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Teens & Screen Time Rules

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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Teens & Screen Time Rules


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Media/YouTube Rules for 7th grade (almost 8th grade) girl?

June 2012

My daughter's media diet is limited to 30 minutes of computer time per day (not including homework) after she finishes all homework and chores. When she was younger she used the time to play Poptropica. In 6th grade she graduated to Disney shows like Suite Life on Deck and Wizards of Waverly Place. She's finishing 7th grade now and last night I found her watching a movie on YouTube called ''The Boyfriend I met online.'' I'm not comfortable with the underaged drinking and the sex scenes in the movie. What's the right approach to media management at this age? Should I let her watch anything she wants? Discuss what she's watching? I don't really have time to sit with her for the whole 30 minutes while she's on the computer - i've got 2 other kids, etc. Suggest other activities she could do online? I'm curious what other people are doing. Thanks.


Let it go, mom! The kids who had the strictest parental controls for their kids' video/movie fare, are the most far-out, messed-up kids among my daughters' friends.

When our daughters were small (9 and 12), we were in Paris and went to an English-language movie. I asked the ticket seller if the movie was OK for kids, and she assured me it was fine. In the first 10 minutes, a couple had sex with heavy breathing, and someone was killed. It was a movie, the kids (our kids) were fine, and that changed my view about movie rules.

I'd be more worried about the plethora of youtube and especially movies featuring unmitigated violence, with crowds cheering as the 'good guys' mow down the 'bad guys' in a battle of fists or a hail of bullets. . -- liberal on youtube and movie rules


I think you should definitely try to keep some idea of what she is watching, and discuss it with her, just like you would presumably talk about media from other sources like movies, TV, books and so on.

You might also consider, and I realize this may be controversial, setting up the computer she uses with two screens, mirrored. One would be for her to watch, the other would be larger, and would be for everyone to see what it is she is watching. You don't have to be sitting with her for 30 minutes, but at least you would be able to see what she is watching if you were in the room, you would have a chance to see it, and discuss. The message for her would be, ''Yes, you get your 30 minutes on the computer, but I need to have some awareness of what you are doing for your safety, my piece of mind.''

It's not just YouTube videos you need to think about, but who she's instant messaging with, talking to on Facebook, etc. social medialite


How to stop teen's internet access at night?

June 2011

We've discovered that our 14 year old son is using the internet after we go to bed - mostly to facebook chat with girls. Is there a program/tool that just can just stop internet access after a certain time, e.g. 10:00 p.m. (as opposed to stopping access to the computer altogether , in case there is legitimate non-internet homework to be done, )?

Also, are there parental controls on google chrome? I couldn't figure out how to get to them.

We have 1 Mac desktop and a laptop PC. We're technically challenged and I'm feeling a little overwhelmed about how to figure all of this out. Are there any good web sites that explain what parental controls you can do for free on Firefox and Chrome or IE, Youtube, etc. Do I need to to buy one of those things like Net Nanny or Safe Eyes? Are they complicated and more trouble than they are worth if you are not tech savvy?

The Berkeley Parents web page has some info, but it's not very recent and not all that helpful.

Thanks so much for any advice. worried tech challenged mom


I've had a similar problem. What I've done when I've needed to maintain internet control is disconnect and remove the power source for my wireless adapter. Since our desktop is connected through our wireless adapter this takes care of access for all computers and wifi compatible devices in our house. anon
Can you read his chats later? Just let him know you read them. My kid calls it ''facebook stalking''. Tough. He reduced his Facebook time by about 80%. I also mentioned the chats to some of the girls (and guys) Moms for a little peer pressure ick-factor. The other option is to unplug the computer. He should be in bed by 10 anyway. If schoolwork is needed, he can ask you for special use. My kids are not allowed unlimited or private use of the computer. Facebook Stalking Mom
Mac's have built in parental controls that allow you to not allow access to the computer during certain times. Click on the apple at the top left, choose system preferences and under ''system'' you will see the yellow parental controls icon. The administrator can set up controls for other users (ours is on a shared computer where we each have our own log in account, but only parents have admin rights). I would think you should be able to find more on this online, once you know it's possible. Some routers will also let you set these controls at the level of the internet only, which might allow computer usage (ie, for homework typing), but not internet access. This is something that someone more tech savvy than I would have to help with, however. Good luck, you are doing the right thing. Claire
We had the same problem with our daughter. A friend recommended we try K-9 protection, a free software program that limits what you can search for on the internet (such as porn) and when you can have access. It's worked well for us. Good luck! Been there
Norton Internet Security has an easy add-on that controls hours. (It's called ''child controls'' or something like that.) If you have an Internet router, it may have time controls. In my experience, the interfaces for them are straightforward--you don't have to be technically savy. Francesca
We faced a similar problem and my husband came up with a simple, low-tech solution. Is your son getting the internet through a wireless network? If so, simply get one of those timers that you can buy at the hardware store to turn a light on and off when you are away, and put it between your wireless router and the wall socket. It works like a charm, the wireless started up again fine in the morning when the device gave it power again. I worried that my kids might try to tamper with it, but they never did.

Safeeyes can also do the job, blocking internet to only that computer during certain hours. It is more complicated to use, but we found it very useful when we had concerns about online activities, if you later get to that point. It does a good job of blocking sites in a range of concerns that you can select. Including some I had never thought of, like pro-suicide sites. (What a world!) Good luck. been there


I used to disconnect the internet altogether by unplugging the cable and hiding it. You can also unplug the modem or whatever you are using. You can still use the computer but not the internet. anon
I have a friend who just unplugs the modem and takes it to bed with her at night. Computer still works, if papers need to be written, but her kids know to get all their Internet-related work/play done before 9:30 or 10 pm.

