Real Life Solutions: Video Gaming

mintle03(2).jpgWe are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to and include "? for Dr. Mintle" on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Q: My 10-year-old son would play video games all day if I let him. Every time I tell him to put down the game, he says, “But I am in the middle of a game and can’t stop.” I feel like pulling out my hair and wish I had never given in to buying him a gaming system.

A: Don’t pull out your hair! You are more powerful than a 10-year-old armed with video games. Instead of buyer’s remorse, teach him how to use those games responsibly.

Most video games have a save button that allows the player to quit and then pick up the game again with no lost action. Your son’s excuse to keep playing is just that—an excuse. But first, you need an established time limit for play before he ever turns on a game. Experts recommend that screen time not exceed one to two hours in any given day. That includes all screens (TV, computer, gaming systems, and mobile devices).

Once you have established the amount of playing time, make sure he does not have the gaming system, TV, or computer in his room unsupervised. You cannot monitor screen time if you cannot see when and where he is using screens.

Also, review the content of games. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports that most games have common themes that are promoted. You should be screening for the killing of people or animals; the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol; criminal behavior; disrespect for authority and the law; sexual exploitation; violence toward women; racial, sexual, and gender stereotypes; foul language; obscenities; and obscene gestures.

Finally, remember you are the boss and decide the rules of usage. If he does not abide by the time frame, give one warning and then remove the device as a time-out from play. Loss of the privilege is usually enough punishment to keep a child in line with the established time frame.

For video and game reviews:
Raising Healthy Kids in an Unhealthy World by Linda Mintle (Nelson, 2008), chapter on media usage

Do you have a video gamer in your family? How do you handle time limits or screening games?

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