Ask the Teacher: Video Game Obsessions

Ask the Teacher is a monthly column from our magazine, written by Deb Krupowicz, a mother of four who holds a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Deb has over twenty years of experience teaching preschool, elementary and middle school students. Please send your questions to her at [email protected].                        

It seems to me that basic responsibility is not emphasized in school as it once was. My fourth grade daughter is allowed to call home for forgotten supplies and homework deadlines seem very flexible. How can I teach her to be more responsible, when at school it doesn’t seem to matter? 

It is more common for schools now to separate work habit behaviors from academic achievement in an effort to make clear what students actually do know. Some schools have developed a reporting system to communicate when work has been missing or late, but some have not. In the past, responsibility was viewed as a component of academic success; now it is seen as a distinct behavior that should not muddy the understanding of exactly what a child has learned. What were traditionally seen as natural consequences of poor time management or organization have been eliminated. Some students have received the message that it does not matter whether work is turned in on time or not. 

You can reinforce what you want your daughter to learn about responsibility at home though. Develop a list of expected behaviors for which your daughter is responsible. That list might include doing household chores with a timeframe of when tasks should be completed. Behaviors related to school can also be on the list. The two of you can determine what to include that will contribute to her school success.  

Regarding your daughter forgetting important items for school at home, let her know that it will not be your policy to bring in what she is missing. To avoid this situation, have your daughter create a list of what needs to go to school each day and teach her to check it each night as she prepares for the following morning. If something is left at home that she considers really important and you agree to bring it in, impose a consequence. Require that your daughter offer the same amount of time you spent locating and delivering whatever she forgot in completing tasks for you. Should this happen a second time, inform your daughter that you will not be bringing anything else to her for the remainder of the school year. Having her experience the consequences of not having what she needs will help this lesson stick. 

My kids do a significant amount of work on the computer for school, but they don’t know how to type correctly. I think this is a necessary skill for them to learn. How can I teach them? 

Not long ago, technology was introduced in the academic setting along with learning keyboarding skills. Focus seems to have shifted away from that to investigative and creative project development. Many kids have come up with their own method of keyboarding, but their approach is likely not as efficient as traditional typing. Learning to type is something that will benefit students throughout their academic lives and beyond. 

Several websites offer free typing programs that include lessons, tests and games that don’t require any type of special set up to use. The site offers a variety of options to find a good fit for your kids. If they spend ten to fifteen minutes a few times each week working with a program that seems more like a game than a skill-builder, their keyboarding will improve dramatically in a short period of time. 

Our fifth grade son is so obsessed with video games that he won’t play outside at all. How can we convince him that time outdoors is important?   

Although the data is varied about how video games and screen time affect young people, it is quite clear that lack of physical activity has a significant negative impact. Inactivity may lead to obesity and contribute to poor health. Lack of exercise can impede healthy brain development, attention skills and academic achievement. Recent findings indicate that not only is activity necessary for physical health and academic success, it provides a way to relieve stress as well.  

Talk with your son about why getting outdoors and being active is so important to him on so many levels. Also, recognize that your son may struggle to find an activity he enjoys that provides exercise. Encourage him to try some new things. Begin with some outdoor family activities. Even simple activities such as a walk or bike ride done as a family can get the ball rolling and show him that being outdoors can offer a different kind of fun that video games can’t provide. 

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