Gaming Journal: Week 5 – 5 Tips To Help Kids Choose to Monitor Their Own Screen Time

Early video games. "Dad, can I push the buttons?"

Early video games. “Dad, can I push the buttons?”

No board games this week. Life got in the way of board games –but I was able to give Love Letter as a birthday gift to a friend.

We played on the Wii for a surprising amount of time this week. Most of it was instigated by me. I know some parents would glare unapprovingly in my direction if they knew the exact amount of time, but that is my concern and not theirs.

When my daughter tests for her Tae Kwon Do belts, the kids have to write goals on their boards before they break them. Over the last few months, there has been a trend toward statements like, “I will play less video games and read more.” There was one test where out of twelve kids, only two didn’t make that statement. My husband and I sat baffled. Isn’t it an easy thing to deal with? Can’t a parent walk in and say,”Hi, you have been playing for 30 minutes. Please shut it off and do your homework/chores.” Or, better yet, “Since you finished your homework/chores feel free to play video games for the next 30-60 minutes.”

We count ourselves fortunate to not currently have this problem. We instituted a system when our oldest was three. These are the rules we follow so we don’t have to fight about how much time is spent playing video games:

Award tokens: You can either give a set amount per week or have them be earned. We chose to have the kids earn them. They earn tokens by doing chores without being asked, having their rooms clean when I do random checks, and other random things. Five tokens will earn a child an hour of video games on any given device.

Have a free day: There are some days, especially during the holidays, that it’s a good thing to just sit and vegetate in front of a good video game. You’ll be surprised that if your kids know these opportunities will be given once every few months, that they won’t want to play video games all of the time.

Fuel the interest in the game: Our son, for example is four. He LOVES Star Wars Angry Birds on the Kindle. He equally loves playing with all of the board games that have come out in the same theme and the National Geographic books. Most popular video games have other marketing tools to get you to spend money. Sometimes, it is worth it. Our daughter is a fan of multiple popular games like Skylanders, Pokémon, and Minecraft. All of these games have books and guides that can fuel a kid’s interest in wanting to read.

Give a time limit: Since our kids are younger, we set a limit of an hour when they are using their tokens. When it’s a free day, I keep my eye on the two hour mark, but the kids never make it that long.

Who’s the parent?:Remind your child that rules are set up for a reason. Playing is fine, but they also have other responsibilities just like their parents.

Honestly, the kids only ask to use their tokens about once a week. Earning the tokens encourages the kids to be respectful and responsible which are both good traits to have mastered as adults.

On an ending note, I have a friend who has no limits on how much time her kids spend playing games. She previously wrote about it on her blog. I tip my hat to her.  If I didn’t really like having video games as an award system, I would probably be right there with her.

Do you limit your kids video game play? Do you think your kids play too much? How do you regulate how much time your kids play?

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