I'm not tech savvy enough to know of or recommend any software solutions, but I'll bet they exist.


I realize that you want to leave the computer free for homework, but maybe that could be done earlier. When I want to stop my daughter from using the computer, I just take a cord or small part that is needed to run it. Or take the laptop. It's a cheap way to handle it. I don't know if that helps but that's what I do. Mean Mom
My solution to this problem is low tech but highly effective. When I go to bed I just unplug the router and take the power cord into my bedroom for the night. (If the computer being used is hooked up directly to the modem, then you could do the same thing with the power supply to the modem). Shockingly, my son actually admitted that he likes this solution - he was having trouble disciplining himself as far as internet usage and now he's getting much better sleep. -
Here is what we do in our household. We keep the desktop MAC and the laptops that my husband and I have, in a common area - so that there is no access to them at night. Before bed, both our kids (12 & 14) must turn over their ipods & phones to us. They're allowed to read in bed, but no screen time after 9pm.

We have a wifi network in our home that has a timer - and can be used to limit wifi access to certain devices at certain times. Although we don't use it a lot because of the above.

And, if that all sounds like it's too complicated - I would just pull the plug on your DSL modem after 9 or 10pm. Flip the switch - and literally turn it off or unplug it. No internet - no facebook. lauren


Mac has a good builtin parental control system. You can limit the total number of hours, or limit use of the computer to certain hours. You can allow the Internet access to a certain list of domains, or disallow access to a list of domains.

Perhaps this web page might help: http://macs.about.com/od/switchersnewusers/ss/parentalcontrol.htm TK


We just installed onlinefamily.norton.com - on our PC. It is a FREE download as well. It is great. You can monitor and control what type of sites are allowed at what time of day from YOUR computer and you can also see what sites they are going to while they are on the computer. It has all kinds of categories to monitor/block/restrict access (facebook, youtube, porn, sports, etc). There are just too many distractions on the computer these days so I am very happy we finally are using this software. My high school child goes to bed earlier now that we have this in place. best thing I have done

Rules for teen having a laptop?

Nov 2010

My daughter (10th grade) is trying to convince us to let her buy a laptop, if she can save the money (and it looks like she will, before the end of the school year). We've always had her use the family computer, which is located in a central room in the house, but she's made some compelling arguments for getting her own (not the least of which is that she doesn't get enough computer time to do her homework when she has to use the family computer...). She's a good kid, gets good grades, and isn't likely to get involved in anything unsafe , so we pretty much trust her intentions, but just feel uncomfortable with the idea of her having her own.

Have any of you faced this? Come up with some good family rules to make it palatable, and prevent your child from disappearing into their room with their laptop? (We're thinking about telling her that the place the laptop ''normally lives'' is in the living room, and that she has to ask permission to take it to her room or to a friend's house.) Any lessons learned or mistakes made? (fwiw, we do already have an internet contract with her, i.e. rules of safe internet usage.) mom of a teen


We got our kids laptops as high school graduation gifts. Before then, they used the communal computers. I was the only way of keeping track of what they did on the internet. A laptop means they have a computer wherever they go. Not good in high school. mean mom
Remember that in 3 years this child will be going off to college where you will not be able to supervise her daily activities. Start now to give her opportunities to learn how to function without her parents watching over her shoulder. Give her the opportunity to make and learn from her mistakes while you are close by to support her. We've never had a family computer, my kids always had their own when they became old enough to use one. We went through the laptop dilemma last year and collectively agreed that purchasing my son a new desktop was a better solution. He didn't really need the mobility of a laptop and laptops are significantly more expensive than desktops. Most kids will need a laptop at college and the one you buy now may not meet their needs in 3 years as a college student. college parent too
You just said it all right here: ''but just feel uncomfortable with the idea of her having her own.'' Always go with your gut feeling...10th grade,she's a sophmore, and she wants to buy one at the end of the school year which means her junior year. So she really doesn't need it until September of her Junior year, providing she can earn the money. You can set limits even with her own laptop, no computer after 10 pm for example just like you can set limits with the use of a cell phone. No phone calls after 9 pm for everyone in the house. You can have a community drawer and all cell phones can go in the drawer at a certain time each night.. It's your house, your rules. If you feel uncomfortable with something, you're probably right...trust yourself. Our kids respect when we're honest with them and we don't always need an excuse to say ''no''. We have to be the parent. Jan
Your daughter is definitely old enough to have her own laptop to use as she wishes.

Rules for teen: 1)Don't post any naked or drunk pictures of yourself anywhere online. (Of course she is not supposed to be getting drunk or naked in the first place but just remind her about that and then forget about it.)

2)Be careful about what type of personal information (address, age, school, routine) that she gives out.

Rules for mom: Relax.


We found this website helpful in setting limits regarding facebook & internet guidelines for our young teen. It even has video clips featuring teens sharing their experiences after posting something. http://www.internetsafety101.org/ Sam

Limiting Internet Access on a Teen's Laptop

May 2010

Our soon to be 9th grader has asked for a laptop for school. He knows that next year will be a big step up in homework and expectations and we all know he is addicted to the internet and Facebook. We are considering providing a low cost or used laptop to facilitate school work (and perhaps to reward progress early in the school year). But both parent and kid agree it might be beneficial if the internet could be ''locked out'' during important parts of the day -- particularly school hours and some period thereafter (and perhaps altogether since there is a desktop at home with internet access available for kids). Is it possible to lock out wireless connections on a laptop (a) permanently and (b) at the times of our choosing?

Tellingly, when I searched Google for answers the only options that come up treat the loss of internet access as an unmitigated catastrophe.

