Managing screen time can be one of the biggest challenges parents face, especially when it comes to video games. With more devices vying for your children’s attention, and the increasingly important social component of playing games, there are some simple steps you can take to get peace of mind.
- Start by having a conversation with your kids to establish some household rules. Part of this is to set guidelines for your kids, but there’s more to it than that. It’s important to show your kids that you understand video games are a part of their life, and you respect (and even encourage) it. You may want to allow games after homework is done or require that your kids put devices away at dinner, but everything starts with a judgement-free conversation about when and for how long your kids can play video games so it doesn’t get in the way of other activities or responsibilities.
- Set parental controls as a backup. Virtually every game device has parental controls to help manage what your kids play, with whom, how much (if any) money they can spend, and when or for how long they can play games. The controls vary from device-to-device, but some even allow you to designate specific hours when your kids can play. Of course, you can always extend the time either on the device or through a companion app but these settings add a helpful layer of backup to the household rules that you’ve set.
- Stay flexible. Sometimes if you’re not familiar with the rhythm of a game it can be hard to understand why “five more minutes” is important. While many games will automatically save progress, some require that the player make it to a specific in-game area in order to save. Meanwhile, if your kids are in the middle of playing an online game, turning it off can have negative results, from letting down friends and teammates, to getting an in-game punishment. “Five more minutes” may sometimes turn into 10, and other times it may seem arbitrary, but allowing those five minutes shows respect for your kids’ hobby and social connections and shows that you understand why it’s important to reach a logical stopping point and minimize undesirable reactions.
- Continually reassess screen time rules as your kids grow. As your kids mature, you’ll want to revisit your approach to see what’s working and what’s not. You may one day find that your child needs more leeway around screen time based on schoolwork, extracurriculars, socialization, and more. Likewise, you might also see areas to clamp down! It’s all part of teaching your kids how to make appropriate choices!