Competing against X-Box, Playstation and Wii
If you type ‘My child spends too much time on X-Box’ into Google, you’ll get over 38 million results. This is a controversial subject, and much more commonly a difficulty for parents of boys than girls.
The range of parent opinions include:
- ‘My son is addicted to it’
- ‘For goodness sake!!!! You are the parents!!!! Remove the X-Box!!!!’
- ‘If I take away his X-Box, it’s like taking away his friends’
- ‘My advice is to break the thing. Take the fuse out of the plug so she thinks it’s broken’
- ‘My son has grown out of it. He’s 15’
- ‘If you take away what he enjoys, the next thing you’ll find is that his school grades are bad, he’s lost interest in community and school activities and his homework isn’t done on time. What IS it with parents? Are you out to crush your child’s spirit or allow him to grow in a direction that interests him? Unbelievable.’
How can conversation help?
In every domain of our lives – work, relationships, and parenting – its vital to develop clear agreements about what is and isn’t acceptable to each other. Whether this relates to working at the weekend, who does the shopping, or how much time your child spends on X-Box, you need agreements. This requires sitting down, listening to each other’s perspective and agreeing a deal. Then you need to write it up, and put it somewhere visible such as the fridge.
We often talk about the need for consistency, but let’s take these 2 situations:
- A child doesn’t tend to watch TV but spends 16 hours a week on Playstation. He does football training twice a week, has matches on a Saturday, plays guitar and is broadly keeping up with school work. He lives out of town, and Playstation allows him to stay connected to his friends
- A child spends 12 hours a week on X-Box, watches an equal amount of TV, spends additional time online on their computer, and doesn’t play sport
For this reason, it’s difficult to apply a one-size-fits-all approach. What’s more important is to be talking to your child. There will be times where the situation doesn’t work for you, and others where they feel the situation is entirely unfair. This is where conversation comes in:
- Remember that you (the parent) are the one with the problem, not the child. Your child doesn’t see what the issue is and wants what they want. If you’re honest you’ll say, ‘This probably isn’t an issue for you, but it is for me’
- Always remind them why you are putting restrictions on the time they can spend playing online games. It’s not simply because you want to spoil their fun. It’s because you have values
- Develop a system of incentives, rewards and consequences if necessary. But use threats sparingly. If you warn them on a daily basis that their console is going to be confiscated, your words will sound hollow
- Put the X-Box in a family room rather than in their bedroom. It’s much harder to monitor and negotiate when it’s on their patch rather than yours
- Be prepared to have the conversation multiple times. Just because you had it this morning, doesn’t mean that you won’t have to have it tomorrow morning!
- Most consoles have a timer that you can activate, but you can also be the timer. When you want them to come off, give them 15 minutes notice if you can. Depending on the game or mission, it gives them time to finish and to save their points rather then quitting mid-way through it
- When it all goes wrong, and ends up with you or the child throwing a fit, make sure that you sit down afterwards and talk it through. There’s no way round this
- See this article by Steve Emmons, who is an International Master Trainer for Gordon Training International: