Setting Limits on Tv/video Games

Updated on January 25, 2009
K.M. asks from Hermosa Beach, CA
34 answers

Hello Mamas!

I have a 5 year old son and 1 year old daughter. So far my son only watches PBS along with some disney movies. He loves legos, blocks and creative play. (1 year old has no interest in TV). Unfortunately, his uncle bought him a little video game for Christmas. You plug it into the TV, it's a disney video game, pretty basic with 4 or 5 different games on it. At first he didn't really express much interest in it, but after playing it a few times and getting the hang of it, he wants to play more & more. My husband and I both hate video games and grew up playing outside until dark, and were both very active in sports etc. anyway...most kids today seem to have video games. What limits do you set? Do you have a set time limit for video and TV? what about computer time? Lately he likes to play around on my computer too. (usually just clicking around on my iphotos. :)
thanks!

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So What Happened?

Just wanted to thank everyone for their input. I got lots of varied responses and discussed with my husband. I like the idea of the popsicle sticks in the cup and using those in certain increments of time. We're working on setting some limits that are right for our family & i'm glad we're doing it now before he gets into grade school. Thanks again mamas!

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V.M.

answers from Los Angeles on

i wish i could remember the name or the author of the book, but i don't so i'll be just hearsay - absolutely NO video games computer or TV kind until he can read and experienced that books can be entertaining. once he read his 21st book, e-game once a week just to "keep up" with peers or find a like-minded playmate and avoid it even longer.

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K.J.

answers from Los Angeles on

Video game addiction starts early. When my son was younger (he's now 10) I would dole out coupons that I made on the computer, for TV/Video Game time. He was in control (for the most part) about when he used the tickets. I would give him two 30 minute tickets for video games per day. You can adjust as you see fit. If you think 30 minutes per day is long enough, give him two 15 minute tickets so he can stop and play later or play the entire 30 minutes in one fell swoop. When the tickets are gone, no more electronic entertainment until the next day.

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M.Z.

answers from Reno on

My kids got handheld game systems for Christmas and what we're saying is no more than 15-20 min, 3 times a day. I like the time to be broken up so they don't look like zombies. I know some people think that amount of time is even too long, but it's cold up here and they can't spend much time outside. When it warms up we'll shorten the time. Whatever amount of time you feel is acceptable is what you should go with. How you handle it now, will help guide him when he's older and around video games more.

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M.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

I agree with you one million percent!! That's pretty high - LOL!

My kids are 3.5 and 6. We set limits on TV, computer and video games. The two only watch "quality TV" noggin, pbs and Mommy/Daddy approved movies (-: I love the days where we don't watch any tv, play video games or computer and we have plenty of those days. However, when they do want to do any of the above, I've found for TV, I limit it to half our to hour of TV a day (on average) and on average that is probably 5 days a week. To me, that seems like a lot but it's really only one or two shows. Friday and Saturday night are movie night so as a family we watch a video. For now they both only have Leapsters and I haven't had to ask them to stop playing. So far about a half hour is their limit. I do think 30 minutes at this age is fair for video games. As they get older and the games are more complicated, they will need more time. But then you could say, you have an hour a day to play a video game, watch TV or play on the computer - one hour only so if they want to watch TV for an hour fine, play a game for an hour, fine - half and half, you get it! You aren't there yet, since he is only 5. Then the computer. My kids have a few games on the computer they play too. They don't ask every day but when they do, I set the timer for 20 - 30min. just depending on the time of the day - no more than that. Above all of this, we get out a ton! The kids know that sitting in front of the TV isn't good for them for an extended amount of time, but then it makes those days where someone is sick special that they get to veg out for longer than normally allowed. We ALL just got over being very sick, so I for one am TV'd out! LOL!

