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Posted on behalf of a friend of mine:

What are appropriate rules for how much time kids actually get to play video games (such as x-box 360, PlayStation 3, or on the PC)?

Apparently we are the ONLY parents who set limits. Everybody else's mom and dad lets them play as much as they want. Thats what my son says anyway. It is all he ever wants to do and we are about ready to get rid of it!!! He wants to know what he has to do to earn time to play it more. How should I handle this?

Is there a different set of rules for limits on "social" games, where he's actively playing with his friends (either in person or over the internet)?

My son is 12 years old.

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Whatever you do add a day once a while they can play a huge block of time untill they are completely tired of it. Only setting limits would get them into a habit of wanting to play. –  Barfieldmv Mar 12 '12 at 21:08
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Apparently we are the ONLY parents who set limits. (...) Thats what my son says anyway. I find that claim hard to believe, your friend should ask the other parents. –  Treb Mar 14 '12 at 12:34
    
@Treb She did (that's how I got the question to ask). The answer was that most of her friends who are parents set some sort of limits. –  Beofett Mar 14 '12 at 13:03
    
Ah, I thought so... ;-) –  Treb Mar 14 '12 at 13:16
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I'm sure someone smart once said "anything in excess is a vice" or something like that. If not, then I said it. Just now. –  tylerl Mar 19 '12 at 2:55

4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

YES! Not only is it reasonable, it is IMHO parental malpractice not to limit video games, the internet, and telephone usage.

Clearly, the video games have tremendous value to him. Among other things, that gives you powerful leverage! Use it well.

My practice with video games, movies, texting, and any other similar amusement was:

  1. A daily limit is imposed. The time started lower (30 minutes at 5yrs) and gradually raised. In high school it was 3 hours, but she never got close other than for texting.

  2. They are not to be touched until homework and chores are done. No exceptions.

  3. They are suspended if the grades are below our standards, or if there are any behavior or discipline issues at school.

  4. They are suspended whenever the child mistreats or is disrespectful to anyone else, for a period to fit the offense.

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When I was teaching high schoolers, I wished more parents would set limits like this. I got so sick of hearing, "I didn't have time to do my homework" and then I later hear that they spent the afternoon/evening playing xBox. Your homework would have taken you maybe 30 minutes if you'd bothered to do it!! –  Meg Coates Mar 12 '12 at 22:24
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+1: Nice clear list. –  deworde Mar 12 '12 at 23:02
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I agree except for number three: If bad grades are a result of spending too much time playing instead of learning, then yes, but the daily limit should take care of that. I think you shouldn't punish your child for getting bad grades (discipline problems are a different matter). –  Treb Mar 14 '12 at 12:32
    
@Treb I agree in theory but not in practice. Except in the most demanding of classes, grades are virtually 100% correlated with effort and discipline. –  tomjedrz Mar 15 '12 at 15:18
    
@tomjedrz: I think that there are many causes of bad grades, which have nothing to do with a lack of discipline. Seems that we disagree on this one... –  Treb Mar 15 '12 at 19:53

"Apparently we are the ONLY parents who set limits. Everybody else's mom and dad lets them play as much as they want. That's what my son says anyway... My son is 12 years old."

If I had a penny... Of course your son thinks you're the only parents who set real limits. Who kicks their kid off the Playstation when they've got a friend over?

I was a massive game player when I was 12, and can't say that I regret spending my time in that way, as I've got a lot of happy memories of playing with friends, seeing new imaginary worlds etc.

But I rather like the news post that was attached to the comic below.

We believe, like every cognizant being, that progenitors should arbitrate the media consumption of the organisms they create. In other words, parents should parent. One sees this sentiment everywhere. As an axiom, it’s incredibly compact. As a life edict, especially for enthusiasts of interactive media, it’s somewhat more complex.

This is how Gabriel the Younger invests his leisure hours - in the construction and demolition of imaginary worlds. You can’t tell me, or at any rate I will refuse to hear, that this doesn’t have value. I’m not sure that eight consecutive hours of it on a daily basis is entirely necessary, but placing it somewhere along the continuum of Play as opposed to “Wasting Your Goddamned Time” seems reasonable to me.

-- Jerry Holkins, Penny Arcade

Do not get rid of the gaming machine. For children who may have trouble socially, it can be a source of controlled social interaction without peer.

However, you are his parents. If you need to regulate his time with the machine, and you should, simply draw up a list of tasks that he needs to do before he can play.

My advice would be to not be too ridiculous about the list. Set it up so he can get it all done, and still have at least an hour's gaming time, otherwise he will (not unreasonably), argue that there's no point in him agreeing to something where the scales are so biased against him drawing on his part of the deal. Also, you'd just be encouraging him to stay up late.

Frankly, I suspect this is my future

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The Penny Arcade quote and comic alone deserves +1! Good answer. –  Beofett Mar 12 '12 at 23:22
    
Seemed appropriate... –  deworde Mar 13 '12 at 9:54

I think everyone's definition of 'reasonable' will be different--not to mention every child's situation would be different.

I think as a general rule, the best would be:

Is the amount of time playing video games interfering with the child's other important life tasks? If so, add a limit to lessen the amount of time they are playing.

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I'll take comic disagreement with DA01, and say that any reasonable person knows what reasonable means.

To answer the question about placing limits, the answer is yes . . . but like everything else, all things in moderation. Limiting after school game play to that magical time between when they get home and when you get home is reasonable. OTOH, Kicking the entire console out the door is not reasonable.

Any limitations should be placed with a dose of realism. The above example of "the time right after school" sounds ridiculous... "They should use that time for homework! And chores!" and that's right, they should. BUT, like most latchkey kids, they're unsupervised during that time. Attempting to impose a limit when nobody is there to enforce it is a setup for failure.

You can easily parent into it though:

You know what you should do? You should do your homework first thing when you get home, then you don't have it staring you in the face to do later after I get home. Now, you know you're supposed to turn it off after we get home and I've noticed you hemming and hawing about doing your homework at that point, probably because you're still jazzed from the game. But if you do it early and get it out of the way, I have absolutely no problem comping you the game later on.

You're being reasonable by allowing them to play while you're not there. It's not out of the question to expect them to be reasonable as well. At 10-12 (preteen yrs) I think it's a good idea to communicate that expectation.

Of course I've elaborated on a single scenario. I think the point is that you can set a limitation that makes sense and is achieveable. You might even discuss some options and come to some kind of systemic agreement with your kid.

As far as getting rid of it altogether, I think that would be a big mistake. For a preteen, it could easily sow interpersonal issues completely unrelated to video games and could develop into a serious, long term wedge issue.

Bottom line: be reasonable with your limitations and you should get a reasonable response.

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But... but kids aren't reasonable! –  Koveras yesterday

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