Why I gave in to my kids and become a gamer

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My children, all boys, are like most kids their ages (seven, nine, eleven), in being seriously into screen time.

I feel like they long for the weekend - beginning at 3pm on Friday afternoon - when our answer to requests for time on devices changes from a frazzled no to a relieved yes.

In theory their lives are relatively balanced, they all play sport on Saturday morning and we make sure we spend time outside on Sundays. Sometimes thought it can feel as if they are simply marking time before getting back to their pixelated alter-universe.

This pertains to all four boys in my household (my husband has joined the fray) which means that, as well as being the only female in the household I am set apart in interests.

That I use screen time as both stick and carrot, (extra minutes can be earned and lost depending on behaviour), means that I am sucked into this world whether I like it or not, but only as a bystander or umpire.

I have a love/hate relationship with this state of affairs.

On the one hand, their occupation on technology means time to work or read for me. Their behaviour is sometimes genuinely better when there is something they particularly want to do in a game meaning they require a longer time plugged in than usual. And, most importantly, and surprisingly, they have great fun together when they are on screens.

Unlike all the warnings I have read about kids becoming introverted and isolated by tech, the boys constantly talk to each other. They keep each other up to date with what is happening on their "base", ask advice, laugh at each others crashes on racing games and celebrate together when they win. This is all in a language that is entirely foreign to me. Until now.

Rather like kicking a ball around with them (another activity that does not come naturally to me), I decided that if I want to maintain my connection with them I would need to learn this language, however much I would rather be curled up with a book.


My husband took this view a long time ago and is now a fully fledged convert - some would say more perhaps than our boys (any other partners out there addicted to Clash of Clans?)

I have not joined a clan or constructed a world populated with zombies, pigmen and Steve (even writing that makes me want to shout WHY?).

However, thanks to a friend with whom we recently stayed, whose three children are also rather keen on the screens, I have got into a word game, kind of like scrabble for the phone. She is a word nerd like me, and is of course time poor so enjoys the immediacy of the messaging element which can sometimes be as fun and useful as writing long emails back and forth.

That my friend and I are now "versing" (as described by our children) each other, is a source of much hilarity to our kids. "Wrecked Mum!" I hear when Heidi has played a 42 pointer. This then becomes serious as they try to help me find a higher scoring word.

They love that I have come over to the dark side and not just because it gives them greater currency when asking for another half an hour. It's as though I'm now part of the gang. We sit on the sofa playing side by side as a family, and however that manifests itself is better than being apart.

I have to admit too, to enjoying it more than I ever thought I would when I was grumbling on the sidelines. Presently I am playing six concurrent games.

Heidi in the USA, my cousin and a friend in the UK and three others around the globe. Unfortunately this has resulted in my being woken up at around 6am by one or more of my children standing by my bed telling me it's my move. They have a word in mind but think I should check. Notwithstanding the hour, we are connecting in a way we haven't for ages. We are speaking the same language.

Sure, there is an element of "if mum's playing we might get more time too". But their enjoyment of my participation is genuine.

Honestly, whatever the means, there is something akin to a meeting of minds and I will take whatever I can get to remain connected to them. Just don't ask me to battle the zombie pigmen.

Julia Cahill is a freelance writer and mother of three sons who lives in Sydney. She blogs at juliacahillswords.com