if she's playing one of the dancing games, or Wii Tennis or Wii Bowling, at least she's up and moving around, and not sitting glued to the TV like some other video games.

    Posted by Penny February 22, 11 09:48 AM
  1. Smoking = Video games???? hahaha... Great job on that one.... Over-react???/ Yup... Good lord people... It's a couple times a year.

    Posted by lol February 22, 11 09:51 AM
  1. Warning....smoking auntie here. When I took my nephews for the weekend, twice a year, we had the most fun ever. We had chocolate-chip pancakes for dinner on Friday night, we got lobsters and steamers for Sunday lunch, we stayed up late to watch the Celtics on TV.

    Part of the fun of staying over at aunties is doing things that you don't do at home. I never put them in harm's way, but I did think it was important to give them a break from their hypervigilant, uptight mother!

    (Smoked outside, not in the house or car. They've survived into adulthood so far.)

    Posted by cause_and_effect February 22, 11 09:53 AM
  1. wow - lots to comment on here.
    first off- comparing Wii to smoking is comparing apples to oranges. its crazy.

    second - this mom is really over-reacting. the child sees the aunt only a few times a year. part of the fun is being able to do different things with auntie that she normally doesnt do.

    is it really a big deal in the big picture of things??? no i dont think so. so lets not make issue where there doesnt need to be.

    don't worry folks - this isnt the last we have heard of mom. i'm sure she will be 'hovering' around

    Posted by gimme a break February 22, 11 10:12 AM
  1. I totally agree with Sarah B. If she's shielded from it, she'll wind up being the weird girl in school who doesn't know what the Wii is. That never works out well. I know it may sound petty, and that kids should be above it, but she will get made fun of if she goes to a friends house and doesn't know how to play the popular video game. I had a friend growing up who couldn't ride a bike in the first grade, and she got made fun of quite a bit (this was back before video games, when kids could ride bikes without parental supervision).

    Posted by anon February 22, 11 10:23 AM
  1. I am on the LW's side in terms of what goes on inside her own house -- like LW, we did not do video games when the kids were young. We didn't have any gaming platforms at all. We had (and still have) just one, small TV (and no cable). Only recently have we purchased a game system, and the kids' time on it is limited (an hour after supper on weekdays, a couple hours on weekends).

    But even I think you are overthinking and overworrying about this, LW. And although Barbara is right that you are the parent and get to make the rules, I have to ask.... why do this? Is it really so important that your child never see a video game screen that you can't relax and allow a treat a few times a year? I just don't see how this is harmful. If your sister took care of the child daily and video games were going to be a daily aspect of her life, then by all means put your foot down. But a few times year??

    Posted by jjlen February 22, 11 10:36 AM
  1. I totally disagree. Part of my own childhood memories were getting those "treats" when I stayed over at others homes. Wii is an interactive for of video play and, while I will be limiting my own child's TV/computer/video game time to probably an hour a night (or less) as she grows older, I harbor no illusions that babysitters or other homes she may stay in will expose her to more time or venues than I would like. In my home, it's my rules. In others homes, well, it's NOT my rules.

    As it is now, my child stays with her godparents daughter and her "best friends" once a month as her father works every Saturday and I work a bar shift one Saturday per month. She loves these overnights and looks forward to them. They watch more/different TV than we do. They eat different snacks - some that I won't buy. I don't tell them she can't. It's not my home or my place, and once a month is hardly going to kill her - especially since she gets so much more out of being there, seeing them, playing with them, etc.

    So, yeah. Overreacting just a little. As kids grow and learn, parents need to as well. The first - and most important lesson? You can't control your child every second of every day. If the benefits of the time your child spends with others outweighs the negatives, and in this case, it certainly sounds like it - then it's time to loosen the choke hold just a little.

    Posted by Phe February 22, 11 11:02 AM
  1. Of course the LW is the parent and this is the parent's decision. That's not even a debate. It's Barbara's role to advise the parent on what that decision should be. Barbara got it wrong this time. She even took it a step further and advised to deprive this girl of seeing her aunt if necessary. I can't see any harm at all from a few hours of Wii 2-3 times a year. I think you can be 100% clear about your values while still allowing this occasional dalliance outside of your home. But to deprive your daughter of a relationship with her aunt would be a real shame, and I'm shocked that Barbara advised this.

    Posted by geocool February 22, 11 11:45 AM
  1. I am with the other commenters, this is a bit of an over-reaction.