So, that just took forever to simply tell you 30 minutes is a good limit at this age (-:

** I just read Susan's response and I just HAD to add: I spent most of the day today at my kids school (preschool and kindergarten), I'm there often, but today it was very noticeable to me the girls who watch tweeny shows that they should not be watching. There were only two - but their actions really stood out. My jaw dropped at the things coming out of their mouths and the way they danced! OMG!!! Thankfully one was just visiting today as her public school was closed. Don't even get me started on the boys - you can totally tell the ones who play video games that they probably really shouldn't be. I'll keep my kids in this bubble just a bit longer if I can (-: Definetly, keep the shows and games age appropriate.

M.

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L.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

Wow I am completely on the opposite end of this video game debate here. Let me give you our house rules and why.

My son has his own Nintendo DS, we own a Nintendo Wii, and a webkinz (online virtual pet). He has been playing video games since he was about 3 and got a vsmile system for his birthday. He is allowed about an hour a day on school days and weekends it depends on what we are doing, if it's nice he is out riding his bike, playing with the dog, or just playing. Bad weather he plays more inside and that includes video games and TV time. He watches all the shows that make most moms sigh and cringe and wrinkle their noses in disapproval, Spongebob, Drake and Josh, iCarly, and Bakugan. He also loves to sit through an entire NASCAR race, that's about 3hrs of TV on a Sunday. =)

My son is polite, articulate, top of his class, funny, and mostly well rounded. He has his usual behavior issues, whining, occasionally repeating something his older cousins say that he shouldn't, things of that nature.

I think moms need to relax some on this whole TV ban. It's not the Devil's box (as I have heard it referred to as) and when used appropriately it can be fun for the whole family. We love to sit and watch iCarly, Drake and Josh and even Spongebob with my son. I also nottice that the tv is mostly on as background noise for him because he is on the floor racing cars or building with legos not just staring blankly at the screen. Also the Wii is the best system because you have to be up and moving to play it.

I worry for these kids that TV and video games are the forbidden fruit of their lives, I wonder if this strict absolution will make them tv and game junkies when they grow up. My husband is a game and computer junkie and his parents set very strict limits when he was little. Once he grew up he just couldn't get enough. It's ruined much of his life sadly.

Really the key to video games is to know what your kids play. You are the ones buying it so don't buy games that are inappropriate then complain about them. Do your research and be a active participant, play with your kids.

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A.H.

answers from Los Angeles on

My older daughter is only 3 1/2. I generally let her watch 2 hours a day of preschool programming and usually more on the weekend. I guess thats a lot compared to others but I am very careful about what she watches. She is really learning a lot from the shows (she especially likes Dora and Diego). People are pretty impressed when she says spanish words. She uses these shows a lot in her pretend play.
If she wants I let her use the computer for about another hour. I like PBS, playhousedisney, and starfall.com. For Christmas I bought her "fun to learn cool school," a computer keyboard with preschool content which she loves.

I think as long as you are aware of what they are watching, you spend quality play time with them, and let them be creative other times of the day it's okay.

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K.L.

answers from Los Angeles on

We have just added to our house a V-Tech V-Motion system, it has educational games on the TV. My sone was given it by my brother for his birthday. He also recieved a Leapster for Christmas. The first week we played it together to learn the games. Now they have to earn time to use it. They get no more than a total of 30 minutes a day and not even that is everyday. I use them as a reward system and that seems to be working for us. I choose the games that are purchased and keep track of what skills they need to be working on.

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C.F.

answers from Los Angeles on

I just call it screen time (video game, TV, computer, etc.) I have my kids earn screen time in 5-10 minute increments (set you own increments) for positive behavior. Then you can also set a limits on how many minutes can be redeemed on which days -- for example if we have art class on Thurs. we don't have much time for screen time, but Friday's are unscheduled so we have more time. You might want to balance out reading time w/ screen time or exercise w/ screen time. Also you might want to use 15(length of a PBS kids show) or 30 minute intervals -- and maybe a total of 1 hr per night on average. You are smart to set limits early!