Thanks for any guidance. Anon


To the parent who is looking to limit internet access on your teen's laptop: I have heard of something called ''Covenant Eyes.'' You can google this site. It's supposed to track the types of sites visited on the internet and can be an internet filter. Some of my friends use it in their families for accountability regarding web pages viewed. I haven't signed up for it yet because my kids aren't old enough, but when they are, I want to give it a try. Good luck! Kris
I think you could disable the internet permanently by having a techie type remove the wireless card. there is also a program called Safe eyes that you can buy that gives you a lot of control over internet use on kids computers. It is a bit complicated to use, but you can define times as well as many other limitations. I had this on my kids computers for awhile, but eventually got rid of it because when they needed to visit a site (researching breast cancer, say) that was blocked, it was a pain to get it excepted. I have to tell you that, at least at many high schools, there is an assumption that your child has internet access and they will need it for homework. Assignments and worksheets are posted online, group projects are managed via a google group, and of course research. Anne
You can lock access by this laptop when it is at home with your teen, but you can't lock access easily when it's elsewhere! there are several options. If you have wireless at home, it will have a little administrative software interface for settings etc. Through this you can define a rudimentary schedule.

If you want to control the laptop when it's elsewhere, though, you will have to look into one of the commercial packages out there like Net Nanny. They are installed on the machine, require a password and some can be managed remotely. (the access schedule, that is.) I'm several years out of date but here's a comparison as a starting point. http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/ good luck! parent of 2 boys who live in the internet, not on this planet


We've been through this with our 9th grade daughter. Our daughter has a MacBook, so I can speak to the parental controls on Macs. And yes, you can lock your son out of internet access during specific times of day. You need to set up an administrator account - obviously your son doesn't get the password. This will allow you to set controls on both his computer use time and internet access. You can block some web sites entirely but you can't set different time limits and hours of access to different sites. And as the administrator you can change or lift the controls - say if your son temporarily needed increased internet access to complete a school project. You might ask for a demonstration at the Apple store to see how this works. But here's some advice that I got both from the Mac "Genius Bar" and our 22 year old son that is not Mac specific. The Mac "genius" explaining the parental controls said "Speaking as an ex-adolescent, I'd recommend that the most effective way to keep kids from wasting time on the internet is to have them use the computer out in the open, in family space.: Overhearing this comment, his colleague leaned over to say that he agreed with this advice. Our son remarked that since changing jobs to a company where his computer was in an open office, he found himself wasting a lot less time on the net then when he had more private office space.

Does 13-year-old need her own computer?

April 2010

I am wondering whether to get my 13-year-old daughter her own computer, or get a household laptop that she will share with the rest of the family (2 parents, 8-year-old brother.) She now uses one of two laptops that her dad and I use for our work, and that use consists of some school work but mostly Facebook postings, random internet trolling, and movie watching, the latter of which she does in her room. Next year when she's in high school she'll need more computer access for schoolwork than our two laptops can provide. I know research says that teens should use computers in public spaces, and that having one in their room is akin to putting a television in their room. I am concerned about losing her down the rabbit hole of the Internet if I give her her own computer, not to mention the inability to control what she's watching and when. My thought about a shared computer is that there can be parental control, both physical - in insisting that she surrender it occasionally since it won't be solely hers - and internal parental control settings on the computer. However, I would prefer to have a situation where we could trust her to use the machine responsibly and not get herself into trouble. I am interested to hear what the experience of other parents is around this issue. Do so many teens have their own computers that I'm swimming upstream on this issue? concerned mom


We provide a computer for our 13 year old twins (boy, girl) to share. We keep it in the Dining room. We have a laptop that is used occasionally by us that they can use in certain situations, but we don't allow them to use it in their room.

I think a middle schooler needs a computer to do schoolwork. Our school has all assignments and grades on-line for both students and parents to check. Teachers can send eMail to students via this on- line site.

Until this year, we had (Windows Vista based) internet filtering turned on. Even though it was set to block just the worst stuff, it was blocking way too many sites, so we gave up on that.

We still have internet monitoring on so we can see which web sites they frequent. I check that once a week. It only lists the 10 most visited sites, so it isn't perfect, but it lets them know we are paying attention.

I wouldn't let your daughter use the computer in her room. It is an invitation to abuse. I would set time limits on how long each day your daughter can use the computer for things other than school work. We limit ''media'' time (TV, computer games, internet goofing around) to 30 minutes on weekdays and 1 hour on the weekend.

We don't allow our kids to have their own website, blog, or use Facebook. I can't think of anything good coming from someone under 18 having a Facebook page or a blog. It isn't necessary and can lead to problems with bullying, etc. Buy her a diary if she wants to write things about her life. Parent of teens


No. No, no, no. No. Don't get her her own computer. She may be a wonderful 13-year-old girl with need for substantial computer time for school and desire for some online socializing BUT SHE IS A 13- YEAR-OLD GIRL. She needs to be in the den or the family room or the dining room when she's on the computer -- a room where you spend a lot of time and are often hanging out when she's computing. My daughter is a wonderful girl, now a college freshman. But when she was 13 she engaged in some preliminary risky online behavior, and if it had been on her own computer, in her own room, I would never have known nor been able to intervene. She was not a rebellious or risky teen, just a normal, curious, naive 13-year-old. You still have to be the parent. That may even mean monitoring software that will tell you where online she went and even give you screen shots or capture keystrokes. I'm sorry, I know the whole privacy argument, but there is just too much danger too easily accessible online, and teens, even smart ones, do not have the judgement and maturity to stay safe. If she had been in her room, on her own password- protected computer, and I hadn't been able to spot what she was doing, and tell her about the huge risk she was taking....it could have been a disastrous liaison with a predator masquerading as a friendly young teen. Please don't give up on family time, even if you have to give up your TV show and read quietly while she does her homework on the family computer at the other end of the room. BTW, we did get her her own MacBook right before college, and that was just the right time. Lucky Mom
I have very mixed feelings about the technology that is available to us today. It is a blessing to have so much information at our fingertips but at the same time the internet is highly addictive and can really detract from the finer things in life like reading a good book instead.

