Dear Dr. Bill,
My 12-year-old son loves computer games! And recently, he’s begun playing with people around the world on internet-based games. I really don’t know much about these games, except that my son would spend every waking moment of his life playing, if I let him. I’m concerned about internet horror stories that you hear about, and I wish I could broaden my son’s interests beyond a 10 by 12-inch screen. Do you have any suggestions?
Multiplayer internet-based games are hugely popular with some kids. You’re wise to be concerned about internet dangers. 1 out of 5 kids report being solicited for something inappropriate on-line.
The games your son is playing may be harmless, but you should monitor his use of the internet closely.
I recommend that parents don’t allow their kids to have a computer with internet access in their own room. Instead, keep the computer in a common area like the kitchen or family room, where you can keep an eye on what they are doing and what sites they are visiting.
In your son’s case, I believe you need to limit the amount of time he is spending online. He should be getting exercise, spending time outside, and socializing with other kids his age. He needs to develop interests other than computer games.
Tell your son that because you love him and want the best for him, you are going to start limiting the amount of time he spends online. You may also want to restrict his use to one hour per day. And let him know that he will only be allowed to play the games AFTER he has completed his homework and his chores.
You can find some great advice for dealing with this issue in the book “Logged On and Tuned Out” by Vickie Courtney. Thanks for writing Dede.