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E.F.

answers from Las Vegas on

Hi K.- I am a sahm as well of 2 boys 5 and 3 my house is a big playworld for them by my choice- I know we grew up playing outside from sun up to sun down but times have changed and so has the world ,unfortunatly - we used to go off all day with no grown ups and it was fine now we worry who will take our kids from out in front of the house - things have changed! SO yes I believe we need to set time limits to play these games I limit my 5 yr old to weekends and still then its about 2 hrs a day even then- I make them do a variety of play thru out the day- a little time outside some reading time - some coloring workbook time ect.. now we have the wii game system - and they are not like the games of old my son plays the sports and other games and gets all sweaty and worn out cause they are moving with the game-As well we play it as a family and its fun sometimes too- SO setting limits I feel is a good idea and good to have structure for them but video games do promote good hand and eye coordination as well for playing sports as well- we play tee play also so that is his real favorite with pracitce and games on saturday so a little of everything is great I feel - its a lot of work for me but worth it for my kids to get everything out of life I can give them - good luck -

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D.M.

answers from Los Angeles on

K.,

I grew up playing outside until dark too, but I also was a youngster when Atari came out with Pong...so, it was a Christmas present under out tree. My Mom never let it be the ONLY thing we did during out time at home, and only if homework was done and our chores were completed. And, then on school nights it was not allowed and we had a bedtime that was static always.

So, if you set the limits and stick to them it should be fine if you allow him the opportunity to learn and explore video and computer games. My son is 2.5 years old and he got a Leap Frog Click Start Computer, and he gets to play it during the day but for small amounts of time. However, outside time is important and a key element of his day. He is also only allowed to watch NOGGIN, KCET or Disney Channel and I always make sure to watch any movies before he watches them for content and scary stuff...

I don't think there's anything wrong with educational games and computer time, or even gaming...if there are boundaries and limits and regulation, so it's not just time in front of the tube.

Cheers,
Deanna

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L.Z.

answers from Los Angeles on

I have an 8 month old (who could care less about these fancy shmancy things) and an eight year old who cares a whole lot about tv and video games. I simply don't have video games in the house at all. He knows that he has to beg for wii at his friends' homes and it will never grace so much as the front step of our home.

I too grew up climbing trees and riding my bike all day. I used to beg my mom to let me back in..hee hee.

TV & movies are a funny one. My son can watch a little if he has time with permission and is supervised. The trick is the "if he has time" part. He rarely does between playing, playdates, homework, reading, drawing and a simple "no, honey it's still light outside, and we don't turn the box on till dark." (which doesn't work too well in the winter, but is great in the summer.) Sometimes I just say that now is just not a good time.

It's very cute when he complains, "oh, mommy I didn't get to watch any TV today" with sad puppy dog eyes. To which I reply, "Sounds like I'm doing a great job."

TV and movies are a treat in my home, with popcorn or ice cream.

You're the parent. Set the boundaries. Be kind, yet firm. If you start setting the rules and following them through, he'll know what to expect and won't question how much he gets to watch. He'll just know that this is how his home runs.

I've seen many of these little people become horribly addicted to the box. I can't tell you how many times my son's friends come over to play and beg for TV. I just tell them that they're here to play, not become zombies in front of the box.

As far as computer games are concerned, he can play as long as they atre educational. He's allowed to play the challenging math ones as long as he likes. One of his friends got him into Club Penguin. It's awful, made by Disney, and doesn't have anything to offer the grey matter. He's allowed about 15 minutes week, if that.

Good luck!

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S.H.

answers from Honolulu on

Kids are real impressionable, at any age.
Just be choosy about what they play... ie: age appropriate.
My daughter, plays computer games too, watches tv., and we have a Wii fitness thingy. It's good, in that my daughter and us, choose the 'educational' things for her. And we play it together as a family and choose games that are fun, but not violent or 'sexualized.'
BUT... we limit her usage... and she can do it only as a 'treat' or if she has done her other chores or homework. So it's fine. And it's certainly not something she does everyday. Only about once a week.

