A good video game can just suck you in. A strict self (or parent) imposed timeline may start with the best intentions, but can snowball quickly. “One more minute” turns into five, fifteen, an hour. By no means is this procrastination a reflection on video games; any interest or fun activity can take up more time than what you, as a parent, deem acceptable.
Unfortunately, these delays can interfere with schoolwork, other extracurricular activities, and plain ole unplugged analog family time.
Curb this with tried and true techniques for responsible gameplay:
What’s Going On?
Why don’t you like your child’s current routine? How much time are they spending playing in their leisure time? What are they playing, and is it right for their maturity level? How do they deal with the frustrations of gameplay, and how do they act when it is time to shut down the game for the day? Put your concerns in certain terms so you’re not running only off of frustration. Clear communication with yourself sets the stage for clear communication with your kids and others.
What Exactly Do You Want?
So you’ve got a problem. What would make it not a problem? What is your end goal? Two hours of play per day? Limited violence? Take into consideration issues of maturity and what other tasks your child could be completing, and make your decision.
Know What Is Coming Into Your Home.
Even more than knowing the title and genre of the games, really examine and talk about the games. Kidsrisk.org suggests some questions for gaming (and beyond!) to get your child thinking critically and “deconstructing” the media around them:
- Who made it and what were the producer’s goals or motives?
- What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in this message?
- How might other people interpret this message differently from yourself?
- What techniques were used to attract your attention, to affect your emotions?
- What is omitted from this message? Why was it left out?
Help Your Kids Prioritize.
If games are getting in the way of “real life,” set a priority list. Your ideal order could be: homework, chores, dinner, and then gaming. Figure out what works for your family and set it in motion.
Spend Valuable, Encouraging Time With Your Kids.
Even if you already do, this one bears repeating. Go shopping. Go for a walk or bike ride. Do something fun for everyone.
Get In The Game!
Video games don’t have to be an alienating medium. Decrease the divide between the digital world and your home by playing, showing an interest, or at least talking about the games your kids are playing. Having some common ground on the topic will not only help them think of you more like an ally than an adversary, but it may also give you a new perspective.
Be Firm (But Flexible)
At the end of the day, your kids will only take your rules as seriously as you do. If you’re constantly budging, they won’t. But a few more minutes every once in a while, perhaps as a reward, might do a world of good.
Enforce Your Consequences.
If your kid’s behavior isn’t up to snuff, don’t be afraid to take away that object of their affection, limit screen time, or move the PC or console to a community area in your home. Gaming is not a right — it is a privilege.