Ask Dr. Gramma Karen: Readers’ Comments about Kids and Video Games

family playing video games

Note: Several readers sent me comments about my column “Kids Can Benefit in Many Ways from Playing Video Games.” Below are two readers’ comments, with my responses.

Dear Dr. Gramma Karen,

My daughter-in-law sent me a text asking me to read your column about kids playing video games. She ended the text by requesting that I stop commenting about the amount of the kids’ screen time.

The kids are my two grandchildren, Katherine, 11, and Robert, 13. I’ve always thought they spend too much time on their iPhones and computers. During this quarantine, whenever I would call and ask the kids what they were doing, it seemed they were always on their phones or computers. And they always seem rushed when talking with me to get back to their computers. Very rude.

I admit that I have expressed my opinion about what I thought was their excessive screen time to my DIL a few times. Through the years my husband has often warned me about giving my opinions to my DIL, who has reacted with coolness.

Anyway, I am writing to you at my husband’s suggestion to tell you that your column has helped me think about our grandchildren and their screen time in a different way. After feeling first anger toward my DIL for saying that I was being a busy body, I am now feeling embarrassed.

Maybe you can help me figure out how to tell my DIL that I am sorry, and I will try harder in the future to mind my own business.

Dr. Gramma Karen’s Response

I am glad my column helped give you a different perspective. Regarding your apology to your DIL, I think you answered your own question: Tell her you’re sorry and that you will try harder in the future to mind your own business. I also suggest you thank her for letting you know that you were out of bounds, and finally, invite her to let you know when you are giving unsolicited advice.

Perhaps this incident can help you and your DIL have a closer and more comfortable relationship. Maybe your DIL, your grandkids, and you can play video games together … just a suggestion!

Dear Dr. Gramma Karen,

Your column couldn’t have come at a better time. I have been feeling so guilty about all the time I’m letting my three kids spend on their computers and iPhones, doing individual and group games, and watching movies, not to mention their online classes and schoolwork. Both my husband and I are working at home and sometimes we’re not able to monitor their screen time. Knowing that there are some benefits to playing video games makes us feel a little better. Thank you!

Dr. Gramma Karen’s Response

You are most welcome. I appreciate you took the time to contact me. If I may, since you brought up the topic of feeling guilty for the amount of time your kids are digitally connected, I want to make a few comments.

First, parents need to take a minute to give themselves a pat on the back and remind themselves that they are in uncharted waters, doing the best they can, trying to figure things out in real time. Are things topsy-turvy in many households of late? Are some of the pre-pandemic rules and regulations hard to enforce in families? Most certainly, but then again, almost every aspect of society as we know it is topsy-turvy to some degree.

This brings me to my second point: the structures and rules that stabilized households prior to the pandemic need to be modified and/or replaced by what I call “rona rules,” short for coronavirus rules. Kids of all ages can understand that rona rules are evolving on an as-needed basis, designed to help family members adjust to different and ever-changing circumstances.

For example, when mom and dad are at home working, rona rules may allow for more screen time for the kids. Then, when mom and dad have some free time, rona rules may require more time spent together, e.g., playing boards games, cooking and baking, walks and hikes.

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Here are some rona rules guidelines. They need to be:

  • Communicated and explained to all family members at a family meeting.
  • Open to input from all family members with the understanding that parents have the final say.
  • Flexible to accommodate changing circumstances, e.g., “This is why we did things this way yesterday, and this is why we need to do them another way today.”
  • Revisited and revised, e.g., “How did things work out well? How did things not work out so well? What changes do we need to make?”

Parents can help their kids understand that different families are going to have different rona rules. For example, some parents may allow their kids to play with other kids at the playground, while other parents do not want their kids engaging in social interactions.

The point is that rona rules are put in place to help family members be as safe, healthy, productive, and as happy as possible under new and changing pandemic circumstances. When things settle down and daily living becomes more stable and predictable, some rona rules will fall by the wayside, as they no longer are needed, while others rona rules may become part of everyday living.

I hope this idea of rona rules can help bring some flexible and realistic structure to family living, as well as relieve feelings of guilt.

And grandparents, just a reminder: Don’t give your opinions on rona rules unless asked to do so.

Ask Dr. Gramma Karen is published every other Tuesday.
E-mail queries to [email protected]

Dr. Rancourt’s most recent book is,
Its All About Relationships: New Ways to Make Them Healthy and Fulfilling, at Home and at Work

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