    My family does not have cable, but my mother does. Getting to watch cable at my mom's is a treat for my kids, and makes their visits to her house special. It hasn't turned my kids into tv addicts. Though the kids do occasionally ask about getting cable, they aren't hysterical that they don't have access to Nickelodeon or Disney channel at home. They are still fine with watching PBS Kids at home.

    Posted by HP February 22, 11 11:52 AM
  1. I was reluctant to let my son watch TV but I did, with limitations. One valuable lesson he has learned is how to turn it off at his own discretion. Same with Wii. He plays for a bit but after a while wants to do something else. Giving them the power over technology is important. Cutting it off altogether makes it too tempting.

    I was never allowed to have junk food. When I had my own money what did I want? Yup, junk food. Took years to get over that! With my son we don't have junk food in the house but if we're out and he wants something he can have it for a treat. Its really important to let kids learn about moderation.

    Posted by LAP February 22, 11 11:59 AM
  1. Perhaps she could play it, but just with one eye open, and only for 30 seconds.

    Otherwise she might become a drug-addicted, obese, racist bully who doesn't recycle and eats refined wheat products while drinking non-fair-trade coffee with inorganic cream.

    It's really a slippery slope, and standards must be maintained.

    Though if it were my kid, I'd take my chances.

    Posted by DanCleoJr February 22, 11 12:09 PM
  1. "But to deprive your daughter of a relationship with her aunt would be a real shame"

    Geocool, that's true. I glossed over that bit of Barbara's advice - but she really does seem to be suggesting that the LW should cut the aunt out of her child's life if she doesn't agree with the video game ban. And that is *completely* crazy. A healthy family relationship is a LOT more important than never being exposed to a video game at all. What messed-up priorities.

    Posted by jjlen February 22, 11 12:53 PM
  1. I agree that Barbara missed the mark on this one. When my oldest son was small (as young as age 3), he would sometimes have sleep overs with the son of one of my good friends, a woman who was like a sister to me. We had very different rules - she had sugary cereals, Kool Aid, "fruit" snacks, a TV in her son's room and he played video games at a young age and watched wrestling. Naturally, my son would do those things too at their house. I would cringe sometimes over what she allowed, but honestly, her son is a respectful, friendly, athletic teenager who gets top grades and anyone would be proud to be his mother, so it wasn't really for me to judge her choices. Anyway, I allowed my son to do these things at their house and he survived. Although the boys live 30 minutes away from each other, this friendship is one that they nurture and treasure and still maintain, so it was well worth it to maintain this friendship even when some if it was outside of my comfort zone.

    Don't let something as small as the occasional Wii game get in the way of your daughter fostering a good relationship with her aunt. Lighten up and let her play. Wii is one of the better game systems out there. We have one (a gift from all of the grandparents a few years ago) and our relatives look forward to playing for a bit when they come over. The kids created Miis for all of their grandparents (and one great-grandmother!), aunts and uncles and the adults have a good time bowling and playing tennis and baseball with the kids. It really is all good family fun. This is not a battle worth fighting, really.

    Posted by Jen February 22, 11 01:31 PM
  1. A few times a year is fine. Ask your sister to limit it, if you want.

    Isn't this the same newspaper that just printed an article about surgeons placing stents more safely and accurately using robotics? Those robotics always have a human interface, either programmed-in or live time during the surgery. Children will grow up to be adults who must be familiar with technology to be successful. Of course you don't want them to only play Wii and never go hiking or other healthy pursuits, but you don't want to give them the impression that learning to manipulate technology is in itself a bad thing.

    Posted by Favorite Auntie February 22, 11 01:40 PM
  1. "We are a household that prefers..." ??

    Households do not prefer. Parents prefer, and you seem to be a mom who prefers to create conflict with well-meaning, harmless relatives by making an unnecessary ironclad rule about video games so you can go around feeling superior to other parents. If that makes you happy, and you think it is worth creating a family rift over, so be it, but at least you could be honest about it.

    There would be a lot less of this kind of question (bedtimes, snacks, TV, etc) if people would stop making Rules with a capital R--why raise one's parenting preferences to the moral status of the Ten Commandments in the first place? Why not have routines instead? Then you skip all the agonizing over whether Mom should "break a rule" with all its consequent handwringing over giving up your principles or others undermining one's values etc. What's wrong with "bedtime is usually at 8" or "we usually do not have soda with dinner" or whatever? Then an exception or a treat has its rightful place.

