If you’re like most parents, you probably worry about how much time your kids spend playing computer games. Screen time is a major issue for today’s young people, with many young kids and pre-teens spending hours and hours every day on their consoles.

As excessive use of computer game consoles can damage kids in a number of ways, limiting the amount of time they spend online is essential. To help you get your kids off the computer and out into the real world, we’re taking a look at 10 effective ways to get computer-crazy kids to put the consoles down.

Set ground rules from the start

It’s a lot easier to limit the amount of time kids spend online if you set strict ground rules from the start. If you haven’t yet bought a console for your kids, sit down and think about the rules you want to set before you head to the shops. If possible, get kids to agree to these rules in advance. You could even make them sign a contract before you hand over the device. Although enforcing your rules may not always be straightforward, it’ll be a lot simpler if you have your kids following them from the start.

Don’t give in

Once you’ve decided on a time limit for a gaming session, or told your kids which games they’re allowed to play and which they aren’t, it’s important you stick to your guns. If you give in, your kids will know that they can get around the rules and will be constantly trying to push the boundaries. Make sure your other half is on the same page and knows that the rules are there to be followed.

Explain your reasoning

When setting rules for video game playing, you don’t want your decisions to come across as arbitrary or pointless. Once you’ve decided what the rules are going to be, sit down with your kids and go through them one by one. Explain that you’re limiting screen time because it’s not good for them to sit in front of the TV all day. You can also remind them that they have a lot of other natural talents and gifts and these shouldn’t be ignored.

At this point, you could ask your kids for input on the rules. If they have a reasonable argument about why one should be amended, you can listen to them and consider making the changes. However, once these alterations have been made, you need to make it clear the rules are set for good.

Plan alternative activities

After running around a virtual world killing bad guys and chatting to friends and fellow players online, the real world can seem like a bit of a let-down. Try to make off-screen time just as fun as screen time by planning a few alternative activities. If your kids are into sports, you could invest in a dart board, miniature snooker table or football goal for the garden. Alternatively, plan a craft activity or get the kids doing some baking.

Family walking in the woods at Christmas

Get a pet

Pets can be a great way to get kids’ minds off computer games. If your kids have been begging you for a pet for years, you could think about adopting one on the condition that your kids do their fair share of looking after it. Get them to promise they’ll take care of their new furry friend and play with it when they’re in the house. Not only will they be spending less time in front of a screen, they’ll be learning new skills and responsibilities. A family pet like a dog to walk will do your computer-mad kids the world of good as well as providing plenty of opportunity for family time.

use a timer

Kids can easily lose track of time when they’re playing computer games. An easy way to enforce your computer cut-off point is to invest in a timer. Your children won’t be able to argue with the sound of the alarm going off and it will also help you to stick to your timetable.

Enrol kids in after school clubs

The less spare time kids have, the fewer hours they’ll be able to spend online. Enrol your kids in a number of different after school clubs to help keep them busy when they’re not in the classroom. Ideally, these should be active clubs like football, netball, swimming or dancing. However, if your kids aren’t sporty, any activity that gets them away from the computer screen will do.

Make a timetable

When setting out your rules, take the time to create an easy to read timetable for your kids to follow. Give each day a colour code and then divide it into sections describing what should be happening at each point of the day. Again, you need to stick to the timetable as closely as possible. The less you deviate from it, the less your kids will try to push the boundaries.

Be reasonable

Although sticking to the rules is important, you also need to have a little flexibility in your schedule. If you’re reasonable when it comes to enforcing your rules, your kids are less likely to see you as a dictator. For example, if you’ve been out visiting family and the kids have missed their allotted games window, you can let them choose another time when they can enjoy their console.

Keep consoles in a shared space

If you’re trying to limit screen time, it’s very important to keep games consoles and other devices in a communal area. If they’re in your kids’ rooms, it’s easy for them to continue playing after you’ve told them to stop. If you find the sound effects irritating, invest in some good-quality headphones for kids to wear while they’re playing.

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