Now, my daughter's friends have older siblings... and so THEY watch and play games that are "teen" oriented already... and it seems these kids are way too 'sassy' and their behavior is different, than say kids who DO watch games/shows that are age appropriate. EVEN MY DAUGHTER will tell me this... that her classmates that watch TEEN shows are 'sassy.' My daughter is 6 years old... and her classmates watches "Hannah Montana" & "Cheetah Girls" and "High School Musical" already, and the more teen oriented or adult oriented cartoons. My daughter's Teachers have also said that yes, these kids should not be watching it... but it's hard to control, but they see it in their behavior and clothing choices and attitude. One of my daughter's classmates made a comment once saying "I don't watch PBS, it's only for babies... I only watch Disney channel and Hannah Montana and Cody." When I heard that and my daughter pointed it out (I over heard this girl saying this), I just thought - EGAD! How sad...

For our girl, we really watch what she views, and often talk with her about what is appropriate or not... and why. We DISCUSS it. Not just talking 'at' her about it. THUS, my daughter has for her age, an ability to 'discern'. AND, in terms of my 2 year old son... my daughter is not allowed to watch anything besides PBS or certain Noggin shows, in front of her little brother. She COMPLETELY understands. Completely. WE choose what she watches and we explain why.

But in school... they do learn about computers and use it. So you can't keep them in the dark about it... and in school they learn all about these shows anyway. My girl, she learned all about these "teen" shows from her friends at school even though she does not watch it herself. And yes, it is enticing to them. So...

Anyways, sorry for rambling.. but yah, just do what you think is best for your kids and your comfort level.

Just to clarify, I know each child and parent is different.... and if they do watch 'teen' games/shows at 5 or 6 years old it does not mean their kids are 'sassy' or worse off. I know it varies.

All the best,
Susan

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T.F.

answers from Los Angeles on

"My husband and I both hate video games and grew up playing outside until dark, and were both very active in sports etc. anyway...most kids today seem to have video games. What limits do you set?"

I have not read all the responses yet, but I'll start with that quote. GIVE THE GIFT AWAY. I don't care if the uncle gave it. Put it away permanently. DH I and feel the same way about video games. We refuse to buy one, period. Yes, "everyone" has one. Fine, our son can play games (as long as they are not Mature, Violent) at a friend's house (and isn't that ashame that's what they want to do?)

I agree with the poster below that TV is bad for the developing brain, so limit, limit, limit! (I did not allow my children under 2-3 to watch TV or movies. Baby "Einstein" was definitely out.)

Read ENDANGERED MINDS by Jane Healy. She spells it all out very well.

I have an 8.5 yr old boy and 4.5 yr old girl. Unfortunately, with the big brother, my daughter watches more than I would like. Here is our solution. Sat and Sun morning they get 1 30 minute show (commercial free is ideal) and that's it. (I used to be able to get away with 1 30 minute show.) No TV during the school week. Friday night is a family movie night.

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L.T.

answers from San Diego on

You can always make it disappear...or it can somehow not work anymore.

At our house we limit all screen time (TV, computer, nintendo/video games) to no more than 1 hour daily, often it is split into 30 minute segments. A timer is used and as soon as 30 minutes is up, off the device goes...any protest from kiddo means the screen time privlege is lost for the next day. Often, we will go days w/out any and we might splurge on a movie which goes beyond the 1 hour/day limit. Works for us. Good luck!

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L.D.

answers from Los Angeles on

It depends; is it a game that teaches him anything? If not I don't think a 5 yr old should have video games. As for the computer you can get learning games to play with him.

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D.M.

answers from San Diego on

I'm like the mom who responded below about not being so strict. My kids are near the top of their class and they get lots of exercise with their various sports and activities, but if there's a day with a bunch of good shows on, I let them watch them if there's nothing else to do. I tried to do the "1 hour a day" thing but it got stressful trying to keep track. Some days they don't watch anything because they are so busy, some days a couple of hours, but if it's a nice day out, I usually plan a hike or bike ride and we do that instead. Then I let them veg for a while when we get back because they are tired. So I sort of set limits but not too strict because then they could go crazy with TV later in life if I'm too strict now.

