I'm addicted to catapult games, physics games, Bubble Breaker, Tetris. According to the Daily Mail, it's worse than 'crack cocaine'. People enter the room and I don't even grunt hello. These games are designed to be challenging but within reach, reward you, make you feel good, make you want to do more.
It's what school aspires to, but often fails to be. Are we surprised kids find them addictive?
A lot of parents battle furiously with their kids over the time they spend gaming - fingers glued to the control, face blue with the light of a hundred zombies' brains exploding (and that's just dad). They're playing with penguins, world-building. Or catapulting or laying down mines or we don't even know what they're doing. Perhaps we don't actually care. It's free babysitting.
We're hoping it's educational in some way. When the zombie apocalypse comes, we'll all be able to hide behind our teens as they blast those bad boys into oblivion, fight World War Two - again, Call of Duty style. From time to time, we push them in the direction of more obviously educational programmes. For mine, it's Mathletics, and I congratulated myself daily until I realised they were just doing the questions they could already do, scoring thirty out of thirty in thirty seconds and popping off to Club Penguin while my back was turned.
I feel guilty. I'm glad to get some peace. I feel guilty again. Because my poor children are glued to the sofa / chair / floor and it looks like the zombies got out of the box and sucked out their brains. Do I look any better when I'm surfing the net for five minutes that turns into an hour - or three? But I'm working, I tell myself as I surf Youtube, click on 'hilarious' Facebook circulars, read about 'Weaponized Fart Jokes' - in literature, naturally. I tell myeslf I'm pushing back the frontiers of knowledge. When my kids do it, I'm appalled: but the flickering light will dent their tender brains!
Consoles and computer games have got them in their grip! Screams! They're evil! Wails! Innocent children ar in the grip of a terrible monster and there's nothing we can do! What really? As parents, our job is to stop kids enjoying - and hurting - themselves. We do it with glee. We've all stood there yelling, 'don't strangle / beat / bite your brother!' Or is that just me?
If you don't want them on computer games every hour of the day, don't let them. Seriously. Just tell them to get off it. Set a daily time limit and stick to it. Starve their addiction, and enjoy the awesome power you've gained.
Want your child to do homework? 'Reward' them with an hour of computer time later. Want your child to practise their handwriting, do online maths, behave? 'Reward' them with an hour. Not five hours, not four, not three. Not even two. Not first thing in the morning or after lunch, not a minute before five pm, if you're feeling strong.
You're in charge right? And now you've got an unlimited supply of crack cocaine* to deal out, one tiny little piece at a time.
Got kids studying GCSE or A-Level English? Check out my seriously unfunny, but very educational blog.
*do not actually give your child crack.