Any ideas on how to limit my children's almost obsessive interest in computer time?
They are ages 12, 13, and 15. Only our 15 year old has a cellphone. They all have ipods. Thankfully, they spend much time reading. We get them out of the house, to the beach, to visit family as often as we can. However, they have a lot of down time and are constantly fighting or negotiating for computer time despite the limits we have set. They are well behaved, but this computer time issue has pushed me to the limit. Even when they have a friend over they only want to play computer. Our 15 year old babysits and has a little more freedom, but it is difficult to entertain the younger two. I miss the days when they would play in the backyard for hours!
From: ML, Arlington, MA
Good for you for spotting this red flag: Not only is summer typically a time when teens spend more time on the computer, but also when they can unknowingly become addicted.
The best antidote is to have clear boundaries and rules about computer use, video games, computer games, and even poker playing, from the moment your kids start to play, no matter how young a child is. (The younger they are, the more likely they are to get addicted.) Have a family meeting to get the problem on the table: Your worries, for instance" "'I've noticed you don't seem to enjoy the things you used to enjoy. You didn't go fishing with the boys last week, you wanted to stay home and be on the computer. I'm wondering if you even realize that you gave up something you used to love to do in the summer."
Talk about how much time you think is reasonable for each child per day. (Start low and be prepared to negotiate.) Tell them your objections to particular issues, for instance, violence & pornography. Ask each child to sit down with you and show you the sites they visit and explain why they like them. For the bickering, tell them how bothersome it is to hear them go at it. Make some suggestions -- a sign-up sheet; using a timer -- and then put it in their hands: "You three need to solve this problem. Come back to us when you have some ideas we can discuss."
Then ask each child to draw up a contract that details the sites/games they visit; when, and for how long. Take it under advisement, work over it to be sure it has details that satisfy you, for instance, "For every x hours on the computer, John agrees to x hours per day of outdoor exercise, and x minutes of chores."
You get the idea. Once you have contracts, especially contract they have helped write, your boys will be much more likely to buy into the rules.
You probably didn't expect such a complicated answer! But overuse of the computer at this age can be a serious problem. I don't mean to be over-reacting, just trying to help you stay ahead of the curve.
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