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D.T.

answers from San Diego on

We have 5 children ages 14,10,9,7,and 19mo. We have quite a few video games. We do not let them play video games during the week. Plain and simple. On the weekends I do try to schedule activities so that the children aren't constantly playing the games. They probably play and watch TV combines less than 8 hours a week. If you average it out that is about 1hour and 10 min a day. My kids have learned that grades and chores are important.

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J.W.

answers from San Diego on

Of course you set limits. Some days he may not get to play at all!!! OH NO! Children are developing back issues, and other physical problems from the hours spent playing. Turn his head away to other things. I believe the problem stems a lot from parents that are willing to let kids be occupied by other things so the parent does not have to deal with them. You don't sound like that kind of parent, so play games with them, build legos and stuff. Video games are not a requirement to life.

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T.R.

answers from Los Angeles on

My kids are a bit older (7 and 4). During the school year we have a no video game rule during the week. On weekends they are allowed to play mindless video games for just 1 hour. They are however allowed to play the Wii action games (tennis, wii fit, baseball, etc.) for longer as they are actually getting exercise from them (especially on rainy days like now). The computer is a little different. This is a machine they will use their entire life (unless they too are replaced by new technology). As long as it is an educational site, we let them go on a few times a week.

Every child, parent and family is different. What's right for you is wrong for someone else. Read and consider all of the advice you get, but at the end of the day go with how you feel. These are your kids and you are the one instilling the morals and values in them. They should be your own, not some strangers. Good luck.

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N.W.

answers from Los Angeles on

And it begins... We are not wild about video games either. Our son (7 1/2 years) is limited to a 1/2 hour per school day and an hour on the weekends. He is only allowed to play his DS when we are on a long drive. This has worked pretty well. He knows the rules and it just is what it is. He will now set the timer himself. As your son gets into games on Wii, Sony playstaion, DS, etc they can't stop during battles to save, so we give him a 5 minute warning to finish it up. Thank goodness he's gotten really into books now also-no time limit on that!

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A.C.

answers from Los Angeles on

"Today with functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET), researchers catch brains in the very act of cogitating, feeling or remembering. The scans show that blood flow varies depending upon the type of activity the brain is occupied with. In other words, a child that grows up on a heavy diet of TV viewing has a physically altered brain. Once adulthood is reached, it is still possible to enhance brain function but it requires much more effort. Needless to say, it is naive to expect TV-mutants to "figure it out" anytime soon."

see the full article at http://www.dieoff.org/page22.htm

There are physiological reasons to severely limit the exposure of young children especially to TV and video. The computer usage should also be taken into consideration in setting your time limits. Many studies have been done. One can make arguments for the many "learning opportunities" with the computer, TV, video, but running outside, imaginative play (for ex, dress up), reading develop the brain more fully and in a much safer manner. Too much time on the computer and watching TV is linked to childhood obesity.

It sounds as if you and your husband are already leaning in that direction. Good for your.

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P.F.

answers from Las Vegas on

I love the idea of putting limits on something that can be soooo time consuming...my husband and I were also from the era of playing outside from sunup to sundown (other than school)...but those days are not like it is in the world today. Fast forward a whole bunch of years and our 4 children...our two youngest are 16 now...the oldest is married and the next one is working and on his own...so because of how we were raised we chose to NOT have a TV in our home...we didn't even get a computer until the kids were entering middle school...we were slow and reluctant to the whole computer idea...(now its common-place in most homes). Because of their limited use of these games...to this day they are not really into the video games at all. They of course, like the computer, but are careful about WHAT they spend their time with on it. So, limiting time can give them a balance and when they are older, they'll probably be just fine and well-rounded. Good luck. It's not easy raising children into great adults!!! :-)

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B.T.

answers from Honolulu on

Limit screen time to 1 hour a day adding 5 minutes a school year until the child graduates from High School. Let the child decide (up to 15 min per viewing session) how the time should be divided.

