My son just turned 6. We have a TV in our home, and Netflix (no cable), a computer with internet, and a PS3 (which we use as DVD player, Netflix streamer, and occasionally for games). My son received a handheld game (DS) for Christmas.
If I didn't limit the use of these items, my son might never choose to do anything else. We *do* limit them, however. The problem is, he seems not only to lack the self-moderation to stop playing/watching on his own, he also lacks the self-control to stop when he's been told (in other words, you must come turn the TV off, take the game away, et cetera--it doesn't work to just set a timer, or call into the next room "time to stop" or whatever). If you don't notice (or he thinks you haven't) he will always continue to watch/play until you stop him.
Perhaps I'm being a tad harsh--I suppose sometimes he stops when simply told "it's time." But often, he doesn't. Rarely (but not never), he gets upset when it's time to stop.
He is the oldest of 3 kids (6, 4, 18 months) and I often feel exasperated by this behavior, as I feel like I have to "police" electronics with him, constantly setting and enforcing limits with him.
Right now, he is not allowed to play video games at all during the week, but earns marbles throughout the week which buy him time (5 minutes/marble, which usually equates to ~2-3 hours) which he can redeem on the weekend. We don't watch TV on a daily basis, but it's not a set schedule--I mostly don't turn it on at home, but maybe they watch 1-2 20-minute shows per week.
So my dilemma is: the way we are doing things seems "high maintenance" to me right now, and it bothers me that he can't self-regulate a bit more. So I guess that's my first question: "Should" a 6-year-old be able to do that? Should I be able to say, "You can watch this show, and then you need to turn the TV off," and go off to another part of the house and expect that he will turn it off when the show is over? I'm sometimes inclined to simplify this issue by just not allowing TV (or video games, or whatever) at all, but that feels overly controlling and rather un-moderate of me.
I should mention: He's a developmentally normal 6-year-old. He's very bright, academically advanced, and doesn't have any particular behavior problems at home or at school. He would just choose to stare at a screen over just about every other activity in the world.