Taming Technology in the Home series:
● Taming Television in the Home
● Taming Video Games in the Home
● Taming the Internet in the Home
One of the dangers that comes along with TV, video games and the internet is the potential for wasted time. We have found this particularly true with video games. Video games can be incredibly addictive and time-consuming. If you are not careful, they can quickly turn into a giant sinkhole of wasted time for your child. How do you help your children manage their time with video games and other technology in the home? Here are some of the things we do.
- Set time limits: We allow our kids a set amount of time to play video games each week. We know if we did not set limits for them, video games could easily take over their lives. Most kids have not developed the willpower or self-control to make good choices in this area yet, so as parents we need to help them. Setting time limits for our children has allowed them to pursue other interests and to use their time more productively. (More on setting time limits below)
- Set alternate activities: Video games are not a priority in our home. School work, reading, musical instruments, activities and chores come first. When you require certain activities of your children, it automatically limits the time they have for other things. By setting up alternate activities, there is only so much time left over for video games.
- Kick them outside: We don’t do this one as often as we should, but there is nothing wrong with telling your kids to go outside and play for a couple hours. Kids are naturally creative, and they will find plenty of stuff to do.
- Know your kids’ games: Time isn’t the only problem with video games. Some games have inappropriate content. Be sure to read the ratings on your kids’ games and set the ground rules for what is and is not acceptable in your home. When your children get a new game, sit down and watch it with them to make sure you are comfortable with the content.
Now, I promised you I would tell you more about setting time limits. This was the biggest frustration at our home for the longest time. At first we just told our kids how much time they could spend. But then they would forget how long they had been playing. Next we tried sign-in sheets, but they would forget to sign in. Or they would sign in and forget to sign out, and then when they came back later to play they would have no idea how much time they had remaining. Sometimes it got so bad we thought about just getting rid of all the video games in the house. But we knew they enjoyed the games, and we didn’t mind them playing as long as they kept their time under control and were doing other things as well.
Then we discovered Bob. Bob solved all of our time problems when it came to video games overnight. Suddenly the kids knew how long they had been playing and when to stop. They began to monitor their own game time and budget it carefully through the week. We no longer had to get on their case or constantly police them. It was amazing. We like Bob! Bob is our friend.
You are probably wondering, who or what is Bob?
- Bob is an electronic time manager. It looks like a miniature ATM machine. You set the daily or weekly time limits, give your child a passcode, and Bob takes care of the rest. When your child exceeds their time limit, Bob shuts off the TV and will not turn it back on again. Bob can manage time for up to six different users. Bob set us back about $100, but it was worth it. We like Bob! Bob is our friend. We mostly use Bob for video games, but Bob can also be used to manage time spent watching TV.
So, what things have you done to help tame video games in your home? Feel free to share in the comments below.
Click here for next post in series: Taming the Internet in the Home
UPDATE: My wife pointed out to me that much of what I wrote in this post deals more with the past in our home than the present. There was a time when we really had to crack the whip with video games in the house, but it is no longer an issue. Our oldest son no longer has any time restrictions, and he does fine. And the younger two really don’t need the time restrictions anymore. They do plenty of other things on their own – including playing outside! So, sorry boys. I hope I didn’t make you look bad. It was not my intention, and it certainly does not reflect where you are at now. – Dad