The child can set the timer. Except for a student who has Autism, the child can select the activity.

I'm a 20 year veteran SpEd teacher for students who have an emotional disturbance, a learning disabilty, Dyslexia, mental reardation, or Autism.

Like everything, there are two sides to video games - a positive and a negative.

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T.C.

answers from San Luis Obispo on

Hi K.,

Let me set the stage about my own children. I am a mother of 4 children. 24, 23,12 and 8. My 12 year old is a media maniac. He has always loved computers, tv, video games etc. Not too surprising since he is like his grandfather in many ways and he worked for IBM for 30 years. They both have a lot in common. I have always set limits for him and his media tools...during the school week, I do not allow him to play video games. I do allow tv, but that is not a real issue for him. If he has no homework, or scout meetings, during the week, I will allow exceptions now that he is older. When he was kindergarten to 3 grade, I limited his computer/video time to 30 minutes per day. This worked well then. But now that he is older and his games require more time to complete (he loves Madden football), I allow him more time to play his video games.
But another thing I have learned about my son, is if he plays too long, he becomes angry...I say he has angry eyes...(these have happened usually during vacation days or days when dad was in charge and not paying much attention to how long he has played). You can actually tell by looking at his eyes, they are glossy, and kind of blood shot! I also read in a news article that playing video games can be as addicting, if not more addicting than heroine! So, it is a great thing that you are limiting his media now and teaching him. keep up the great job,
T.

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B.D.

answers from San Diego on

Hi K.
Sounds like you've gotten lots of sage advice here. We, also, limit our sons' screen time to 20-30 min x2 per day. Homework and chores need to be done first. They know this and there is never an issue about it. they are 5 and almost 7. I love the suggestions to link it to reading time, I think I am going to try that here at home!
I just wanted to add that I see many moms (not necc. on here, but just in general) who are extremely, perhaps overly, concerned about their kids watching TV and/or playing video games...I just want to say that I was only allowed 30 min a day growing up (pretty much until I was in highschool) and no video games. I have friends who watched TV every day for hours after school. We all went to college and are successful in life. I do agree with the 'content' issues; we do want to try to prevent our kids from being exposed to things that are too sexualized and/or scary for their age. However, there is only so much we can do, and often times, they are just going to go to their friend's house and do it anyway, speaking from personal experience LOL. And, I am sure, I was annoying to the parents of my friends b/c all I wanted to do was watch TV or play Atari when I went to their house, because I was so deprived at home. It's all about balance, I suppose. Just something to think about...Anyway, it sounds like you are doing a great job and I wish you all the best.

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J.T.

answers from Las Vegas on

K.

It's okay to play video games/use computer if there is an understanding between you and your child. Just give him a time frame to do so and stick to it! If he does well with other things that he has been told to do, then the video games can be used as reward time for example. I am one of those parents who feel too much tv/video games is unhealthy. Outdoor activities, family time etc is always better, however, nothing wrong with playing video games every now and again. GOOD LUCK TO YA!

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L.E.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi, K.,

My kids are two and one. They haven't started playing video games. They have become very attached to TV, though. I have set a limit to viewing--between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. each day.

Lynne E

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S.G.

answers from Los Angeles on

He may be a little young for this, but my best friend makes her daughter "buy" media time with reading time. For every minute that she reads, she gets a minute of computer or tv or video games... Seems harsh, but she's an excellent student as a result. Also, we have our kids on a swim team which practices every day, so it's pretty hard to even find time for TV and video games. It's a big sacrifice as a parent driving them to the pool and basically giving up 2 hours every night, but the pay off is they are getting really fit, and who knows, maybe it will help them get into a good college. Initially, I just wanted to get them off the couch, but it turns out they're really good at it! Maybe there's a team sport, t-ball or something he might have an interest in?
Good luck,
sg

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M.M.

answers from Los Angeles on

We used popsicle sticks and a kitchen timer. Each stick was worth 15 minutes (you decide how many) and put them all in a cup. He was only allowed to play videos on the weekend and he only had so many "time sticks" in the cup. He could pull them a bit at a time or use the all at once, but once they were gone - that was it for the weekend. He got very good at managing his time and once he got a bit older he was able to earn extra sticks by doing extra chores or purchase sticks with his saved allowance.

