How Do You Regulate the Use of Video Games?

Updated on January 06, 2009
J. asks from Minneapolis, MN
19 answers

We got a Wii for our two kids (and my husband) for Christmas. They have played a lot over the holidays but now that we're back to our regular schedule, I need to reign it in a bit. How much time do you give your kids on video games? Everyday or how often? Do you tie it to a rewards system? Thanks for any insight!

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answers from Appleton on

I refused to allow video games in the house. I know shocking but I have always felt that they are a total waste of time and electricity and the kids get enough game time at their friends houses.
Try setting a time each day for playing, but I have heard from friends that video games can be addictive. In that case I would either take the unit off the TV and lock it up or just the game paddles.

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answers from Des Moines on

I have a 12 year old son who loves video games. He has been diagnosed with ADHD but has never been medicated. When he was in second grade, I noticed a very strong link between his ability to concentrate in school and the amount of screen time (video games, cartoons, computer time). I sat down one night and tried to watch a cartoon that he enjoyed and watch him play his video games, and I had a serious headache. They were so busy, and I realized if this was his "normal" then how could school ever compete for his attention.

My rule for his video games and TV time is that on a school night no video games are allowed, and very limited TV time, meaning that if I have the TV turned on and it is age appropriate, we can watch together. On weekends or non school nights it is completely tied to behavior and is time limited. Too much TV or video games seems to make him have a really stinking attitude. So anytime it starts affecting his behavior the games or TV stop immediately. That was a long way of saying that each child has different level of tolerance, and you should set whatever limitations on each child depending on their ability to handle it.



answers from Minneapolis on

When we got our Wii last summer I had planned to type up written rules about it, but so far it has worked to just play it by ear so I haven't done that yet. I just try to strive for moderation although they are not allowed to play before school. Sometimes my younger son (his bus comes late) will get to play a little DS in the morning IF he is completely ready for school and his chores are done. I have heard a general rule of 1-2 hours per day, but I think that can be a lot of they are playing every day. Our kids don't play every day. The biggest problem has been when they want it at the same time and want to play different games. Then we have used a timer. I have considered a "schedule." One on my son's friend's family does have written rules. They are not allowed to play video games during the week and have limited time on the weekends. Electronics time (video games, computer, DS) are usually the first things we take away when the kids need consequences for their behavior. We hesitated a long time before we got our Wii because I really didn't want to battle over video game time (our boys are 9 and 12 and this is our first gaming system), but it hasn't been too much of a problem so far. We finally got it because I got tired of them always going to other people's houses to play video games and I had no control over the type of games and amount of time they played. I found out they had both played Mature-rated games at friend's houses. Good luck and enjoy your Wii!



answers from Minneapolis on

We are some of the "mean" parents who didn't give the Wii this year, because we couldn't see spending that amount of cash on it, and 2) I already see an obsession by my son (age 7) with video games on our computer. I too see it as another thing to compete with. I like good old-fashioned play that requires creativity, though we certainly aren't perfect! I think only you can know in your gut what is the right amount of time; if it's robbing from precious family time I would reign it in.



answers from St. Cloud on

We had a chart that was divided into three sections: Things I do for me (brush teeth, comb hair, take shower, get dressed, etc.), Things I do because I'm part of a family (get the mail, set table, clear table, wash dishes, shake rugs, clean room, care for pets, etc.), and Things I do because I'm part of school, church or community (homework, SS lesson, practicing, scouts, 4-H, etc.) Each time one of our sons completed the daily tasks on any of the sections, he earned a specific amount of screen time which he then had to budget as he used it for TV screen, computer monitor or video games. If he "needed" more time, he could always do more chores, reading or practicing to earn it.

Family TV movie nights that were planned by parents did not use up screen time and parents could choose to award or gift more time in recognition of especially good behavior.


answers from La Crosse on

my boys get to play the games after supper only during the week. on the weekend (or day's off of school) they get to play for a couple hours during the day then after supper. but they have to have all chores and homework done before they get to. if they acted out at all during the day before the game time they don't get to play. if they fight while playing its shut off. it doesn't matter who started it. during the summer when its nice out they get it only after supper agian. i will set a timer for 15mins then they have to switch, they rotate since there is three of them. they draw names on who gets to play first. then draw for what one gets to the twice in a row (being three one gets to play twice in a row while one switches).



answers from Milwaukee on

I have three kids and I think an hour a day is a lot during the school week. I too have the same issue, as we played a new video music game during the break and watched tv without the regular limits. Since my kids have homework, and we try not to really allow much tv during the week anyway (we try to keep an earlier bedtime as well) I would say video games on the weekend only and a little tv during the week (after homework is done and not right before bedtime). I think a good time for my kids to do any computer/video/tv time is while I am making dinner. Also, I try to tell myself that indulging them every now and then is okay too.



answers from Davenport on

My little girl is only 2, so we don't have this issue yet. BUT, as a kid, my parents had the rule of only 1 hour of TV (this would be all "screen" nowadays, but we didn't have a computer or gaming system) a day, and that was after all chores and homework were done....Anything that we watched WITH mom and dad didn't count against our time. And yes, eliminating TV time was the first thing to go for punishments. I grew up as a good student/contributing family and community member, and a great reader, and I still am.

Also - I think becuase I was involved in so many activities outside the house, rather than the TV/videogames/Computer, I never had a weight problem as a kid, I was too busy. (Now I am still busy, but it seems to have the opposite effect, when you have kids and don't take any time for yourself!)