I have a 17 year old daughter who is about to go off to college and although we did get her a laptop computer at about the same time you are thinking of getting your daughter one I have to tell you that had I to do it over again I would not have given into her request so soon. I might have waited a couple of more years and just let her use the family desk top instead. For us it became the Battle Royale.

We did try to limit her use of the computer/internet but with the advent of DSL in our home it was impossible to see what she was up to when she was in her room doing her homework. We had her use her computer in the common areas of our home so we could keep an eye on her but that didn't really work very well. Unless you are literally staring at the screen for the entire time kids can be awfully tricky about going from site to site without you knowing what's going on. We also used to remove the laptop at bedtime because she would stay up at all hours to communicate with her friends online which made getting up in the morning a terrible struggle, and of course her mood was no picnic either.

Nowadays she is, as my husband calls it, free range on the computer. However, she is nearly a straight A student so it's hard to argue with her about how the computer effects her work when she does pretty well in school.

If you do decide to get your daughter her own laptop proceed with caution, set some firm ground rules, get some software to monitor the sites she visits, and see how it goes. You can always limit her use of the computer if she seems too distracted by it. Eventually she will have to learn to self-regulate and that's something you can definitely help her with. Best of Luck


We had a good experience with dedicating a desktop computer to our son's use, but keeping it in a public place (our dining room). This worked very well from age 12 until about 15, lots of creative use but little misuse. We've got many great memories of our son and his friends crowded around the computer watching/posting skate boarding videos, etc. He is required to have a laptop for high school and for him this also seems to be about the right age for a computer in his own space.

We didn't want a laptop in his bedroom sooner based on bad experience with another child. One thing to watch out for: An iPhone is pretty much a laptop equivalent for most kids. We got one for our son at at 15 and a lot of viewing moved into the bedroom. anonymous


Hi, This is a tough one. They absolutely need a computer for high school. Some classes post the homework on the web, they need to upload papers to the teacher, etc. However, my son is so incredibly distracted while he does his homework with live chat, facebook, music, youtube, games. He wastes a HUGE amount of time. It's gotten so bad that I think he might be addicted to it. I try to monitor it but I can't be there every second. Interestingly, the only kid who has no laptop access is doing the best in school. I am so frustrated and sad. In 8th grade he was a stellar student (no laptop). I estimate that 90% of the time he's in his room he's playing on the laptop with non-school related stuff. I would suggest a RIGID schedule of when the laptop is used for ''fun'' of one hour a day. And you need to have access to their Facebook page. You wouldn't believe some of the stuff that goes on there. Can't stand the lap top
I have an almost 16 yr girl who has had her own computer for 2 years now. I use a monitoring program called E-Blaster. I love it!, She hates it. This program actually sends you email information as she uses the computer. I get chat records and site usage. She has always known that I use this program even though it can be entirely hidden from the person being monitored. It needs to be installed on their computer, then all transactions and changes to the program, including blocking sites and specific chat members, can be accomplished via my computer. I have used this information as a source of dialog with my teen. The boys and even the girls are extremely sexual in their chats and I have discussed the importance of insisting being treated with respect by others. This week I had a breakthrough in which she came to me and told me she had ''unfriended'' a boy who was being inappropriate. I told her that I am very proud of her. I have told her I would stop monitoring the computer when I felt that our communication was adequate. I have learned a ton about partying, drinking and sexual activity of peers, most of which is pretty scary, but at least we talk about it. Twice I have called parents of other teens (not recently) because of my concerns, but their response has not been particularly receptive and it made my daughter very mad. I also am a friend on her facebook, but I use a false name so that her friends are not aware of who I am. This helps me see what she and others are posting, particularly videos and pictures. Marilyn

Should we get 12-year-old a video gaming device?

Dec 2009

I'd like to hear from parents of tween/teen boys about video games. Our son is now twelve and we have resisted getting any kind of video gaming device (xbox, wii, nintendo, etc.) so far based on our feeling that they will be all consuming of his time, and he won't want to ever leave the house or do anything outdoors. Also, we think that most of the games themselves are junk that we don't want in our home -too violent, overstimulating, and ugly. We know that there are some games that won't be offensive, and would love to hear about ones you like.

What sort of rules or controls have you set? For the past several years, we have limited him to three screen days a week and for the other 4, all screens are off limits, though he can do math or typing drills only on the computer. He has snuck in use of his ipod by listening to music or watching you tube videos which is technically a rule bender. His begging has ramped up - he will not give up on us, and we're running out of patience, stamina, courage in ways to explain why we don't want these things.