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M.S.

answers from San Diego on

Hi,

We limit our children to about 30 minutes on the weekdays (after homework & piano is done!) and an hour on the weekends. And if they are on educational websites on the computer they can play longer. Otherwise computer and videos games only have an hour in total! It helps to set a timer so when they hear it, they stop.

Also, take the kids to the park, out back or front to play. Buy interactive, educational games to play with the children.

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J.B.

answers from Los Angeles on

You are very smart to set limits from the start. I count all TV, computer, and video game time as "screen time" and keep the limits very low during the week (half an hour TV usually, and 10-15 minutes of computer time). I use a timer for the computer time and our rule is that when the time is up, the computer has to go off. Procrastinating or backtalk about turning it off means either a reduction or elimination of the next day's allotment. Also, the kids don't get computer time until after homework and other responsibilities are taken care of. We're a bit more lenient on the weekend, but definitely not to the point of letting them spend all day staring at a screen. It sounds to me like you are very mindful of the potential pitfalls and I'm sure you'll come up with a system that works for your family. Good luck!

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S.T.

answers from Los Angeles on

I've always combined all sources of media into my time limits: TV, video games, computer. Because my children are in school I only allow media on weekends (Friday after school thru Sunday). Then I limit it to 2 hours per day. That may seem like a lot, but it's only 6 hours a week for ALL media. It teaches budgeting and allows time for family movies. My children also have the opportunity to earn more time as rewards, but I also take it away as a consequence. It's very effective.

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A.P.

answers from Los Angeles on

I have a 4 year old son. We began to set some very real limits the past few months when we started to notice him vegging out more and more in front of the tv. We don't have video games, though. But, we did notice that when we take it out of the equation as an option, he doesn't miss it.

So, for example, we don't turn on the tv at all during the day (this would be for weekends, he's at pre-school during the week). During the week, we starting tying tv into a rewards systems. He has a sticker chart, and one of his rewards is tv after school. Typically, he'll watch a half hour of Curious George.

With the computer, I've found that he really isn't interested for more than 10 minutes or so. And not really that often. I wouldn't let him sit alone in front of it, though. But I guess I see iPhoto as the modern day equivalent of the photo album, right?

We do family movie nights, which are separate from other tv time (in our house, anyway!).

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S.B.

answers from San Diego on

My son (age 9) has a Nintendo DS Lite and loves to play Age of Empires on our old computer. There are also certain TV shows that he likes to watch. Because he is so busy during the week with school, homework, chores, and sports, he has no time for those things except for a little bit after dinner. On the weekends we're more lenient about the Nintendo or computer since he doesn't really have the chance to play with them during the week. But he has to finish his chores first before playing with them. When my son was younger, and didn't have so much schoolwork, we set a 30-60 minute/day limit on TV or the computer (Age of Empires is a very long game). We'd use a timer, plus give him a 5-minute warning so that he'd know his time was coming to an end soon.

We have taken away computer/Nintendo time as a punishment, which has been very effective.

Another thing we did was tie computer/Nintendo time to reading. For every 30 minutes that he read he would earn 30 minutes of computer or Nintendo time. When he discoverd Age of Empires, that was all he wanted to do. Of course his teacher wanted him to read more. So we made the computer a reward for reading. It was a win-win situation in our case.

The bottom line is that you're the parent and the one who gets to set the limits. The main thing is to be as consistent as possible in enforcing the limits so that your son will know what to expect. Don't be afraid to say no or take away the privilege of computer/TV time if he won't stop when you tell him to.

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