The New York Times Is Worried Kids Are Playing Video Games Too Much During The Pandemic

The New York Times  Is Worried Kids Are Playing Video Games Too Much During The Pandemic
Photo: Tim Boyle / Staff, Getty Images

Yesterday, the New York Times ran a story that focused on how kids are spending too much time playing video games and using their phones during the covid-19 pandemic. Today, that story was on the front page of the paper. This seems strange considering how the world is falling apart and democracy is dying in front of our eyes, but yeah, sure, let’s consider that kids might be playing too much Roblox.

The article, which ran on January 16, quoted some experts and presented a lot of “scary” numbers about screentime. But it also glossed over the fact that video games and the internet have helped many people, kids and adults, stay connected and sane during this terrible time.

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The whole post is also oddly bookended by a random small family that is currently struggling during the pandemic. Their son plays a lot of video games as a way to connect with his friends. His father and mother are concerned about how much time he spends in front of the screen, but also know it’s one of the few ways he has to safely socialise while covid-19 runs wild across the world. This is a hard situation I imagine many parents around the globe are going through right now. But highlighting only kids and how much screentime they are using ignores that all of us, not just children and teens, are dealing with increased screentime and a lack of real human interaction. Instead, the article goes on and on about how potentially unhealthy and dangerous all this screentime could be for kids. How kids need to disconnect more. How kids are playing too much Roblox.

Image: Roblox Corporation Image: Roblox Corporation

“What are you going to do when you’re married and stressed? Tell your wife that you need to play Xbox?” This is a quote included in the story, from the mother, as the son explains that after their dog died on New Year’s Eve, he used games to take his mind off the sadness. It’s presented as a negative. Yet, I can list numerous times when I and others used video games as a way to relieve stress or escape from a terrible day. This isn’t me trying to toss this mum under the bus. I can understand the frustration she and so many others are going through.

The real question is why that frustration needed to be on the front page of the New York Times, presented in an article that frames video games and the internet as dangerous, addictive things that are ruining our children and holding them captive. The article literally opens with a quote from the father about how he feels like he has “failed” his son, because he plays video games and uses his phone. It’s like something I would have seen in the 90s on some local news broadcast, with clips of kids playing NES in the background.

This isn’t the first time we have seen larger and older outlets focus on only children playing games and try to use fear-mongering and scary numbers to build a narrative that completely ignores reality.

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Are there reasons to be concerned about how much time we all spend online? Probably. Spending 12 hours glued to Twitter and doomscrolling the latest tragedy is presumably hurting me in ways I don’t fully understand. Yet, right now, things are different. The world is fighting a global pandemic that is killing thousands every day. Many of us are trapped inside, dealing with all the stress and boredom that brings. Through all of this, we continue to work, go to school, raise kids, and deal with hundreds of other problems. I don’t have to tell you how hard life has become for so many of us over the past (checks calendar) year? (Holy shit…)

So if you or your kids need to escape and want to play some Minecraft and maybe you end up playing a few hours more than usual, don’t worry about it. We are all relying on digital apps and services to stay connected and happy. Binge some Netflix. Have a Zoom hang out session with family and friends. Or play some Call of Duty Warzone with your long-distance siblings.

Life is hard enough right now. Don’t beat yourself up for taking care of yourself or letting your kids have fun with their friends.

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  • It’s just yet another boomer article. They complain about kids spending all their time in their ” yidya games ” meanwhile they spend hours on end watching reality tv.

  • If they weren’t complaining about kids being glued to their phones and games in order to socialise with their friends, they would be complaining about the lack of socialisation kids are having due to the pandemic.

  • What are you going to do when you’re married and stressed?

    Should young people do what older people did and abuse alcohol and their partners? Maybe smoke a ciggie? Sit and watch the cricket all day?

  • It’s true that it’s highly unlikely that children are going to be socially stunted, grow up to become serial killers, or be directly targeted by bullies and paedophiles because they played a few vidya games as kids. Nonetheless, as an essentially sedentary, solo activity there are a hell of a lot of essential skills that children aren’t developing while glued to a screen.

    It’s an entirely reasonable conversation to have to worry about what an excess of screen time will have on the development of such things as core strength and balance, fine motor skills and body movement, focus and concentration, direct social interaction and negotiation skills, and many other things.

    As gamers it’s easy to get defensive about these kinds of articles, but for anyone interested in child development the conversation is an essential one to have.

