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BoyssportsQ: I'm a pediatric nurse practitioner, and we have three boys ages 5, 7, and 9. Several parents/patients have told me that they have the same problem as I do enforcing video game time limits. Certain kids just seem “addicted” and can’t wait until they get more. Do you have any visual time charts, contracts, or other concrete examples of how to work with your kids on knowing when enough is enough? 
PNP Parent in Bozeman, MT

A: Dear PNP Parent,

Try approaching this issue with a positive rather than restrictive approach. Instead of limiting video game time, focus on creating a daily schedule with your sons where there is enough time to do everything that is important to them.

Search online for “hourly calendars,” and print a copy for each child. Then, ask them to think about all the things they need to do in a day—like eating meals as a family, school, homework, active play (outside, if at all possible), spending time with friends, and getting enough sleep—and help them remember others that they forget. For each task, have them choose a color, think through how long it will take, and color in the time blocks needed.

They will see their time filling up with important activities, and they will see what time is still left. Talk about what they can do in that time. Perhaps they can spend some of it playing video games, but offer them attractive alternatives as well, like organized sports or hobbies. In this way, they will have some ownership of mindful, directed “down time” rather than simply sliding into video gaming.

By focusing on what they do want and need to do in their limited time, you can avoid making video games a forbidden fruit. Whatever choices they make, remember that they will learn from what they experience, so exercise your judgment about the content of any media they use.

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
The Mediatrician®

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