How have you negotiated use of these devices --the time and soul suck? Do they adversely affect your ability to engage your kids in going out? In doing homework? On doing anything social at all? Please share your stories and help us decide. As far as war games go, as a pacifist mom, I try to explain my views to my son, even if he doesn't agree, and both parents screen all his movie and computer game choices for age appropriateness to some degree. I like the web site www.commonsensemedia.org for guidance. I don't want to strictly forbid because I know this can backfire. Please share your opinion as to whether you feel there are redeeming qualities to these devices. How to strike a balance? Anti-video game parents


Video games seem to be a major form of socialization for the boys in my son's age group (middle school -- 12-14). They gather together around the game, shout encouragement or criticism at each other, laugh, and have a good time. This seems to be the alternative, as far as I can see, to doing what kids used to do: play battle games outside. It would be preferable for them to play outside, but where, really? The landscape we used for those games where I grew up in the rural Midwest doesn't really exist here. The other site for socialization seems to be the mall, and I really prefer gathering the boys in my home or another boy's home. So. Two games have dominated their interest, one of which I actually love: Beatles Rock Band. It is fun and somehow touching to have a group of kids on (toy) guitars and drums and vocals, belting out the classic Beatles hits. They even let me play occasionally! The other game is Halo, which is a shooting and battle game, so at first I hated it. But the kids design their own landscapes, create teams and strategies, etc. It's not so bad. They have two hours after school to play. If homework gets done in the evening and there is no family activity, my son will sometimes play on-line with a friend for a bit. And then there are marathon gaming sleepovers... I think you should consider succumbing. It hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be; sometimes it's even good! Linda
We resisted all video games that go on a tv -- all those xbox and such. I said, ''Video games rot your brain.'' I didn't bother to expand. To all his pleas, exceptions, offers, I replied, ''Not in my house; they rot your brain.'' My son happens to have ADHD and his wonderful doctor asked him at one point to discribe how he feels when he's playing games (all his friends have them). He said he felt relaxed, calm, away from the negative things in life (hassles, homework, etc). To which the doctor said, ''that's what drug addicts say about being high. It's not you. You're not bad. It's just your brain. It's the way the games affect your brain.'' Did he continue to argue? Sure. Did I bother to explain? Nope. Studies back me up. I also made him brush his teeth and wear a seatbelt. the mean mom
My first instinct is that if you are opposed to video games for whatever reason, then you don't need to succumb. However, it isn't like the video game console is a demon waiting to suck your child's life force. You can manage the time and content exposure, and in turn teach your son to manage it. All the same parenting rules apply to video games that apply to anything else in your house.

We are a video game family. My kids have played video games for a loooong time. We just turn it off if we feel they've played too long. Or, if you already have limits on screen time, just keep the same limits. My kids still ask if they can play video games before they do so and if the answer is yes, I give them a time limit.

My son (14) is much more likely to atrophy in front of any screen than my daughter (10) is. So, he needs a firmer hand with time management. My daughter will play a video game for a little bit, then go outside and shoot baskets or whatever.

My kids still do drama, sports, music. They get fantastic grades and have lots of friends. Video games have not hurt them at all. But, again, if you hate the idea of them in your house, you need to make that call.


In my experience, for our younger son, now 16, videogames fit the definition of an addictive substance--highly reinforcing, overwhelming his interest in all other activities, and causing huge anxiety when he is not allowed to play. We consider that ''screen time'' is a privilege he has to earn by maintaining his grades, chores, exercise, attitude--but it has still been an appalling struggle to get him to comply with the agreed upon plan, even with the computer out of his bedroom.

He definitely prefers videogames to family interactions--although some portion of this may be teen related rather than game related....

One benefit--maybe--he plays online and has developed greater social and communication skills with his gaming buddies compared to his classmates... videogamers anonymous--I wish...


Dear Anti-video game parents,

My son is 14, and reading your posting was as if I was listening to myself two years ago. We've watched our son drop all his interests and immerse himself more and more in to his Xbox, and more specifically these ultra violent war games. It's hard to believe that only two years ago we were limiting him as you are your son, and felt as strongly about violence in gaming as you do. We were eventually worn down by his pleading to let him show us how he could monitor himself, and finally allowed a grandparent to buy him the system. The first games he got were innocent enough, but over the past 24 months we've seen him transition to more and more realistic war games. Then two weeks ago, my husband and I made the difficult decision to shut him down. The Xbox does have a timer function, but my son had figured out how to override it pretty easily. The system has been in the closet since then and I know that my son is grappling with depression and withdrawal. We were desperate to have him back as a member of our family, and the cold turkey method was the last resort. Slowly we are seeing his humor and curiousity re-emerge. I hope you do not find yourself here in 2 years.

As you probably know, kids can go places like Eudemonia to play their video games, and since it costs money it does limit their ability to immerse themselves somewhat. You can't forbid the gaming altogether since they'll sneak around to play if they want to. My advice to you is that if you decide to get the system, which I don't think is entirely the wrong choice, it is crucial that you don't let your time limits slide. Don't be swayed by ''If you let me play as much as I want to, you'll see that I'll get tired of it and will limit myself''. It doesn't work. You'll need to have firm expectations around other parts of his life like homework, studying, sports, family events and face to face friend time. If you think you can hold the line on those things, then it might not be a bad idea to have a system. The Xbox allowed my son to watch movies and interact in real time with friends from the comfort of his room, which I know he enjoyed and I regret that his addiction forced our hand to shut it off entirely. My hope is that someday we can reintroduce it in a limited way.

By the way, if he'd be happy with a Wii, it is much more interactive (face to face interactive) than the Xbox.


