March 12, 2019
If you’re like me, your kids are always on Fortnite. Well… not always. Every chance he/she gets, right? And you’re the worst parent around when you tell them it’s time to turn it off. You’ve probably even said aloud to your child, “When you die we’re leaving.” (Fortnite parents know exactly what I’m talking about here!)
I used to take my kids fishing with me all the time. With two boys close in age it was easy to pack them up, grab the gear, and head out the door. True, my youngest usually spent most of the day drawing instead of fishing – as a creative kid he just didn’t enjoy the competitive edge my eldest and I had going on.
So for about a year it was just my oldest and I – fishing the lakes around Orlando where we live; or fishing with a professional guide when we would go on vacation to North Carolina, Michigan, or Georgia. Being able to grab the rods, my favorite lure, and spend time with just him and me were some of my favorite days.
And then… Fortnite came along. If I’m honest there were probably a few things against me: him turning into a teenager didn’t exactly help. But gone were the days of spending time on the water with my favorite fishing buddy. After a few months of fishing solo – and some bad days with teenage angst, my son and I had a heart to heart. It turns out he wasn’t just getting sucked into the video game – he was missing those days on the water too.
There’s something about fishing that clears your mind. Whether it’s the fresh air, or the lack of overstimulation – on the water you’re not thinking of anything other than dragging the line, setting the hook, and reeling in a monster. Our favorite is bass fishing on a nearby lake in our kayak. With no motor we’re not scaring the fish away, and it’s nice and quiet. And the catch-and-release is a thrill no video game can offer. After reminding my oldest of these benefits, we hit the water again.
Here are some tips we’ve learned that can maybe help your child, getting them off the video games and into the wild:
Everyone relieves stress in different ways. What works for some doesn’t necessarily work for others. That’s why you’ll find one guy running miles around the neighborhood, and another laying in a hammock. My son thought video games was his outlet, not realizing that the noise and intensity was actually causing more stress. Yeah, it was fun. And he had a good time with his friends. But at the end of the day, it drained his bucket rather than fill it. When he got back on the water, he remembered how life-giving fishing was for him. (By the way, for my youngest drawing in that sketchbook, turns out his stress relief is karate… who knew?)
I know some parents like to reward their kids with time on the video game. “Once you get your homework done, you can play for an hour,” or something similar. I’m all for video games, as long as we understand that there is balance there – and it’s not the prize at the end of the rainbow. Use video games as what it’s intended for: entertainment. But you can’t always be entertained. There is work to be done, hobbies to enjoy, and then the time when you do… nothing. Not every moment in a day needs to be filled with something. Sometimes the best moments are the times in-between. Remind your child that while video games are good, they are not the only thing in the world. Play for an hour with your friends, then turn it off and enjoy a hobby – like fishing with your dad (wink, wink).
Do you remember talking to your friends about that one video game you played with your dad? No? That’s probably because it either didn’t happen, or it wasn’t that memorable. You know what you do remember – when your dad spent time with you either working around the house or car, or with his hobby (for my dad it was boating, which naturally led me to fishing). I tell my sons that no virtual experience will ever trump a real world experience. It’s important to get outside, experience the true world, not just the digital one.
I know Fortnite isn’t completely gone from my life. But I’m glad to know my son has found his balance again. He’s able to recognize video games for what they are, and he’s beginning to find his own hobbies to enjoy. Some days he goes fishing with me, and others he’s the one running around the block. So there is hope if your kid is lured into the digital world, just turn off the WIFI, and take them to your favorite fishing spot. Even if he just draws pictures of the fish you catch you’re bound to have a great day!
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