As I write this, there are four kids bouncing up and down playing Minecraft on the Xbox. They are setting all the buildings on fire. I don't know why they're setting things on fire and their explanation was still coming after about five minutes so I decided to let it go. Since the storm hit, they've played Minecraft, Skylanders Giants and a whole bunch of little games on their iPods. It's all games, all the time and they're having a blast.
I've never been someone who worries about screen time. I grew up with pretty much no restrictions on how much television I could watch and I turned out okay. When the weather is good I try to get the kids outside, but there are only so many ways to kill time while trapped in the house during a raging storm. They can have all the screen time they want just now.
Despite their apparent firestarter tendencies, they've engaged in cooperative, creative and entertaining game play over the last few days and it hasn't turned them into antisocial, couch potato loners. It's actually had them interacting as much as or more than they do on a playground.
There were lengthy discussion over which mode to play and if there would be monsters. There were debates over where to go and what to build. The first accidentally set fire became an in-game emergency they fought together, until they decided it was kind of fun and set half the town ablaze just so they could build it again, together.
They're not just sitting there with a controller staring mutely at a screen. Instead they're laughing, cheering, teasing and jumping up and down all in the name of fun. This is a good thing. I'm sure the sun will come out later and they'll all be running outside to ride their bikes and get soaked, but for now, screen time is game time and game time is good. My living room arcade has all the fun of the real deal, without the need for a pocket full of quarters.