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Enforcing computer/video game limits

August 26th, 2008 / 10 Comments

“If I keep asking and asking and asking, eventually my mom will give in.”

Kids have an innate ability to manipulate their parents to get what they want.

When it comes to allowing them to play computer/video games, we as parents are most vulnerable to giving in.

We set time limits and consequences, but somehow, our kids know to get the best of us and break our resolve.

“Just 5 more minutes.”

“I just have to finish this level.”

“Wait, I’m almost finished. I just have to save the game.”

We simply get tired of the fight.

Here are some reasons why we give in:

1. We hate to be the bad guy every minute. It’s not that we never say No to our kids. We are used to saying No to staying out late or buying an extravagant toy. But with computer/video games, it’s a constant every day, every hour battle, not an occasional No. It’s no fun being a policeman at home every minute.

2. We hate to see our kids unhappy. We know we can’t make our kids happy all the time. But with computer/video games, our kids get so irritable when they don’t get to play. They are mope around restless, and then become so alive when they get to play. The addictive nature of the games produces those kinds of emotions in our children.

3. We rationalize our decision to let them play. After all, they could be doing worst things, right? At least they’re not on drugs.

4. We rationalize their behavior. After all, they finished their homework, they are getting good grades. They deserve to have some down time.

5. We like the peace. Honestly, the house is quiet and peaceful when the kids are playing computer/video games. They don’t bother us, they’re not fighting with each other, they don’t even need snacks when they’re playing video games. We can get several hours of free time when they’re playing their games.

Life would be so much easier for us if we simply give in to our kids and let them have their games.

But I encourage you to do the hard thing. Enforce the time limits and even take away the game system completely if you have to. Game addiction is a very real thing that we as parents have to contend with on a daily basis.

Read other posts in this series –

Video Game Addiction

Internet Use Contract

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  1. Our kids see us as slot machines. We must never pay out.

  2. Before being a parent, it sounds so easy to just say no. Although video games are a long way off, I can see now why it is such a challenge.

  3. Writer Dad: Excellent way to describe it!

    Stationery Guy: it’s a bigger challenge as your kids get older!

  4. I had a lot of trouble enforcing time limits for all the reasons you mention above. I built and now use a simple timer program that lets me set time limits (like 1 hour/weekday and no more than 30 minutes at one sitting). The program gives the kids audible reminders like “5 minutes left” and logs them off when their time is up. It has ended all the fighting over computer time in our house, and I feel like a better parent for using it. Now I have to explicitly take action to give the kids time rather than to take it away. You can try my software to enforce computer time limits. It’s called “TimesUpKidz”. Let me know if it helps you and what you think of it.

  5. My parents have decided to set limits on my computer time and it is not even the bare minimum for someone my age (16). It has gotten to the point where cant really do anything. I tell my friends and other family member (aunts uncles cousins) about my parents limits and I’ve had friends who tell me if they were in my situation they’d kill themselves, I also have friends in worse than my situation who are extremely depressed. I don’t think limiting computer time is bad it’s just when it gets to the point where it is taking away a ridiclous amount for what is needed. Yeah that’s right needed the computer has become the main way for information, communication, entertainment, and socilization. Anyway I just want to warn some of the parents when you decide to set limits to not make them too steep, because mine did and I have not been the same since I’ve lost touch with friends, i’ve lost a lot of upbeatness I used to have, and I have become extremely depressed.

  6. Son: Thanks for giving parents a different perspective. I think that your parents hope that without computers, you will be forced to find a real life outside of computer that makes you happy and productive.

    If you haven’t done so, listen to my podcast with a former game addict –

  7. “Son”, I admit that the computer is a required part of modern life and is certainly much more of a necessity for younger kids who use it for socializing/communicating with friends. I think your comment makes sense. I am curious what you think is a reasonable amount of time and what you do on the PC. I recommend you have a conversation with your parents where you calmly discuss with them (1) your LEGITIMATE NEEDS, such as being in touch with friends, or fulfilling your curiosity about the world via exploring the Internet and (2) your negative FEELINGS having to do with your needs not being met by the rules your parents have put in place. These feelings are probably isolation, sadness, worry, etc. Keep the focus on your own needs and feelings, rather than attacking your parents, like “I feel that you are out of touch with modern life” or “I feel like you just want to control me.” I think that would form a good basis for progress on this issue with your parents. You could also ask your parents what their feelings and needs are. I suspect they are worried you are going to grow up socially isolated and want you off the computer so you can be in the real world. Its ironic that you both probably want the same thing – that you are socially connected – but you disagree on how to get there. I’d also offer to teach them what it is you do on the computer so they can see it isn’t a bunch of nonsense. I don’t know how they are enforcing limits, but I recently added a new feature to my program ( that lets parents set a weekly limit so older kids can have more freedom to choose when to use their available time.

  8. Good comment, Justin.

    Son, if you show your parents that you can have a life outside of computers for your own good, then as Justin says, you can talk to them about lengthening your computer time.

  9. Im currently a member of three teams at my high school and 5 different clubs. I have A’s and B’s. I am not in to drugs and alcohol and have a good set of friends. And I have talked with them but it seems useless because I “never” know what I’m talking about according to them. Whatever hopefully it will get better

  10. Tonight I spoke with my dad and I am on my way to getting my needs met for using the computer with out seriously affecting my regular life. Thanks for the advice to get the conversation rolling with my parents Justin.


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