Good computer habits from the start

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  January 22, 2010 06:00 AM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article


Hi Barbara,

My 6 1/2-year-old son got a computer game for Christmas. We are totally fine with him playing this game. I recognize that the computer will be more and more a part of his life, and I also know that experts advise no more than 2 hours of total (tv & computer) screen time per day (he usually has less than this). So my question is: what do you advise in terms of how to set healthy limits for playing computer games or being on the computer for this age so that he develops good habits? What strategies do you suggest for dealing with when he fights us on limiting his screen time?
From: Anita, Natick

Hi Anita,

You're right that good habits from the start are what keep problems at bay, the biggest danger, of course, being computer addiction.  In fact, a new Kaiser Foundation study released yesterday shows that kids are more than ever  tethered to their computers and other electronics with outcomes that include poor academic performance and increased behavioral problems. (For more information, see this post by Lylah M. Alphonse about the study.) So, yeah, you are right to be concerned.

Here are some good rules:

1. The computer belongs in a public space in the house, not in his bedroom, even if it's a laptop. That may not seem important now but it will be in years to come, when he is interested in looking at pornography  (yeah, I know; you hadn't thought about that, huh? But most boys find it on line, sooner or later) or when he stays up late into the night playing games under his covers. The number one reason kids fall asleep during class in middle school? They're on the computer deep into the night, when parents think they are asleep, because the computer is in their bedroom.

2. On school nights, no computer games or screen time except for school work or perhaps for a project you are working on together, for instance, sending a thank you to grandparents. This may also sound unnecessary for a first grader but, honestly, if this is what a child comes to expect at this age, it's just business as usual in the older years. It's what we did in our family from the start and we didn't run into resistance until seventh grade, which is not a bad run if you ask me. 

3. Whenever you do allow computer time, set a limit on how much is allowed at a given setting and use a timer. That eliminates the fighting you've been running into because it's the bing of a bell, not your voice, that tells him to stop. A timer is especially helpful when sibs are using the computer and fighting over turns.

What are some other strategies parents are using? I hope folks will share their ideas.

I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.
This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

3 comments so far...
  1. We have imposed the "no screen time" rule during the week at our house since the beginning of first grade. I was finding that I was fighting with my son about "one more show," or "one more game of Mario Kart," when it was time to do homework or come up for dinner. And that was when the weather was good, so I would have preferred he be playing outside anyway. I have found that eliminating it altogether has actually made our lives much more pleasant during the week and I see my son playing with his legos, taking out a puzzle, and reading independently more often than I know he would otherwise.

    Occasionally I have offered a game or TV if the situation has been right, but he's not allowed to ask me until Friday afternoon. It saves a lot of arguments and me worrying about the "timing."

    His Nintendo DS is mine from M-F, there is no (and never will be) tv in his room, and my husband and I have already decided to convert the kids' playroom into a "family study" when they are older.

    Posted by RH January 22, 10 07:19 AM
  1. We have similar computer rules for our kids. We do occasionally allow computer time on school nights, but only after homework and chores are done. The timer works great.

    One thing that really helps is for the parent to be familiar with however the game's save function works. The kids freaked out a lot less about having to turn off their Sim City if they know they can go back to their city tomorrow. I always save for them, so that they can see that, yes, it got saved, and nothing got messed up. Sometimes they never return to it, but it helps them disengage when their 45 minutes are up.

    Posted by BMS January 22, 10 07:44 AM
  1. Since this is his start with the computers it is best to start building some other important habits that will serve him for a lifetime - for example to take regular breaks and maintain good computer posture.

    It is best to set the time limits a part of the computer with a software application and avoid further discussion about time limit.

    For a six and a half years old I would advice you to use this software designed especially for kids:
    Healthy computer experience for kids

    Posted by Pico January 22, 10 06:31 PM
 
3 comments so far...
  1. We have imposed the "no screen time" rule during the week at our house since the beginning of first grade. I was finding that I was fighting with my son about "one more show," or "one more game of Mario Kart," when it was time to do homework or come up for dinner. And that was when the weather was good, so I would have preferred he be playing outside anyway. I have found that eliminating it altogether has actually made our lives much more pleasant during the week and I see my son playing with his legos, taking out a puzzle, and reading independently more often than I know he would otherwise.

    Occasionally I have offered a game or TV if the situation has been right, but he's not allowed to ask me until Friday afternoon. It saves a lot of arguments and me worrying about the "timing."

    His Nintendo DS is mine from M-F, there is no (and never will be) tv in his room, and my husband and I have already decided to convert the kids' playroom into a "family study" when they are older.

    Posted by RH January 22, 10 07:19 AM
  1. We have similar computer rules for our kids. We do occasionally allow computer time on school nights, but only after homework and chores are done. The timer works great.

    One thing that really helps is for the parent to be familiar with however the game's save function works. The kids freaked out a lot less about having to turn off their Sim City if they know they can go back to their city tomorrow. I always save for them, so that they can see that, yes, it got saved, and nothing got messed up. Sometimes they never return to it, but it helps them disengage when their 45 minutes are up.

    Posted by BMS January 22, 10 07:44 AM
  1. Since this is his start with the computers it is best to start building some other important habits that will serve him for a lifetime - for example to take regular breaks and maintain good computer posture.

    It is best to set the time limits a part of the computer with a software application and avoid further discussion about time limit.

    For a six and a half years old I would advice you to use this software designed especially for kids:
    Healthy computer experience for kids

    Posted by Pico January 22, 10 06:31 PM
add your comment
Required
Required (will not be published)

This blogger might want to review your comment before posting it.

About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

Submit a question for Barbara's Mailbag


Ask Barbara a question

Barbara answers questions on a wide range of topics, including autism, breastfeeding, bullying, discipline, divorce, kindergarten, potty training, sleep, tantrums, and much, much more.

Send your questions to her at:
meltzbarbara (at) gmail.com.
Please include your name and hometown.

Child in Mind

Moms
All parenting discussions
Discussions

High needs/fussy baby

memes98 writes "My 10.5 month old DS has been fussy ever since he was born, but I am getting very frustrated because I thought he would be much better by now...has anyone else been through this?"

More community voices

Child in Mind

Corner Kicks

Dirty Old Boston

Mortal Matters

On Deck

TEDx Beacon Street

RSS feed


click here to subscribe to
Child Caring

archives