What can you do about your son/daughter’s gaming habit? They spend hours on their device and refuse to come off.
We’ve all been there. I suspect all parents of tweens and teens have. Your son/daughter is passionate about the latest video/computer/phone game and refuses to come off it. When they do, their mood has changed, and all they can think about is playing again. Here are some tips for how to manage the situation and strike a balance. From experience, this approach works provided we as parents are firm, fair and consistent.
1. Change the rules – so your child has to earn all game time on each and every platform.
Yes, that will be a sea change for some. No earning means no game time. The most important currency then becomes ‘how’ to earn game time. It can also be a valuable lever to getting homework, etc. done. It will most likely lead to a reduction in gaming time as well.
2. Enforce the ‘earning’ of game-time by making your child earn it upfront before they play.
No earning = no game time. Harsh at first, but guess what? Your child will learn and adapt provided they know you mean it.
3. Agree start and end times to gaming – and give a count-down ten and five minutes before ‘off-time’.
This is important. It is the deal. It goes something like – ‘it’s now seven o’clock, you need to come off your <device> by eight o’clock. Agreed?’ And when that time arrives – ideally on a clock next to the gaming screen – the session is declared over. Fresh air and exercise straight afterwards is a great idea – to calm them down.
4. Off means off – pull out the plug if necessary and be strong.
When the pre-agreed session is over, it has to end. By reason, then cajoling, and if all else fails by pulling out the plug/broadband. There are limiter devices out there if needed.
5. 60 minutes a weekend day maximum – and mean it – beware the 60 to 90 to 120 time creep. Should there be any game time allowed during the week? Your call.
It’s your call on how long a gaming session is allowed to be. My view is that 60 minutes a day at weekends is plenty. Week day gaming is probably not a great idea, because of homework, focus on school etc. Or perhaps you could agree the frequency upfront. Daily to me is a straight no way. Late night gaming is also a no, no. Sleep is important and gaming impairs sleep.
6. Bring in healthy and fun alternatives as well.
A reading hour – with a physical book (it’s why I began writing btw.). A walk. A sporting activity. A visit to somewhere fun. A fun TV program with the family. It’s your choice. I suggest including some of these as the means to earning gaming time as well. e.g. read a decent book for an hour. Swim ten lengths, etc.
7. Share their passion (within reason).
I suggest it is better to know what games they are playing, and to occasionally join in, than to disapprove of their gaming altogether. If their choice of game is completely unsuitable (e.g. 18 and immoral) withdrawing/uninstalling the game is clearly a good idea. You are in charge and you set the limits.
8. Grounded also means no gaming time.
If our child has earned a grounding that also means no gaming time. It may well be the most valuable currency you have to barter with for better behaviour.
9. No gaming machines in their bedrooms at night. And avoid outright bans if possible.
Whatever we think about gaming, I suggest it is better to suggest/promote a healthier game than to try and eliminate gaming from children’s lives. Prohibition tends to lead to rebellion, stand-offs and finding ways around the ban. Just as with adult bans.
That said, a gaming machine (of any kind) in their bedroom is just asking for an all-night session when you are asleep or the babysitter is in charge. If you allow it, you are allowing free-reign for your child in my humble opinion. Remember, games are fun and addictive.
10. The currency they have to ‘earn’ is what you decide. It is also your biggest bargaining chip.
I suggest it should include a mixture of: doing their homework, instrument practice, chores, having a good attitude, going for a run, working hard at school. walking the dog, tidying their room. Anything within reason provided the measures are ‘fair’ and ‘measurable’. This is where the balance comes in – which is where you set the standards as parents. Work = reward. Just as in life. You may find they work harder to earn the currency they want. If not, take a step back and review your options. Putting the games in the loft for a while is a possibility…
I hope you find these tips useful. From experience, they can lead to a win-win, with a few (inevitable) tantrums along the way.
I write books to encourage youngsters to read (and also because I enjoy it).
Best of luck,