For all the positive aspects of letting kids play videogames — fine-motor-skill practice; exposure to new technology; parental bonding time; etc. — there are way too many negatives to let kids’ gaming go unchecked. And so, for one of our 2008 resolutions, my wife and I are adopting a reward strategy with our boys, making cards that the kids can cash in for 15 minutes of TV, game or PC time throughout the day: When they reach 60 minutes, time’s up until tomorrow.
That said, there are plenty of more high-tech options for practicing similar strategies, all of which work whether you’re looking to monitor game time or just want to limit how long the TV stays on in your home.
BOB the Screentime Controller ($100, above), which made it into our gift guide and blogs this year, plugs into any electrical device with a plug and kills the power after a time limit you designate. There’s a learning curve involved with programming it, but once you get past that, it’s a terrific way to monitor kids’ game, TV or computer time without having to get personally involved in the battle.
The TimeMachine ($50, not pictured) controls the signal, rather than the power, but kills it in much the same manner as BOB, the major difference being that kids take more of an active role, feeding the timer tokens for 30 minutes of screen or game time. Like the similarly styled PlayLimit ($50), it’s easy to install and a great way to implement your own reward system.
The Time-Scout ($90, above) also uses a reward-based system to control when and for how long the idiot box stays on, but in this case, kids swipe a card when it’s their turn to watch or play, and you get your own parental-control card that allows you to raise or lower the amount of screen time in their accounts.
Making a similar resolution for tomorrow? Already implemented your own screen-control system that blows these away? Tried and failed on all of the above? Let us know in the comments, and Happy New Year!