How to control our children’s play time?

A frequent consultation in the field of child and adolescent psychology has to do with the excessive use of video games, cell phones or electronic devices in general. Doubts arise when we wonder if we should be permissive or strict in the control that is performed as a parent on the mobile, tablet, console or computer. If it should be allowed some hours during the week or if it should be limited to weekends and in one case or the other, what number of hours and according to what.

How much should children play with electronic devices?

The answer, in this case, is not universal. The first important idea to consider is that you should be flexible with rules and attitudes according to the age of the child, as well as taking into account his or her reference group. This means that, as the adolescent enters and progresses through the adolescent stage, an effort must be made to transfer responsibility and control over time management to this adolescent.

Likewise, the schedules and socializing patterns of their group of friends must be taken into account. That is, if the group of friends socializes through video games or mobile applications, we must be permissive in this regard so as not to close the door to this socialization, as long as it does not influence their school performance, which they must understand as a priority.

When should we set the limit?

As more global measures we can mention two guidelines of minimums and maximums that can be useful for parents. The first of these is that the cell phone and video games should not account for more than half of the free time available to the person. In free time there should be space for responsibilities, study and diverse leisure, or in other words, video games yes, but not only video games. Other forms of entertainment can be incorporated (among them, it will be important to incorporate activities that are not sedentary, such as sports).

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In the more advanced stage of adolescence, from 14-15 years onwards, adolescents themselves should be aware of and responsible for their own use of time. For these purposes, there are apps that allow them to record their time and make a more rational use of it: QualityTime or Momento, for example.

In younger children, parents are the ones who will have to set the rules and ensure that they are followed, so supervision should be more rigid.

The other idea is to ensure that video games and cell phones do not influence basic routines such as eating or sleeping. Therefore, it is advisable not to use screens, especially cell phones or tablets, one hour before going to sleep, since the wavelength emitted by these screens inhibits the secretion of melatonin, which is essential for the quality of our sleep. On the contrary, other more monotonous or not so “activating” activities can be incorporated, such as reading.

Likewise, it is advisable that cell phones and other electronic devices are not present at meal times, such as dinner or lunch, by any member of the family and thus take advantage of a daily necessity to turn it into a positive routine of attention and interaction among family members, where we look at each other’s eyes and not at the screens.