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What can I do to encourage my 12 year old son to do more productive things?

My daughter, age 13, dominated the "public children laptop" which was meant to be shared with her younger brother. The summer finally came upon us, but she had gotten sucked into the laptop and spent almost all day on it; watching anime 60% of the time, playing the MMO runescape another 30% of the time; and otherwise skyping her friend from school.

For better or worse, the laptop's screen was just cracked and is now virtually unusable. I see this as a good opportunity for her to go find a hobby, activity, etc. that she could really like or maybe even be passionate about.

What i need are some sites, ideas, or books that will help her discover some new things to do that she will like to do more than watching anime. Any pointers? Thanks in advance!

if this helps: she also likes to.....

  • Draw, and learn to draw from youtube
  • Make things out of colorful ductape
  • Spend time with friends about 2 days of the week
  • be creative
  • NOT do anything requiring hand-eye coordination
  • 3
    One thing that troubles me is why wait until 13yo to find her a hobby? You should have started 8 years ago. Music, sports, arts...etc.
    – user896
    Jul 9, 2011 at 3:31
  • 3
    It sounds like she is passionate about things already - just not things you like. Tread carefully. My parents respected the fact they didn't understand what the hell I saw in sitting in front of a computer all the time, and I am a successful professional with a family and a sense of balance. I "grew out" of 30-hour game marathons and what have you, without any external influence. Some people suggest books. I don't see what the difference is between being engrossed by in book reading or watching anime.
    – Doug
    Nov 30, 2011 at 21:55
  • Wouldn't drawing or learning to draw require hand-eye coordination?
    – rando
    May 24, 2023 at 12:19

5 Answers 5


My suggestions are:

  • Check out your local community college pre-teen and kids' non-credit courses. Sit down with your daughter to see if any spark her interest.
  • Check out your park district classes. See if any interest her.
  • Check out your local library; ours has monthly anime/manga fan meetups and people come in routinely to teach how to draw in various cartooning styles.
  • If you're religious, see if your local place of worship has a youth group that does interesting activities (e.g. some have weekly meetings or events where the kids get together for sports, arts and crafts, or volunteering)
  • See if you can find a charity in the area that is looking for volunteers. Nursing homes and vets' hospitals often are looking for young people to just sit with the vets and do arts and crafts.

I really suggest the community college route if yours is anything like our local one. I have a sister who started learning Photoshop 1.0 at age 11 and is now a professional graphics designer--all because of a community college pre-teen class. It sounds like perhaps some direction for her creativity is in order. Many community colleges and park districts have classes on everything from film to animation to drawing anime-style.

Community colleges often have resources beyond your usual "arts and crafts" section of your typical big box store. Our local community college offers courses in everything from woodworking to creating stop-motion animation and making holograms. By the same token, our park district has some pretty nice resources too.

You could also check out a basic programming class for kids her age; if she spends a lot of time on the computer, perhaps a class that helps her design a simple MUD or similar game would pique her interest.

Otherwise, volunteering might help her feel good about herself by using her talents to help others, and simultaneously help her be more selfless (since you mentioned she was being a little selfish with the computer).

Good luck!

  • +1 for Library, I'd offer this as a suggestion regardless.
    – MichaelF
    Jul 1, 2011 at 15:49
  • To add to the meetup thing, Meetup.com is a great place to find meetups, as well.
    – Shauna
    Jul 5, 2011 at 20:49

Good old fashioned taking the computer away is my first thought. Just be consistent with a time limit. Kids hate never knowing when a parent is going to come in and say it seems like they've been on the computer "long enough." The guarantee of a minimum helps them accept an enforced maximum.

As for what to do instead, kids usually figure that out for themselves. A weekly trip to the library or a summer pass to the local public pool are some ideas for starters.

  • Why? If your kid doesn't want to do anything else, it sounds like you need to help them find other things to do, not take away the one thing they do like. Jul 15, 2011 at 7:12
  • there is software out there that can enforce time limits, etc.
    – Muad'Dib
    Jul 20, 2011 at 5:22

Automated parental control.

you define:

  1. X hours a day max
  2. Range for those allowable hours a day (e.g. after 9am before 7pm)


  1. Kids understand the system is automated
  2. No "begging" to parents for "more time". PC cannot be persuaded to stray from protocol
  3. Kids find other things to occupy themselves with
  • 4
    you're totally wrong. depending on the type of software we're talking about, and it varies, this type of parental control is unbreakable for kids who are not hackers but casual computer game players, and hard for those who are. If my son developed hacking skills to defeat my protections, i'd be proud of him. In the mean time, there's nothing he can do about it.
    – JasonGenX
    Jul 2, 2011 at 17:51
  • 1
    hmm, I spent 10 minutes trying to understand this comment before realizing it comes from the same person as in the answer... Someone deleted a comment, it's confusing...
    – user896
    Jul 9, 2011 at 3:25

I would suggest "books". I got sucked into books when I first read Enid Blyton, and it was then that I learned about the world of imagination. Since then, books has been my main entertainment.

I would suggest something easier to read, like Enid Blyton, and then proceeding to more exciting and stimulating books.

Other ideas are :


But, I still think "books" is the best.


First of all I find it odd that you say: "What i need are some sites, ideas, or books..." Think about what you are saying, you want sites on the computer to help your child figure out what to do when she is not on the computer!!

Screen time is not something that should be done everyday and I second and third the above suggestions of a time limit.

In terms of what else to do: arrange more playdates so she has someone to do something with, in our house playdates are PLAYdates! Sounds like she is into crafts, which are always a great thing--try going with her to the store (Michael's is always a good place) and letting her choose things that she likes.

You say she doesn't do things with hand eye coordination, however, as a technology teacher I can tell you that using the computer IS hand-eye coordination!

Another thing to do is engage her in games WITH you! She may complain at the start, but face time with a parent is the best thing you can do for a child of any age.

And talk to HER, ask her what she thinks. Have her survey her peers about what they like. Tell her what you like to do in your free time. Ask the teacher what he/she sees as strengths that may develop into a hobby.

good luck.

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