    Sadly, the response here is entirely consistent with the response to every other article that people find a bit confronting or that they simply disagree with. Sheesh people, there is room in the world for articles both on the benefits of vidya games and also to raise awareness of some of the complications, and over the last 12 months the NYT has featured many examples of both.

    • Those are all arguments that can and have been used in criticism of books. Conversely, training has also become an addiction for some. These things are controlled by the reward centres of our brains and balancing that is part of growing up be it alcohol or working late.

      • They’re all arguments that would be accurate when used with respect to books when read excessively.

        And the rest of your argument is… well, not actually an argument. But I presume you’re just dropping the old chestnut that you need to know how not to drink alcohol by drinking alcohol, and you need to know how to not work late by working late, both of which would be completely inconsistent with the evidence of actual scientists and actual psychologists and actual alcohol and drugs counsellors.

        But look, we all know that opinion of one Random Internet Guy is just as valid, if not moreso, than that of deep-state rent-seeking professionals with actual qualifications and careers in relevant areas.

      • It’s worth adding that you haven’t actually addressed the issue anyhow.

        It’s about children skipping essential developmental steps and therefore suffering from some degree of long-term harm, such as we know happens with children in war zones who literally lose the ability to play as a result of being locked inside all day and told to keep quiet so they don’t attract attention of get caught in the crossfire.

        It’s also that children, being children, often don’t have either the life experience or the mental development to make good choices.

        You may as well argue that children need to learn about healthy nutrition by letting them eat all the potato chips they can stomach, learn healthy exercise habits by letting them sit in front of the TV until they swell up into a lard ball, or learn how to cross busy roads by playing in the traffic.

        They’re children FFS, we have parental supervision for a reason, and parents set appropriate boundaries.

        • Uptight much. That’s a lot of bile to unload on one comment just because I didn’t fall down and worship YOUR opinion (such as it is). I apologise, I didn’t know you were unhinged. Where did I say ANY of that? you will get a hernia by leaping to conclusions so vigorously. You are just repeating the same old saw that has been said since Adam was a baby “It wasn’t like that in MY day” and I was just pointing out that it is an old argument and not worth much but if you can’t keep control there isn’t much point continuing the conversation is there.

          • This exact argument was indeed made about books and TV and radio and every single other form of media that took away from direct socialisation, because the extroverts don’t understand how introverts work. It’s a shocking concept for some people, but not everyone wants an overload of social interaction and nor is it helpful when that overload results in you being a grouchier person. I can’t stand being forced onto people because someone else who isn’t me wants to make a decision about how I should enjoy spending my time. That’s not how people work in general and everyone deals with socialisation differently.

            Sometimes, the solution really is to bugger off and sink some hours into your Xbox, so you’ve got time to order your thoughts while you’re on autopilot. Just because you’re playing a game doesn’t mean your brain isn’t otherwise engaged in socialisation, problem solving, emotional regulation or learning new skills, etc. Parents who feel like they’ve failed because their kid doesn’t enjoy the same interests as them need to understand that their kid isn’t their clone. They will indeed have different interests and crying about their kid not being the same as them is a good way to drive your kid away in the first place.

            Parents should take an interest, get involved, find out why their kid likes the game and then determine if it’s a problematic behaviour. It shouldn’t be stomped on inherently because the parent has some ridiculous set arbitrary standard as to who their kid should be and what their kid should be like. People like what they like and they should be allowed to have that much, especially with what’s happening with the pandemic.

          • @louie Rice rant. Might even have been interesting if you’d made any attempt to respond to my actual post rather than your ant-computer game straw man.

          • @angorafish Mate, notice how I was @cybernetichero and not you? Develop some basic literacy and reading comprehension, then you can come back and talk about developmental milestones for children. You clearly missed most of yours which is why you think you’re an expert in the area.

        • “It’s worth adding” that NOBODY said anything about kids in war zones so you seem to be having a different conversation to the one I am in. Perhaps with voices only you can hear?

        • “But look, we all know that opinion of one Random Internet Guy is just as valid, if not moreso…” Would that be you, Random Internet Guy? The phrase “deep state” doesn’t help your credibility either.

          • That’s a lot of comments from someone whose only contribution is to pile on abuse. But seriously, thanks for your parenting advice. It’s always nice being told how to rear children from someone whose primary expertise in the topic seems limited to the fact that they remember being a child once themselves.

  • Between this and the stupid VR article which called VR Headsets ‘goggles’, since when did such an apparently ‘prestigious’ publication become so incredibly out of touch and lazy? Literal Youtubers do a better job of researching and delving into subjects like this with a half hour video.

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