My 12-year-old son has a Wii system that he bought with his own money. One redeeming quality is that he and his friends play games like Mario Bros. together, cooperating in an effort to win. Jennifer
Please email me if you want to hear the story about the three teenagers (ages 16, 18, and 20) I've been living with who have been playing the on-line video games for 6 years now. (Really very gruesome story.) Basically, the bottom line for me is JUST SAY ''NO''! Adults are better able to judge how they want to end up living their lives which is why alcohol, smoking, gambling, drugs are all illegal for kids. On-line video games should be illegal for kids under 21. I think that one day they'll discover that the on- line video games (an example is World of Warcraft - WOW) are extremely addictive and destructive to kids whose brains are still developing. I'm sure it would help if time limits were set (my step kids had no limits), but would you set a time limit on gambling or using cocaine for your child because all the other kids are doing it, and aren't you a terrible mom for not letting them do it? I've seen it first hand that the more they play, the more they want to play and nothing else in life is interesting anymore. They live to play. There has to be something wrong with that! Rita
We just took away our son's Xbox privileges because we felt he had lost all other outside interests. He didn't stay angry for very long which I think tells me he knows it's true. We tried setting limits on how much he played, but it continued to be a problem so we told him he wouldn't get to play again until he achieved more balance in his interests. We gave in to getting one initally when he told us he was practically the only one that didn't have one. This may be true, and at first it was a reason kids came over to our house, which we were fine with. Then, once he got Xbox Live (which connects players over the internet) the kids started preferring to go to their own homes to play with each other online. In our book that doesn't count as social interaction. In fact I think it's too easy for kids to get isolated through gaming, as they use it as an escape. Screen time is still an issue even without the Xbox, with Facebook and iTouch and other computer games he sneaks on to, so if I were you I'd avoid an additional source of continuous arguments and ban game consoles. a2zfamily
Hi, We broke down and got a PS3 last year. We had badluck with a PS2 back when our boys were younger. They are now 12 and 13. Since they weren't getting it at our house, they started going over to their friends all the time to play. We decided we wanted some of that social scene to happen where we could see it (the games, the kids, etc). That part has been good. I know their friends much better now. My boys are still quite limited in their play time. To keep the social aspect important, they are allowed to play up to 2 hours with company. Other times it is 3-5 hours per week based on grades. Right now their grades are down a bit, so they are off it for awhile. There is no right answer here. Some days I regret having it. Others I am glad they are doing it in front of me. Good luck! don't like the games either!
I succumbed and it is hard to shut the door once you open it. My son is a straight A student (8th grader), but he spends waaaay too much time on his i-touch (which he bought himself), and various computer based video games. That seems to be his predominate form of recreation with his buddies and they sometimes stay up almost all night playing on Saturdays. I regret having bought him one of the more violent games. I spoke recently with a young man who is a therapist at CAL about these games. He said studies show that they excite the more ''primitive, lizard part of the brain,'' causing that area to develop more and the cerebral cortex to atrophy. During the formative years, the parts of the brain used most build up more neural connections and the other sections are ''pruned back.'' Thus, you want to provide a wide range of experiences for your child if you want a well rounded child. If they did only math, more neural pathways would be built that enable one to succeed at math. In violent video games, you are rewarded for killing or blowing up people/things. Winning is a positive reinforcer. You want to play the game again and kill even more things. I think it also leads to desensitizing children about witnessing or participating in violent acts (witness our recent tragedy at a Richmond High dance). Health Educator with a Teen
We were in the same place you are - except we have a daughter. The vast majority of the neighbors, every one of her soccer team members, and nearly every student in her class had at least one type of game console, believe it or not, most had both xbox and wii.

We explained to our daughter that we would not buy her a wii as she had requested, but she could work and earn the money herself if she wanted one. My daughter walked dogs, set up lemonade stands, saved allowance money, birthday money and finally after two years earned enough money to buy the wii console and the yoga studio. She has only one other game because that is what she can afford.

It has worked well for us. Because my daughter had such a variety of experiences to earn the money, she expanded her creativity, experience and resourcefulness. She also has a game console and plays ''tennis'' about 6 hours per week. We have not put restrictions on her because it is not necessary. She plays outside with friends, continues soccer practice twice a week and is a straight ''A'' student.

I hate television and video games. I had hoped my daughter would not want them, but she does. We found a compromise and it works for our family. Wii not, unless you earn it yourself


I have three sons, two of them teenagers, and we have found a way of managing the video games that works for us. The boys bought their own PS3 - they shopped for months, waited for prices to go down, found one on craigslist, etc. We told them that even if THEY bought it we would still monitor the games and time they play. The oldest one (17) hardly ever plays at home because he is just too busy. The other two (14 and 11) are limited to 3 hours per week and they keep written track of their time. WE have also prohibited any games that involve killing virtual people - HALO, COD, MOH. That was just my line in the sand and I have told them that I know they can play these games at friend's houses but not in our house. That said, they do not spend a lot of time doing this at friend's houses and indeed some of their friends like to come to our house to play other video games. We still have some skirmishes over it and did take it away for one of them for six months...but by and large it works. Good luck
Here's the opposing viewpoint on videogames. We refused to get my son a console and when he was old enough to save up the money he bought himself a Wii. Surprise surprise we all enjoyed playing it! (He has since gotten a 360.) He often had friends over and they all enjoyed talking, laughing and playing together. Lots of the games involve cooperate modes so they have to work as teams. Since getting the console he has kept his grades up, has an active social life, got into a good college and has managed to hold down a job, both at college (part time)and here at home. So, videogames are not the road to failure.

