Horizon Schools Weight gain, irregular sleep, less time for active play and even compromised school performance can all be outcomes for a child who spends in inappropriate amount of time on Gameboy and other computer games.

For a child, computer control is something that must be learned. The tween years make emotional and physical demands on kids, and some respond by turning to their favorite games, where they always feel in control. But when the child chooses recreation over responsibilities, it’s time for you as a parent to step in and help.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a maximum of two hours a day for TV, gaming and other passive activities. What are your options?

  • Set a schedule. Make it clear where your child’s priorities must be. Homework and extracurricular activities take precedence, as do household responsibilities and even socializing with the family over dinner. If your child has fulfilled his priorities, you may reward him with some game time. Conversely, you can cut his time if his behavior doesn’t correspond to expectations.
  • Use an egg timer. Put an egg timer next to the computer and have your child watch you set it. This low-tech option lets everyone count down the time together, and when you add minutes to reward good behavior, the timer just reinforces the good news. Just be sure to keep an eye on crafty kids who will reset the timer when your back is turned.
  • Limit computer access. You can purchase and download software that times and limits a child’s access to the computer. This may be the option if your child has problems sticking with an agreed-upon schedule.
  • Offer alternatives. Sometimes it’s not enough to just tell kids to find something to do. If your child lacks social motivation, take him and some friends to a basketball court, bowling alley, community pool or whatever attracts the best response. Getting kids out and interacting gives them much-needed socialization.