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Media Literacy Review
Center for Advanced Technology in Education - College of Education - University of Oregon - Eugene

Taking Back the Citadel:
Managing Nintendo Use at Home

Author: Kathleen Tyner

Some tips for parents who fear that their children will be sucked off into the Nintendo universe never to return in human form:

  • Who's in Charge Here? One of the parent's worse fears is that Nintendo erodes parental authority. Recognize that children use forbidden toys, candy and language to shock, dismay and outrage their parents in order to establish their own independence. While this is natural, children also need and respect boundaries. You have a right and a responsibility as a parent to set them. Setting boundaries can also cause anxiety. This is such a big responsibility that it explains why some people remain childless and raise tropical fish instead.

  • Forbidden Fruit: Banishing Nintendo may work at home, but if your child is a Nintendo freak, he/she will find someplace else to play, thus setting up a further erosion of your authority. Better to establish the context and time limits for the use of computer games: "After you've done your homework,"" One hour before dinner," "Instead of dying your hair blue."

  • Free Childcare: Watch using Nintendo as a babysitter. While it may be an effort, there is no substitute for your direct involvement with your kids. While media use gets the kids out of your hair in the short-run, in the long-run you are creating a Teenage Ninja Turtle who looks something like you but doesn't respond to your commands. Factor in the use of Nintendo as childcare at limited times, so that you have control. The hour after you get home from work may be the exception that proves this rule.

  • When to Pry Their Fingers Loose: For most children, Nintendo games are a stage that will pass. All good games have a compulsive nature. But look for signs that Nintendo is becoming a child's whole life, instead of a part of his/her life. When you notice that your child has not eaten or slept for days, a trip to the fusebox to manufacture a power outage is in order. Talk to your kid and start thinking of diversionary tactics.

  • If You Can't Say Something Nice: Chances are if you say only negative things about the game, your child will love it all the more. Talk about Nintendo use with your child. Become conversant in Nintendo-ese. Try to inject your concerns without polarizing the argument. Warning: Faking Nintendo knowledge is likely to produce even worse results than ranting and raving.

  • Who's Footing the Bill? Take a look at the software you buy. Do you really want war, violence, sexism and racism in you living room? You can get that on tv for free. Even if they can play the forbidden software at a friend's house, at least you have conveyed you family's values. Be prepared for withering looks and loutish mumbles from the little darlings. They'll thank you for it later.

Kathleen Tyner is founder of Strategies for Media Literacy. Reprinted permission of author. Copyright 1991 Kathleen Tyner.