    Posted by di February 22, 11 03:05 PM
  1. A response from the letter-writer:

    Thank you for your response to my Wii question. I am going to speak to my sister - she & her hubby are couch potatoes who already have let my little one watch Hannah Montana at their house! She's five. My fear is it will be an all day Wii session not just an few games.

    Fortunately my sister needed to delay this latest sleepover and I'm going to reschedule it to coincide with warmer weather when they can all get outside for a bit.

    Thanks again.

    Posted by Wishing to stay unplugged, Boston February 22, 11 03:08 PM
  1. I agree with most of the comments thus far. comparing smoking to video games is a stretch. We are an active household and my kids are VERY active. but we do have Wii and we do play it most of the time only in winter when we're stuck in doors. We have Just Dance for Kids that gets them moving and we recently jsut go the Wii Fit for kids - since my daughter loved doing the hula hoop my standard wii fit. And i love the technology exposure my kids get. I am a firm beliver that it promote hand eye coordination.... and even out of the box thinking,m thinking on the fly.

    Posted by SK February 22, 11 03:35 PM
  1. I'm sorry, dear LW, but you're upset that your 5 year old watched Hannah Montana? Did I read that correctly? You seem to be a ridiculously overbearing parent who overreacts to everything. I am a 25 year old who grew up when AOL became popular and cell phone became something that everyone had. Although my mother had her own strict moments, as all parents do, she was at no point unreasonable. My parents worked together to set guidelines for my brother and I and each guideline was well thought out and discussed in a reasonable way. To date, neither my brother nor I are heavy drinkers, we are both over the age of 21, neither of us is involved with drugs and we are both well-adjusted college graduates (and I'm on my way to obtaining another degree). The lesson to be learned here is that without being overbearing and unreasonable, your children can, and will, turn out just fine. The more strict you are however, the less likely it is that your children will respect you or listen to you. Please get past whatever your own insecurities with video games are and allow your child to enjoy the time spent with her Aunt and her friends because if you try to limit her contact with everyone who has a Wii and allows their children to use it, your daughter will not only be unable to go on any playdate, she will also be left without any friends.

    Posted by Sara February 22, 11 04:32 PM
  1. I'm not a video game fan, but I think creating a family divide over the wii a couple of times a year isn't going to do any good. The wii is likely the only type of gaming system I will allow in my house. I prefer outdoor, or "real" play experiences myself, but I'm glad the wii exists as an option, if I get pushed to have one. It is more family-friendly, sports-oriented, and not violence oriented like some of the other systems.

    I don't think your daughter will suffer any harm from this activity. The Hanna Montana, on the other hand, I can't really comment on. Do they have kids themselves, or know what is age appropriate?

    Posted by lala February 22, 11 04:40 PM
  1. Would you have a problem if they were playing board games? Creating forts? Working on a puzzle? I understand your general concern, but you come across as quick to generalize/demonize rather than being open to finding a solution that won’t offend your sister (who is doing something nice by hosting your daughter - and I assume has nothing but good intentions) and may actually provide a learning opportunity for your daughter. As you’ve acknowledged, your daughter will eventually use various forms of technology, talking with her about how and where they fit into an overall healthy life is a conversation that is definitely worth having.
    Also – if your daughter picks up on a general negativity from you surrounding video games, television, social media sites (when the time comes), etc., she may be less likely to be honest about what she’s doing when you’re not around - deciding for herself what is reasonable and what isn’t. Better to keep an open mind and encourage conversation.

    Posted by Sarina February 22, 11 05:19 PM
  1. Jjlen, thanks! I always enjoy reading your comments, even when you're calling me out.

    I also wanted to add that all video games are rated by the ESRB, and your little one should only be playing games rated "E (Everyone)" or "EC (Early Childhood)."

    Posted by geocool February 22, 11 05:39 PM
  1. I don't get the videogame hate.

    My brother and I could (and still do) game for hours at a go. I remember playing Dragon Warrior for 20 hours straight so I could beat it before I had to bring it back to the video rental place.

    I also played varsity sports, read, visited friends, gardened with my mother, wrote for the school newspaper, and so on.

    Videogames are just another entertainment medium. They're not some sort of black hole that sucks all of your time and intellect from you. Everything in moderation, you know?

