Five years ago I created the “10 Rules That Work” for tweens — outlining online safety tips and healthy habits. Through extensive research and a lot of effort my goal was to make these rules deep rooted fundamentals that would not expire over time. Let’s see how rule #1 fares out …
(I invite you to follow along every Saturday as I examine each rule one by one)

Rule #1: Set Up A Gaming Schedule

Introducing a gaming day schedule to my children the day they got their first gaming console was the best thing we ever did. From day one I remember making a hand written schedule that read: GAMING DAYS (in green) and NON GAMING DAYS (in red). I had the kids choose which days they would play (they could choose four) and I taped it at their eye level on the wall upon entering the family room. The schedule was our saving grace for tantrums and power struggles. Any time they wanted to play I would tell them to check the schedule to see if they were “allowed” on the schedule THEY MADE (accountability manipulation at its best). It worked.

It worked because we were consistent, the plan was fair and it was flexible. If they had a friend over or if it was a rainy weekend and it was a non gaming day, we bent the rules. Whateves. With a lot of reminding and commitment, eventually it became second nature. Little did they know they were learning 3 life skills: self regulation, delayed gratification and the ability to be away from technology 3 days a week.

I’ve seen first hand the effects of gaming addiction and how it can completely alter the functioning of your brain because of the excessive amounts of rewards video games provide. I’ve seen it completely strip all motivation, drive, energy and talent from a teen who had the potential to achieve whatever his goals were. It might be insane for you to believe if you don’t know anyone who has suffered through this kind of behavioural addiction, but I assure you gaming addiction is a major concern.

The best gift you can give your child along with that first gaming console is a gaming day schedule. They need to learn balance and self regulation at an early age to learn all the skills they need to keep depression and social anxiety at bay. Scary new statistics are popping up that depression and anxiety are on the rise and excessive use of technology is to blame for some of that.

2017 — Has this rule changed for us?

I am being completely transparent in this blog series therefore I have to admit that my 13 year old son plays video games nearly every day. When he gets home from school he kicks off his shoes and plays for about an hour. If the yard wasn’t snow covered I’m not sure he would choose gaming as his after-school-relaxation-routine but for now it is. It doesn’t bother me because he doesn’t put up a fight when I tell him to turn it off — yes, I still have to remind him when time’s up. He’s a good student and knows when to do his homework and gets it done. He still has a strong interest in sports and has an active social life. These are all good signs of someone who has a balanced life which is why I’m not concerned that he plays daily. If he ever cursed at me or said “I hate you!” or called me names, that would be a totally different story. I’d clobber the Xbox for one, which he knows, which is probably why he doesn’t do those things. 😜 You know your child has a problem when in the absence of technology he is cranky, unmotivated, not interested in personal hygiene, recluse and irritable unless he’s gaming.

In the end, I guess Rule #1: Set Up A Gaming Schedule may expire with time. It’s still an essential rule that works well for tweens. All I can say is if you’re noticing your 15 year old has a gaming addiction and you try to demand a gaming schedule at that age … you’re about 10 years too late.

Please share your comments below …