Here's one of my favorite quotes from Steven Johnson's book ''Everything Bad is Good for You,'' describing how people would respond if videogames had always been part of our culture, then along came these thing called ''books:''

Books are tragically isolating. While games have for many years engaged the young in complex social relationships with their peers, building and exploring worlds together, books force the child to sequester him or herself in a quiet space, shut off from interaction with other children... But perhaps the most dangerous property of these books is the fact that they follow a fixed linear path. You can't control their narratives in any fashion -- you simply sit back and have the story dictated to you. . . . This risks instilling a general passivity in our children, making them feel as though they're powerless to change their circumstances. Reading is not an active, participatory process; it's a submissive one.
Videogames are not Satan

15 yr old son just wants to veg in front of the TV

June 2009

Need some advice: We have a 15-yr-old son who just finished grade 9 at a private school (he attended public previously). The private school didn't have much to offer in the way of extracurriculars (sports, clubs), but Son didn't still want to participate in anything. He wanted to come home right away after school, eat, and veg in front of the TV until I would literally turn it off and tell him to hit the homework. When we asked him about being on a sports team, he claimed he 'doesn't have time'. This has been the pattern at least for 2nd semester. I ran into a good friend of his yesterday (who goes to the local public, same grade), who is thriving. This kid is on the school soccer & track teams, and told me he is taking an AP class next year. (He and my son have been friends since 2nd grade, and I know my son is intellectually superior to Friend, eg Son was reading at grade 12 level in grade 7.) After chatting briefly with Friend yesterday, I became very depressed. Why is Friend thriving, and all Son wants to do is sit on couch? Son and Friend don't see much of each other anymore (different schools, different circle of friends). In fact, Son doesn't spend time with anyone. If you've read this far, you're going to suggest he's depressed-- I've already had him evaluated and he's been on Lexapro for mild anxiety, but that seems to make him lethargic, ie, not helping the vegging problem. In fact, he seems perfectly content to park himself in front of the TV, or computer, rather than seeking friends or participating in anything. We've decided to put him in the local public school for grade 10 and beyond, mainly because his academic experience was abysmal at the private school (he has to repeat 2 classes mainly due to not turning in his homework, which killed his grades). (BTW we have a grade 7 son who is just the opposite-- thriving, into sports, straight A student, lots of friends.) What should we do with Son-- how can we get him fired up about life and school? Get him into a sport or club? Start hanging with friends again? Thanks for any thoughts. Worried Mom


Hello There ~Worried Mom~ I was in the same boat. I have a 14 year old son that wanted to do nothing but watch tv and play video games. That all changed when we got him involved in Boxing and Sea Scouts. My son's Sea Scout crew would love to have your son come check out the program. If you are interested in either boxing or Sea Scouts, let me know and I can give you the details. Best Intentions. Jennifer
Some questions to ask yourself: did your son seem happy attending public school? Why did you move him to a private school? Did your son want to switch schools? I can guarantee you that your son is not intellectually superior to his Friend. I, and others that I went to school with, had very accelerated reading skills from an early age and it meant very little by the time I reached high school because most kids had caught up. Also, there were always other kids that excelled in other areas that I did not excel in. I'm sure the same is true of your son. If you are telling your kid that he is intellectually superior to his friends, think about the burden you are placing on him (he must always perform BETTER than his friends) Plus, your son, no doubt, knows that he is not superior to his friends and simply finds this characterization annoying. Find out what you kid is interested in and let him explore it, even if you don't particularly like his interests. another person of average intellect

Keeping teen's computer use focused on homework

April 2009

My teen needs to use his computer to do homework. The problem is that the computer is also the portal to all kinds of tempting distractions -- his Facebook page, youtube, AIM, etc. He can take 3 hours to complete what I consider to be about an hour's worth of homework because he flits back and forth between his assignments and the distractions. His work product isn't very good, either, because he's not focusing on it. I have talked to him 1,000 times about the benefits of finishing his work first so that he has free time to enjoy other things, but this message obviously hasn't sunk in. How do others handle this issue of computer use so that their kids stay focused on their work? Anon


I look forward to the answers to this question, because it is exactly the same situation at our house, and is really frustrating. I haven't found the answer, but we have made a tiny bit of progress by locking the computer away and demanding our teen student complete all homework that does not require a computer (such as math) to be done first. Then the computer gets unlocked to do other homework such as a typed assignments. Then I do spot checks to see if she is really doing work rather than getting on Facebook, watching a TV show or a movie. If things are bad, I disconnect the modem and hide it. I feel ridiculous going to these lengths, but I have seen her stay up so late to complete an assignment (and do it poorly) most of the time ''working'' was fooling around. Hopefully, she will eventually internalize these time management techniques more and more. I am so glad there was none of this available when I was in high school and college, I know it would have been harder for me! Sympathetic

9th grader and Video Games - too much?

Nov 2008

Need a reality check. Our 9th grader plays video games about 20-30 hours per week. He can spend almost the entire weekend playing (with friends via the Internet). He gets B's in school, doesn't get into any trouble, and plays a sport once a week for 2 hours. He has no other hobbies, and hates to read. I'm thinking he'll grow out of this or at some point, get really tired of the video games. Should I be concerned or just let nature take it's course? Anon


Way too much! Limit him now!!! I never realized how harmful video games are to a child's sense of reality and motivation until we weaned our son off of them. Do your son a favour and set limits on how often and for how long he plays. My guess is that once he's sitting around with nothing else to do (because he's never done anythign else except playing video games), he'll start to take an interest in other things. Of course, you'll have to make it through a few weeks of ''I'm SOOOOOOOOO boooreddd!'' Belive me, he'll appreciate it when he's in his late teens/early twenties and can actually keep a girlfriend because he has other interests. And no, it's not a phase that they will necessarily grow out of, at least not for many years. Video game free
I'm sure you'll get a lot of ''unplug the console!'' responses, but I think you can dial it back successfully. We were in the same boat as you. My son spends most of his free time playing video games. He socializes with his friends over the xbox while playing. On the plus side, he has even struck up friendships with kids at school because of the xbox...kids he normally never would have talked to. I decided about a month ago that he was playing way too much. Not sure what the total hours were, probably 15-20 hours per week. If your son is really playing 20-30 hours a week, I personally think that is too much. And I am pretty darned lenient about such things. That is like a part time job!!