    Posted by Ridley February 22, 11 08:27 PM
  1. "We are a household that prefers going out to play instead of virtual electronic play."

    "she & her hubby are couch potatoes who already have let my little one watch Hannah Montana at their house! She's five. My fear is it will be an all day Wii session not just an few games."

    Your sister offers to watch your kid and all you can do is complain about it. If my sister offered to watch my kids for an overnight, I'd ask when I could drop them off and get to work planning a nice, romantic evening with my spouse. Or heck, maybe we'd get out some grown up movies (with swear words, intricate plots, sex, violence and other adult themes), eat dinner on the couch, play some video games and/or run around the house naked. A day on the couch or playing video games isn't going to hurt you kid one little but. She might even like it (oh the horror).

    Realistically, if she's like most five year olds, she'll probably like it for about 30 minutes to an hour and then go on and do something else like coloring, dancing, dress up or whatever. Really. She'll be fine.

    Posted by J February 22, 11 09:11 PM
  1. Complete overreaction.
    Video games are not bad. Like anything, they are fine in moderation. Playing Wii 2-3 times a year is not a big deal, even if there is an "all-day Wii session". There are plenty of interactive child-friendly games, educational games, and even games that require movement for the Wii. Why outright dismiss them? A better solution would use the time to introduce video games as one more type of play (variety is good) and it could be something special for her and her aunt to do together. It's ok for a child to play inside.


    Posted by mk February 22, 11 10:15 PM
  1. I can't believe every single person bashed the letter writer! Defensive much? I don't blame her for being concerned. She didn't say she was going to cause a family feud over it, just wondering if she should let it go or say nicely to her sister, "I'd rather she not play video games yet"! She isn't even trying to keep them away forever, just avoid them as long as possible. What the heck is wrong with that?

    Of course it's not going to damage her in any way, but if the 5 year old doesn't really know they exist, why open up a can of worms? She isn't going to fall behind the times if she doesn't play Wii for a couple more years. We got a Wii a year and a half ago, for my 7 and 9 year old. I could have gotten away with waiting longer, but I knew the 7 year old would love it, and I figured it was somewhat active, and we'd set limits. I still wish I had waited longer. Sure, we've all had some fun with it, and we only allow it on weekends, but our lives would be fine without it, and I wouldn't have had to say, "NO, you can't use it today, it's not the weekend", 9,000 times.

    And, for the record....I'd be much MORE upset that she watched Hannah Montana. So many parents think it's harmless because it's Disney, "everyone else watches it" and it's not "violent", but I think the teen subject matter and disrespectful wise cracks are way more inappropriate for the age group that watches it than most Wii games she would play

    Posted by mom2boys February 23, 11 08:54 AM
  1. mom2boys, I didn't bash the letter writer, I bashed Barbara's advice, and my reading is that most other commenters did, as well. The LW asked if she was overreacting, and the overwhelming response is 'yes'.

    I agree with you that Hannah Montana is far more insidious than the Wii for a 5 year old. I don't like my 9 year old watching much of it.

    Posted by akmom February 23, 11 11:51 AM
  1. Most people not bashing. Just very surprised with rigidity of Mom's rules. I was also hesitant to allow my son any video games. I didn't buy them, though I never limited them at friends or relatives' houses. He saved up to buy his own Wii (great lesson in money management there) and we've had a lot of fun with it as a family ever since. It's great exercise if you only buy the active games like Just Dance, Michael Jackson Experience, or Wii Fit.

    Wouldn't worry about the video game playing. I seem to sense that it's really the sister the LW has an issue with. If she isn't very active or engaging, so be it. The trade-off--a day of free babysitting--is well worth "bending" the rules. TV watching very different though. Most Disney shows are crap. Feel free to limit shows to PBS or animals shows such as on Discovery Channel.

    Posted by mp February 23, 11 12:51 PM
  1. With all due respect, there is no game for wii that is going to be bad for your child, however I wouldn't let her play T games until she's 10.

    Posted by Bob Marsh May 4, 11 07:27 PM
  1. Perhaps everyone on here should learn to respect the rights and wishes of the parent to bring their child up as they see fit. Hannah Montana IS inappropriate for a five year old. This is why children are growing up so fast and soon nowadays. (And so unhealthy.) Because the majority of parents out there "see no harm." I applaud this mother for being diligent about preserving her daughter's innocence and natural childhood. Well done.

    Posted by Jen April 15, 12 08:43 AM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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