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Harris Blackwood: Kids should turn off video games, get some mud on them
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

Some kind of doctor that identifies various disorders has discovered a new one that results from playing too many video games. It is an addiction that results from the unquenchable desire to play game after game.

This ailment is not limited to kids, but also plagues young grown-ups who have spent their formative years staring at a video screen and squeezing little gizmos to manipulate characters in a video game.

The only video game in which I found any success was called “Pong.” It was so long ago that it wasn’t even in color. There was a little square that would dance across the screen and you tried to hit it with your player, which was a white rectangle. I think it was called Pong because it was an electronic version of pingpong.

Video games are now vividly colored in 3D and HD. If your character is a monster, it is rather frightening. You have to capture little doo-dads that will feed your monster and progress you to the next level of competition, or so I’m told.

Back in the days of old, when I was a mere child, we might watch an hour of cartoons in the morning and that was pretty much the extent of our TV watching for the day. I didn’t need a doctor to tell me that I needed to turn off the TV. I had a mama for that.

I can’t remember what we did all day, but we seemed to be outside most of it. We would also go up to the community pool in the afternoon. I remember the older high school girls who were so pretty. They would coat themselves with baby oil to enhance the effects of the sun on their tan. I hate to think that many of them have had to visit a dermatologist to remove the lingering residue of skin cancer.

We would stay a little while at the pool, but there was always something else to do.

Yes, it was a different time, but I’m not convinced that the answer to the danger of society is to lock your kid inside and play video games.

You can install a fence around your backyard and keep the bad people away. You also can let your kids play with things like shovels and buckets. If you have one of those perfect yards with sod that makes it look like a golf course, let your kids have a little fun with it. One day, they’ll go off to school or some place and then you can replant your perfect yard.

Go to a place that sells appliances and slip the guy a $5 bill and ask him to keep an appliance box for you. Take it and put it in your not-so-perfect backyard and let the kids play with it. If your kids are 9 or 10 years old, give them a not-too-sharp knife and let them cut holes in the box to make it a hut or a fort.

If you’re wound a little tightly and can’t imagine putting a knife in the hand of your child, then let them draw on the box with a marker and you cut it for them. If your body is not out of shape from excessive video games, crawl in the box with them. You’ll have fun.

Let your kids eat frozen treats, either the kind you buy at the supermarket or the kind you freeze at home. If they make a mess, it’s OK. It will wash off with the water hose.

And speaking of the water hose, let your kids squirt one another with it. If they have torn away your grass and get a little mud on them, it will be fine. Part of what’s wrong with kids stuck inside the house is they haven’t consumed enough mud. It’s good for them.

And as for getting dirty, don’t think you have to wipe them off with some disinfectant disposable cloth soaked in some antibiotic, antibacterial potion. 

Teach them how to dig for worms. No, I’m not advocating that they eat them or anything like that, but it is good to know where they come from. Although my wife, the science teacher, says they are a source of protein. Yuck.

Now we didn’t know as much as we should about sun exposure and how bad it was, but throw a little sunscreen on them and let them play.

As for you, look in the mirror and see this clearly: You are not a helicopter. As such, there is no need for you to hover over your kids. Give them a little latitude and they’ll be just fine.

They are kids and I can assure you that a box of Band-Aids is much cheaper than a doctor to reprogram them from video games.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear Sunday.

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