My kids love their video games…they have a Wii, an X-Box, Nintendo DS’s, and they each have an iPod touch. If left alone, they would certainly play video games until their brains were sucked out of their heads.
I think that’s a concern of many parents. Are video games ok for my kids? Why won’t they stop playing? Ever?
In my opinion, video games are a great opportunity to teach kids about moderation. I want them to be able to indulge in something they enjoy but also to know where the line is between fun and addiction, between indulging and over-indulging. Here are some strategies we’ve used in our family…
- When my oldest first started playing games, I created “tickets” for him using 3x5 note cards. Prior to allowance, this was a currency he understood. Each ticket represented 30 minutes of screen time…TV, computer or video games and he was able to earn and redeem tickets. We put a timer by the gaming systems and he set the timer before he started to play. This helped reinforce the idea of playing for shorter periods of time.
- Eventually the tickets themselves, wore out and I never replaced them. The phrase, “Can I play a ticket?” has persisted however and 30 minutes seems like a reasonable amount of time. The boys understand that “forgetting” to set their timer results in losing the opportunity to continue playing for that day.
- My husband and I have also grounded the gaming systems. When the boys argue over which games are going to be played, whose turn it is to choose, whose cheating…then we know it’s time for the games to be grounded.
- Our boys understand the video game rating system. They know that they are welcome to play any E (Everybody) rated game. T (Teen) games require a parent’s permission to play. I like to check on why it’s rated T, my boys aren’t allowed to play games that use guns and I don’t like blood violence. Finally, M (Mature) games aren’t allowed. This is another teachable opportunity. Their friends all have different rules for games that can be played. The boys are learning that different families have different rules. They are expected to follow our “House Rules” even when they are playing somewhere else. They also ask friends who are visiting if the friends are allowed to play our games. It’s not an easy lesson to learn but I believe it’s important.
- Finally, they have had a chance to learn budgeting skills with their iPod touch. Our whole family shares an iTunes account. The boys have purchased iTunes gift cards and added the $10 to the account. In their “Notes” section, they keep a running total of apps/games they have downloaded, subtracting from the initial $10. This is challenging for my first grader, but each time he downloads an app I help him with the balance. This has worked out very well for both kids. They have the freedom to add to their app collection, but the accountability to the family not to overspend on the account.
These are some strategies that have worked well for us…how do you help your kids manage video games?