I just told him one evening that he used to be a lot more interesting before he was consumed by video games. He talked about other things, drew more, etc. We have simply started limiting his time. You say your son hates to read, but you should make him read as much as he plays video games, or even half as much! Also, when he starts playing, give him a set time that he has to end, even set a timer for 5 minutes before so he can't give you that ''I can't save right now!'' crap.

Other ideas, some of which we've implemented pretty successfully:


-- more chores around the house and generally helping out when asked (taking out the garbage, raking leaves, setting the table, pulling stuff out of the dryer, etc.)
-- literally kicking him outside. Even if it is just to poke at stuff with a stick or lay on the ground.
-- engaging him by setting aside time to do something together (go for a walk, read side by side, make cookies, teach how to fold his laundry, etc.)

My son gets straight As, tutors other kids once a week, trains in karate, and performs in a local drama program. So, I understand that he needs the down time, but he also needs to be a well rounded person, and it is my job to make that happen. Mary


13 yo ''bored'' with everything but TV & gaming

Sept 2008

My 13 year old has some pretty heavy learning differences. He's getting lots of help, has a great community of friends, good school, etc. That said.....

If I let him, he would watch TV or do electronic games 24/7. Everything else ''bores'' him. He's a hands on kind of kid. Learns by doing rather then reading and because of his learning issues he is not a reader. Aside from comics and recipes (he does like to cook) he NEVER picks up a book because it's such a challenge. He reads for school stuff only because he has to.

He fences as a sport and likes basketball. But every spare moment all he wants to do is watch TV or play one of his games. It's a battle to limit the time and unless I want to be involved in an activity with him all the time, he does not self-entertain very well.

I thnk the TV/Games create the cycle of wanting more....so how to put limits, end the cycles without totally taking it all out of the house. I could go on and on....I want to hear from parents who know exactly what i''m talking about and have successfully dealt with the issue (at least some of the time). Thanks in advance mom of teens


My 13 y.o. son is very similar, however, he loves to read (thank goodness''!) He also will choose video games, PSP, TV, etc. and the longer he is involved with these things, the more comatose he becomes. What we've done is limit their use during the week when he has school. No TV, some game use only after all homework is done. jc

What are you thoughts about limiting teens' computer use? August 1998

I've been wanting for some time to get hear other parents' thoughts about recreational computer use, particularly for preteen and adolescent boys. My sons sometimes seem unable to walk away from the games. They have friends who don't like to come over to visit because I limit computer time during play dates. The games they love best and want most (which I refuse to have in my house) are violent, and I think the graphics are creepy. The characters from the games, the game situations, become topics of unending conversations.

We have the "good" games: Oregon Trail (great background for our cross country move a few years ago), the variations on Sim City, Civilization (this one taught my younger son to read) and others. However, what they really like are what I call "shoot-em-ups." These they want to play endlessly. And when they and their friends have been playing long enough, when they stop they really seem restless, irritable, everything else is "boring." The computer seems to have replaced the TV as electronic baby sitter, too. Whenever we visit friends (and often when we have visitors), the kids end up around a computer, taking turns playing games. Sometimes the games can be played by two kids, but it's not exactly social engagement.

We have lots of limits about this kind of computer use: 30 minutes a day, a weekly breather from all computer use (Friday dinner to Sunday morning), but it is a constant unpleasant battle. Does anyone have any thoughts, experience, ideas about creating family life in (this part of) the computer age? I might add that my teenage daughter, a savvy computer user, and her friends NEVER play computer games! Emily


While "Homework Wars" is the main battle I fight with my 13 and 15 year old sons, "Video Wars" is up there right along side "Take a Shower You are Starting to Stink" and "The Long List of Things You Forgot to Do Again Today".

Video and computer games are a major pasttime for my kids and a major social activity for the two of them and their friends. If I didn't set some kind of limit, they would play them all the time. They try to get me to play them too, which I sometimes do. I don't really have any answers about how to discourage video games but here are my thoughts.

There are a few benefits to letting them play sometimes:

- social & collaborative skills. they rarely play these things alone - they seem to only enjoy doing it with other kids. They consult with each other, or play side-by-side. They instantly have something in common with lots of other kids, which helps with new or awkward social situations. The younger brother is better at video games so this is the one time when he has an edge over the older one. I suppose there is some skill involved - fast reflexes and fine motor coordination are probably importnat.

Then there are all the minuses:

- they would do it continually and never stop unless I set limits
- some of the games are gross and some are REALLY gross
- the music drives you insane
- fights between brothers break out predictably & regularly
- power struggles: one will share secret codes but the other won't
- they look like big sloppy slugs while they are playing
- think of all the activities they aren't doing while they
are playing video games (drawing, reading, musical instruments, folding laundry, washing the car, etc.)

I think the video game syndrome is a lot like the sports fan syndrome - the need to be in the same room with a bunch of other guys watching some relatively mindless thing on TV and shouting and stomping together. Why can't they just garden or read murder mysteries instead?

I do try to keep it a minimum though. They keep their video system at their dad's - I won't buy them one for here. I allow them to bring it over occasionally (if a friend is sleeping over). We have a computer, so they can entertain themselves that way when I am not monopolizing it myself. And they do actually have other interests besides video. But you are right that their friends don't want to come over if there are no video games. "There's nothing to do" without video games.

Computer games: these are more solitary (like Myst) but they still prefer to play with another kid. Lately, though, the 15-y-o spends all his computer time in teen chat rooms where they all talk slang to each other or in sports chat rooms where they see who can brag about local teams the most convincingly. I monitor this somewhat but it doesn't take up as much time because there are so many people in the house who want to use the computer. G.


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