Video games have quickly become the favored pastime for kids everywhere, and they have become major competitors to television and music. While there are many benefits of video games, it’s important to balance your game time properly.
While it may be easy to allow kids some extra screen time under certain circumstances, too much screen time should not become a habit, especially with younger kids. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to reduce the amount of gaming time that your kids get, without making anyone go cold-turkey.
Following are some great ways to peel your kids away from the tv while still keeping them engaged.
Side Note: I know we’re in the midst of a very strange time. We all have to make some adjustments to make this time work. So if you’re in a mode of ‘video games make time tolerable’ – don’t feel bad! There will be plenty of time to work through this later. Plus, video games are educational (check out my list of 101 reasons why video games are educational here)
But if you’re so over video game time and ready to make a change – READ ON!
Tips to Help Your Kids Manage Video Game Time
Video game time battles are nothing new. But video games these days are more addictive in nature than video games in the best.
I grew up playing Super Mario, Sonic, and The Sims – among many other games. But I never remember facing an issue with video game addition nor do I remember my friends facing these kinds of issues.
But kids these days are waging a different war against video games than we did.
We do our best to include educational video games as often as possible (click here to see our list of educational video games) but sometimes they just need a break.
1. Make Use of Physical Gaming Merchandise
Back in the 80’s and 90’s many childrens cartoon and television shows had an accompanying toyline. Today, many video games have toy lines as well that can be used for your child’s benefit. Mega franchises such as Minecraft, Halo, Assassin’s Creed, Fortnite, and Roblox all have action figure lines on retail shelves.
These toy lines are great as they give kids familiar characters to use during play that bring about the familiarity of the game but instill the creativity of physical play. I know my kids can play with these kinds of toys for hours. They get extra ideas of things to do in game – and while playing the games, they often get inspiration of what to do with the toys.
Action figures and other such toy lines are great ways to get your kids off the games and doing something more constructive. Playing with toys encourages creativity and imagination, and can be incredibly beneficial for children.
2. Use Timers
Simply timing your kids gaming sessions can be beneficial. Maybe allot an hour a day, and time them when hop online. After the hour is up, encourage them to switch to something else, such as playing outside if possible.
You can also use visual timers so the kids know when to get off. Visual timers are great tools for parents and teachers as they allow kids to see how much time they have left, and be aware of how much of their activity they are allowed to do. )
3. Introduce Other Hobbies
One of the biggest reasons kids hate getting off the games is that they don’t feel that they have anything else to do. Consider helping your kids to start some hobbies that they enjoy in lieu of gaming.
Art, music, dance, and exercise are all great ways to get off the games. Many of these hobbies can have electronics incorporated into them as well if your kids still aren’t interested.
Additionally, there are many video games that can help with hobbies, such as Rocksmith that helps musicians of all ages learn guitar.
By replacing your child’s gaming time with a constructive hobby, you are helping them in so many different ways.
I found that my kids weren’t enticed by the hobbies I was familiar with or knew to recommend. They preferred learning hobbies they heard about from their friends or that they saw on TV/Movies or in other places.
Keep an open mind about different kinds of hobbies.
4. Allow Children to Earn their Game Time
When kids earn something, they are much more likely to be considerate and appreciative of it. Consider implementing systems where your children earn their screen time by doing some sort of task.
For example, maybe your kids aren’t allowed on the games until they’re chore chart is filled. Or perhaps they get so much time for each chore completed, so the more they do the more time they will have.
You could also consider implementing token systems, where tokens can be earned via chores, good grades, and generally good deeds and hard work. Kids can exchange these tokens for game time, as well as other activities or rewards.
I’m not a huge fan of reward charts but I think there are healthy ways to implement “paying” for chores in video game time.
Just make sure you aren’t nagging them and that you don’t expect these particular chores to be done at a specific time.
The value in tying video games and chores or tasks together is that the kids are more motivated to do the chores and are going to be more mindful of how they use their time.
5. Set Time Restrictions For When They Can Play Games
Consider setting some restrictions during the day as to when your kids can play games. Perhaps there aren’t any games until after 6 pm, and they have to be shut off at 8 pm. There are a variety of ways to customize this, and you can set different times for weekdays and weekends.
This way of managing your kids game time will also make your kids more content knowing that they will be able to play games, but they just have to wait. It will encourage them to focus on other activities in the meantime.
We have played with many different rules to find what works for us. We’ve tried no video games until 3PM and also no video games until it’s over 100 degrees outside.
6. Allow Cheat Days
While more rigorous schedules can be beneficial, sometimes it’s ok to let your kids have electronics. Whether binge days are scheduled or more sporadic, there is nothing wrong in letting the kids have more game time than usual every so often.
Cheat days are good for when there really isn’t a whole lot to do or to reward good behavior. Cheat days can also be used as a tool by parents when they want to work or relax uninterrupted. The real trick is to not allow cheat days to become a habit in your home, as that can undermine any systems you have set in place.
Cheat Days can be a fun way to show your kids that there is a time to be serious and a time to let the rules go.
7. Use Hardware Parental Controls
Today, many game systems come with parental locks and timers pre-installed and ready for activation. Check if your child’s system has any parental locks that you can use. This will totally eliminate any possibility of your child continuing the game session once they are out of time. This is because the console will simply lock until it is set to unlock.
However, one must be cautious if you have multiple kids playing on the same system, as the console will not be able to differentiate between players. So if each kid gets an hour a day, and you have two kids, one of them could play for an hour and a half, while the other only gets half an hour.
With the right usage and handling, however, parental locks and timers can be incredibly useful for managing your child’s gaming time.
Kids love video games and have become increasingly more attached to them in recent years. Additionally, the culture around video games has been increasing at a rapid speed, with all sorts of electronic and physical mediums becoming attached to video games.
While gaming isn’t a detrimental hobby, it can be if your kids do it too much. By limiting your kids video game time, as well as promoting other activities such as a new hobby, you can have the best of both worlds for your child.