Addictive Computer Games

I have a 16 year old son who is constantly late getting up, doesn’t do his assignments for school (if he doesn’t like the teacher) and generally doesn’t take these things very seriously. He failed two subjects last term. He likes to play computer games on the Internet and he doesn’t seem to want to do much else or have the discipline to put school work first. Is it reasonable to take his computer system away if after a month he is not handing in assignments and doing his homework?

Computer games can be very addictive, and although I generally recommend allowing a child’s homework to be a “kid issue” in which parents don’t interfere, your situation is serious enough that perhaps some interference is necessary. However, taking away his entire computer system is going to extremes, and with a child this age may well provoke rebellion which will be hard to deal with.

I recommend you set a time, either after school or after dinner, when your son is required to sit at a desk or table and do his homework. During this time period of an hour or two he will not be permitted to use the Internet, except for research if that’s necessary for an assignment. You may need to monitor his computer to make sure he doesn’t start playing games. Allow him to play his games after this time period is up; he does need to relax. This way the gaming becomes the reward for working on his schoolwork.

If your son is cooperative, he may agree to share with you information about when his assignments are due and whether they are finished. You can then converse with him about how long his daily game-free period needs to last. He may choose not to share this with you, and you need to respect this decision while insisting on a daily game-free period for homework. Your intervention is clearing a space in his life in which he is free to work on his assignments without his computer addiction filling the space. He may appreciate this help, whether or not he says so.

If he fails an entire year, that’s the time to “up the ante” and monitor his assignments through the school in order to know what is due when. Then you can insist that the computer be turned off until he has completed whatever is due in the near future. But don’t take away his computer unless you are really at your wits’ end. That is a level of punishment which will likely evoke considerable backlash.