- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 9, 2003

Playing games is a privilege, not a right.

If you make this point clear on the day you set up the video-game system, you will be well on your way to regulating game play in your home. This approach enables you to use the system as a reward for positive behavior.

• Set time limits.

One way to avoid five-hour playing stretches is to set a daily limit or establish a specific period each day when games can be played. Be flexible, though. A one-hour limit for some games will make them unplayable.

• Homework comes first.

Make it clear what your priorities are. If your child fails to complete homework and chores or does a slipshod job of them, restrict access to the game system. To offset this punitive approach, you can reward the child by extending playing time or renting a new game when extra effort is put into homework or chores.

• Control the controllers.

If your child insists on playing longer than you would like or plays in direct disobedience to your wishes, remove the controllers. Without the controllers, no game can be played.

• Control game-related spending.

To keep expenses down, you might consider renting rather than buying games and swapping games with friends.

• Encourage cooperative play.

Video games frequently cause squabbles among siblings. There are several solutions to this problem:

• Look for two-player games that offer a cooperative play mode.

• In some two-player competitive games, it's possible to set different difficulty levels for each child. You can use this feature to balance their playing skills.

• If the children don't want to play together, schedule separate playing sessions for each child. Use a timer to signal when play stops for one child and starts for another.

Source: "The Parent's Guide to Video Games" by Steven A. Schwartz with Janet Schwartz, Prima Publishing, 1994.

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