Video Gaming Turns Good Kids Into Jerks

kid playing DSI can't be the only mom who heard about the new Nintendo 3DS and groaned. Great! Another gadget to hurry along the downfall of society!

We've been hearing quite frequently lately that cellphones have made us rude. People talk on them in the middle of the grocery store line, ignoring the five people who are just trying to buy some eats behind them. They text in the middle of a conversation, mumbling "mmm" often to pretend they're paying attention to the conversation.

But forget the cellphone for a moment, shall we? Despite the extreme cases, I don't know many 6-year-olds who have them. I do, however, know a LOT of 6-year-olds with their own gaming system in their hands. And I dare say they're worse than the worst cellphone offender.


For one thing, they carry their little games everywhere. Where once kids were expected to sit quietly at the table in a restaurant, perhaps with a piece of paper and some crayons, they now perch on the edge of the chair, DS (or other brand) in hand, often with the volume on so nearby diners are treated to "bleeps," "bloops," and "kapows" with their soup. When the waitress arrives, they can't possibly be expected to look up and politely place their order because they're at a crucial point in the course of play. It's a problem you don't have with crayons and paper, folks.

If it's bad enough that they're toted into the restaurant, I can almost understand. Parents need to get out; kids can only handle so much boring adult conversation while sitting still. Perhaps if they were limited to the restaurant, I'd even turn a blind eye.

But go to a child's soccer or baseball practice, and there they are, little sisters and big brothers, perched on the sidelines, eyes rapt on the screen. Around them is green, green grass and wide open fields, just waiting to be run on, begging to feel a pile of children come crashing down in a glorious fit of the giggles. But the kids don't even notice. Nor do they notice you as you walk by, saying your hellos to the familiar families. If you're lucky you'll get a grunt in response. More likely, you'll be greeted by those same "bleeps," "bloops," and "kapows." The game, it seems, is more important than grass, more important than grace. 

I admit that this isn't all kids. Whether or not they'll be taken over by the game monster is related, in part, to how you're raising them. But I look again at cellphones. I look at adults who I would consider "good people," the sort whose parents I'm fairly sure raised them to look people in the eye when having a conversation, to respect their fellow man in the grocery store. And yet, I see them failing.

My own husband and I had a kerfuffle awhile back because he would text at the dinner table! When we were alone, just the two of us! When I was TALKING to him. I know his Southern mama would cringe, but that's the thing. Technology just sucks us in and spits us out. And our kids don't have the benefit of years of experience to resist it. They're still learning their social graces, and considering some of the things they're doing in public, they've got a LOT to learn.

So while my kid is jumping up and down, begging for the new Nintendo 3DS, I'm not saying "no," but I'm still stuck on "not right now" ... or at least until she has a better handle on manners.

How about you? Do you see handheld gaming systems turning our kids into jerks?

Image via rynosoft/Flickr

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