Rules about time use as part of a balanced daily life
This article was originally published in the Game Educator’s Handbook.
Small children are not yet able to control their use of time, and therefore adults should set limits to support their well-being and a well-balanced daily life. For children, it would be nice to play their favourite game all day long, but daily life also includes many other important things. Among other things, adults should make sure that children take breaks, have good ergonomics and get enough and good sleep. Children must also have time to play, spend time outdoors and meet their friends. When it is time for a child to stop playing a game, it might help, for example, that the adult sits next to them, talks to them calmly and reminds them about the agreed gaming times.
Daily routines also determine suitable gaming times: Are afternoons suitable for gaming? Is it OK to play games in the morning if school starts at ten o’clock?
Evening routines and the time before sleep should not include digital activities so that for example staring a bright screen or leaving an exciting and absorbing game unfinished does not disturb sleep. In the evening, traditional board or card games may be a calmer choice compared to digital games. Reading a bedtime story or a book together before sleep has a good, calming effect.
As children grow up, it is best that the rules concerning gaming are drawn up together and that everyone in the family adheres to them. Giving reasons for the rules helps children to understand how gaming affects the daily life of the family or how to control one’s gaming. However, it is not always easy to draw up rules that are fair. In addition to gaming time, it is good to discuss in what kinds of situations gaming is appropriate or not appropriate. It is also possible to test new rules that were prepared together for some time to see if they work, but in general it is good to be consistent with rules.
Some children have more than one home, and thus discussions about the rules of gaming should involve all the adults present in their daily life. Do the different homes have different rules? What kinds of misunderstandings might this cause? The families of children’s friends may also have different rules about gaming. It is good to talk with your child about what to do in these situations. One good basic rule is that when visiting friends, children should follow the rules of the home that is more cautious about gaming. Primary-school-aged children can be instructed to say that they are not allowed to play games rated for adults in case a friend suggests playing such a game.
Discussing children’s use of media with other parents and respecting other families’ rules form an important part of media education. Rules can also be made together with other families or the children’s school so that they are more consistent and easier to supervise. Families may also coordinate gaming times to make them compatible between friends.
The following table contains some examples of rules that families could choose to apply in their home. It is good to remember, however, that both children and families are unique and have different kinds of needs, and thus different rules work for different families.