Anyway, I think everyone had some good reccommendations....and I would say definitely after all chores and homework are done, then a limited amount of time per day.

Good Luck!




answers from Grand Forks on

When I was a kid my mom would give my brother two hours a day after his homework and chores were all done. Video games were addicting and sometimes my sisters and I had to bully him off of it when my mom had to work late. It worked for us. I'd say do what works best for your family whether you let them play an hour a day, weekends only or tie it to a rewards system. If something doesn't work, try another approach. You can always take it away to get your point across! I wish I could take my husbands xbox 360 away but that's a whole other story!! GL!



answers from Minneapolis on

I liked the suggestions by others and would add these guidelines:

1. Each minute of "screen time" requires a minute of reading time.
2. Managing the types of games can also be beneficial. On our WII we have WII Fit so that's actually beneficial to kids, as is Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader. If it's educational (instead of shoot 'em up or racing type games) more time could be allowed.

Good luck! Hope you continue to enjoy WII ... we love it!



answers from Minneapolis on

My son isn't old enough yet for video games, so I've put myself in this hypothetical situation.... Monday through Thursday, between chores and school work, I would say not at all. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 1, maybe 2, hours per day, with chores and school work having to be done FIRST.

If they misbehave, taking away video games or the t.v. for "x" amount of time is a just punishment.

I visited a relative's house over the holidays, and I was there from 1:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. The kids were playing video games the ENTIRE time I was there. Not good.



answers from Minneapolis on

We have always had the same rule -- thirty minutes of screen time (for video games, computer, or TV) on weekdays, and two and a half hours for the weekend.

Sometimes the boys watch an hour on a weekday, "borrowing" from another day, and when that day comes, they don't get any screen time. On weekends they keep track of their time -- one kid spreads it out, a half hour here, a half hour there, and the other uses it all up on an NFL game. (We Tivo the games so he can skip the commercials and be done in two and a half hours.)

It's really worth it, as my kids read every day for fun, much longer than they spend on screen time.



answers from Rochester on

We got our Wii about a year and a half ago, and we LOVE it. There's a lot of learning games for our son, party games for when our friends come over, and the Wii Fit for me and the hubby (my son loves it too, and it's great on cold days to help him burn off his excess energy!). It times how long you play each game on the main Wii screen, so I always know if my son's gone over his limit for the day.

As far as what we allow him to play, as long as homework is done, and he's done his reading for the day, we let him play for 20-30 minutes (more if he helps with extra cleaning around the house like dishes or laundry). We also allow a little extra time on the weekends if it's something all three of us are playing together (like I Spy, Mario Party, etc).

I'd say as long as school work and chores are done, a half hour a day is fine. Enjoy your Wii! It's a great family console! :)


answers from Milwaukee on

Homework and Chores are done (and depending on age you may need to check). Also weather permitting have to play outside at least an hour before video games. Then you can set a time limit of how long (this included both computer games & Wii/PS2 games), mine has always been an hour a day (including myself and hubby).

If it seems that the video games are getting out of hand during the week then say 30 mins during school nights and an hour on Friday & Sat (as long as chores, homework, outdoor play has all been done). It can and will be a struggle but hopefully your family will adjust quickly.

If there are low grades, chores not done well, got in trouble at school or home then video games and TV were the first to go. Usually for a few days.



answers from Rochester on

We have a Wii and an Xbox 360. My boys are 6 and 10 and they are not allowed to play either of the systems during the week. On the weekend, they do play quite a bit, but they also spend time outside, read, and play with other toys. We do however take it away if they misbehave.



answers from Minneapolis on

My kids are still too young for video games, but I have a friend who ties it to reading. She gives one hour of video game play for every 20 minutes of reading, but you could do more or less depending on what would work best for your kids.



answers from Omaha on

Before Christmas our boys (8 and 5) had a game cube and also liked to play games on the computer. Our rule has always been no video games or computer games, unless educational maybe, on school nights. For Christmas they got a Wii and the older a DS, the younger a Leapster. We have stuck with our rule of no playing on school nights except of course for educational games (Brain Age for DS, all learning with the Leapster, it's great!). Other than for the long holiday break, when the boys are allowed to play it is usually only allowed for 1 hour a day, and that depends on behaviour or finished chores. Hope this helps!



answers from Waterloo on

We got our boys a Wii for Christmas too. Even though today is their first day back to school after the Christmas break I plan on letting them play it after school only (the mornings are just too hectic) and just trusting my gut as to when they've had enough. We've already used it as a "you're grounded" tool. Our 5 yr old is actually grounded from it today. So far that's been very effective.



answers from Lincoln on

The very reason I will not own a game system such a WII is because the kids would never put it down and it would be another fight I am not willing to deal with. We have ONE Nintendo DS and it belongs to ME. (Yes I like to play the games.) They are all allowed to play the game for half an hour each then they have to give it to the next kid.
At one time each of the older kids had a gameboy, but they would not do their chores so they each lost them. Now I refuse to buy any video game system other then the DS.
By setting down restrictions on the amount of time each kid is allowed to play the DS we have avoided problems, if one of them refuses to go by my rules I tell them to hand it over and NONE of them get to play with it and it sits by my chair on the charger.
But then, I've been known as the mean mom for nearly 16yrs now, doesn't bother me any.

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