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Gaming Limits For Teens

8 Limits That Make Video Games Good For Your Kids

Every kid begs for video games. Parents hear the plea over and over again until they're so worn down they knuckle under and buy one. But as soon as you buy the game, the real trouble begins: junior sits down and won't get up. When he does, he's aggressive, screaming, "But the game isn't finished!" At that point you wonder, "What have I done?"

Electronics are part of your daily life, too. You're reading this online, I just hung up my cell phone, most of your Christmas gifts were probably bought online to avoid the crowds, and soon you'll be hopping over to Facebook to see how things are with your "friends." Like it or not, our children will need to know how to use electronics and computers in order to be successful in this world.

Did you know that the underlying principal for every video game is math, problem solving, and strategic thinking? Those are the skills your child is using and expanding as they play video games. But Mell L. still wonders: "With all the new tech out there . . . are we dulling our children's imaginations?"


I ponder the same thing as Mell. No matter what the researchers say about video games, I still wanted my kids outside, reading books, and using their imagination. Because of that, we locked horns, a lot.

Then one day at work, while the tech was fixing my computer, again, I asked, "How did you become a computer tech?" His answer rocked my world: "I played video games." Turns out playing video games benefited my kids, too. They both work in the computer industry today. But I made sure there were limits.

Here, we're sharing eight limits to set for video games so that your child's electronic world is balanced with creative outdoor play.

1. Research and Check Ratings

Each game should have an ESRB (Electronic Software Rating Board) rating on it, like EC for early childhood. If it doesn't, don't buy it. If it looks too violent, it probably is. I really drew the line here.

2. Rotate in Academic Games

Just because your child's peer group only talks about the "cool" or violent games doesn't mean that's all they're playing. Saying "Try it, you'll like it" to get your kids to try an academic game doesn't usually work, either.

However, if you purchase both types of games, one that focuses on academics and one that all the kids want, you'll be more successful. A great rule is: In this house we alternate between academic games and fun games, every other day. If they're unwilling, you can say, "I'm guessing you're too young to play and follow the rules. We'll put the game away today and see if you're able to act older tomorrow."

3. Try These 3 Rules

Don't fool yourself; there will be sharing, frustration, and time issues. Remember, games are designed to provide a full sensory immersion experience. Use a timer and post rules clearly, so there's no argument. Here are three key rules:

  • Frustration = taking a break, like it or not.
  • Not sharing = timers are used to make sure things stay fair.
  • Negotiations or begging for more time = no play for 24 hours.

4. Set Time Limits

Video games are solitary and sedentary. To help offset this fact, do an activity trade. For every 30 minutes of large muscle activity, i.e. running, bike riding, or basketball, a child earns 10 minutes of video game time.

Another way to get him up and moving is to insist that one game per day be a game that promotes movement, things like dancing, Twister, or exercise games. Join him; he'll love it, and it's great exercise for you too!

5. Introduce the "Save Game" Function

Introduce the "save game" function to your child. Explain to him that games are made to go on and on and that he'll rarely complete a game by the time the timer goes off. Tell him the "save game" function saves his place and his points. Let him know ahead of time that it's OK to turn the game off without a fuss since everything is saved and waiting for him tomorrow.

6. Declare "Nonelectronic Days"

Don't like the idea of games being played every day? Insist on "electronic days" and "nonelectronic days." You can also teach time management by allowing older kids to manage their own game time. For instance, give them the total amount of time they can play this weekend and let them decide how to use it. If they fail, they lose the opportunity to manage themselves next week.

7. Have Them Earn Game Time

Trade chores for extra video time. This teaches kids that you earn your fun in life by working.

8. Figure Out Your Child's "Aggression Point"

Apply the five/25 test to find out where your child's aggression point is. Let him play a video for five minutes. Then he has to go outside (or do something else) to play for 25 minutes. Each time he does his other activity for 25 minutes, increase the amount of video time he gets by five minutes, keeping the other activity to 25 minutes for each set. Do this until your child's behavior turns aggressive or frustrated. That's his saturation point. Deduct five minutes from the saturation point time, and you've got his time limit. Redo the test to adjust the time when you think he's ready.

Sharon Silver is the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding: 108 Ways to Discipline Consciously and Become the Parent You Want to Be and the founder of Proactive Parenting. Her book and site help parents gain more patience by responding instead of reacting as they deal with the whirlwind of emotions created by raising kids ages 1-10.

Join The Conversation
Christina14369196 Christina14369196 4 years
Excellent recommendations! My boys love their video games but I was just about to put limits because they will play non-stop if they can! Thanks for the great article!
CarolinaLara CarolinaLara 5 years
Really good article. I'm surprised at my results, because now I don't feel so offbase...I have applied my own version 1-5, 7and 8.. prior reading it, but still have ground to work. About topic 6... we don't havea day set, but he can go days without playing or even missing it... Personally i dislike video games, but as stated, known and doen for most of us, I caved in... at first was ok, but then it turned into a nightmare... Actually, not only I have a 5 year old that shares, and manages his time (30 mins daily max), but he know better and alternates his "hero" and "cool" games with the learning ones on the DS, and besides I got him many "cool/learning" games on the leapster explorer. Anyway, he gets frustrated when he's not able to reach what he desires on the game, which kind of annoys me , but he knows better, and he himself stops, breathes, and if he's not able to calm down, he puts the game away until the next day. I took me a while to get him to this point, but is worth it. Also he used to argue with his cousin for the games, and now they always sit together, share the games, even prefer to playthe same one at a time, so team work is on!! All I can say for those parents that have not gotten results is that in order to get anything from kids you are going to need to be constant and persistent.... don't give in and don't take the easy rooad, because atthe end it's going to be way harder!!
LizzyVanGog LizzyVanGog 5 years
yay i hate video games thanks to an ex but now i can let my kids be kids thank you
JaneCooke JaneCooke 5 years
I have always loved computers and got one when I was 10 - I had to type in the code if I wanted to play a game ! I now work with computers & let me kids play games (age appropriate!).
JennaKing26603 JennaKing26603 5 years
I read this hoping to gain insight and found that we already do pretty much all these things. It's all about moderation and control.
JennyCastro5696 JennyCastro5696 5 years
i decided to read this article because we are very into electronics in our house and thought i'd find some good insight. while i did find what i was looking for there are a couple of points that really annoyed me, like #8. why the heck would i intentionally piss my kid off? that just seems completely ridiculous and unnecessary. i still don't even get what the point is. the other point that bugged me was #2. i don't get this statement: "A great rule is: In this house we alternate between academic games and fun games, every other day." why do you have to label some games "fun" and others "academic"? my son has a zillion games and there are academic games that are also fun. labeling it that way gives a negative tone which will be counter productive. thanks for the rest of your tips.
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