Consider the gifts you give this Christmas

Before we head out shopping consider the effects that these gifts will have on our children.

To the editor:

As the holiday season approaches, we are all busy with the many preparations that are necessary to create a perfect Christmas morning. Shopping for gifts can be one of the most joyful and frustrating of tasks. Before we head to a mall [and downtown] to fight for parking spaces, wait in long lineups and check off all the items on our loved ones’ wish list, have we stopped to consider the effects that these gifts will have on our children?

For the past couple of decades, video games have become a continually increasing trend, and hence, a popular Christmas gift. The latest console never ceases to have people lining up outside, and the new game releases fly off the shelves as if they have wings.

There is consistent debate over the pros and cons of video games—whether or not they are too violent, cause obesity or hinder social development are all common debates that we have all heard before. Like most things, video games are harmless in a controlled environment.

The bigger issue, I find, is that video games are a simulated reality, and as a result provide adolescents with a hollow sense of accomplishment. For example, if a 10 year old spends 20 to 30 hours working towards “expert” level in the game Guitar Hero, he’s beat the game, which will give him a strong sense of accomplishment that we as humans all desire.

However, what is he left with? He knows how to push a combination of coloured buttons in a pattern that follows a variation of rhythms—what a valuable, life-long skill.

Instead, if that 10 year old had spend those 20 to 30 hours learning to play a real guitar, and developed a real skill, he or she may possibly even discovered a talent. But why would he go through a frustrating learning curve and a phase of bloody fingers when he can receive a more instant (but temporary) gratification from his gaming console?

Now, I know that every family needs some solitary quiet time where the kids can shut up and keep themselves busy for a specified amount of time, but at what cost? Not only are we robbing young people of the opportunity to develop their own skills and talents, we are also encouraging the illusion that a strong work ethic isn’t required to achieve an accomplishment.

Video games are designed to become progressively challenging, whereas most life skills and hobbies are most difficult at the beginning, and progressively become easier with practice. Young people who have hobbies are more likely to succeed in important life skills such as problem solving and the ability to set-goals and follow through. Not to mention the development of skills and talents can boost their self-confidence, happiness level and lead to bigger opportunities such as scholarships (which means that education fund stays in YOUR pocket).

My challenge for you, this holiday season, is not to completely set the video games and TV aside, because we all need a little time to kick back and be entertained.

My challenge for you is to spend a little less on the gaming wish list, and instead, invest in some sporting equipment, a musical instrument, hunting gear, painting or dance lessons or whatever hobby you think your kids might enjoy. Remember to offer guidance and encourage them to push through the tough stages, their adult selves will thank you.

Not only will your children experience the benefits, but also it’s a great opportunity to spend one-on-one or family time with your kids this New Year. It’s a parenting strategy that I am consistently grateful my parents used.


Ally Turner, Kelowna



Kelowna Capital News