4 year old becoming obsessed with computer games, help! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 15 Old 02-24-2011, 06:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Ds gets to play computer games and I limit it to 1 hour a day, but it is quickly becoming a terrible issue in our home. He wakes up and wants to play and talks about it until he does, he doesn't want to eat or get ready and throws a fit about it. His attitude has become very negative as well and he has become somewhat aggressive toward me which i thought may be due to becoming visibly pregnant and getting closer to the due date and now i am wondering if it has something to do with the games...I don't mind him playing, but I don't like seeing him become so focused on this activity, like it is always what he thinks about, and this has really escalated in the past couple weeks. So should I just cut him off cold turkey? I thought about doing that yesterday, but his behavior improved so i allowed him to play and now it is a new day and we are having the same issues all over again. He has library time today and I requested he gets ready for that and then could play his games but it just the same battle again.

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#2 of 15 Old 02-24-2011, 07:06 AM
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I can only speak from my own experience, but going screen-free is one of the best things I've ever done around here.  I have 2 kids, both of whom were getting way too hooked on tv and video games.  We were limiting them, but screen time had kind of started creeping in a bit more often.  Ds in particular (3yo) started having multiple melt-downs a day wanting to watch tv (or, actually, to watch me or dh play Super Mario on a vintage Nintendo someone had given us, lol).  It was also kind of an issue between dh and I because when dh was alone with the kids (or more often just ds because dd was in school) he would use tv as a babysitter (much more than I was comfortable with).  So last fall dh went away for 3wks to China, and I decided to pull the plug.  We had about 2 days of hell, and since then life has gotten WAAAAAAY easier.  You know I am not anti-tv.  I always intended to have tv and computer games in moderation.  But for right now at least I really think things are better in our family without.  And I'm amazed at how much more imaginative play is going on now (and how rarely I hear "I'm BORED!").


Just my 2 cents.  Take it or leave it!  :)

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#3 of 15 Old 02-24-2011, 07:49 AM
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You could definitley go screen-free like the previous poster suggested. That's what my husband wants to do and I can see the benefits...I just am a little too dependent on TV and the computer myself, so I've tried to just have a "all things in moderation" approach.


If you can't/don't want to go completely screen-free, then I think at least cutting out the computer game is essential in this situation. Your son's behavior is deteriorating because of it and you say you hate how obsessed he seems. In my opinion, the game needs to go. You could wean it down or do cold turkey....either way, it's gonna be hard, you're gonna have a couple days of tantrum-y hell, I imagine. But I think it's the only thing you can do.

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#4 of 15 Old 02-24-2011, 12:53 PM
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My DD is almost 3 and started getting obsessed with my iPod Touch. The same thing happened that you describe -- she asked for it all the time, started acting not like herself, and just got really territorial about the whole thing. So last week I "lost" my iPod. She asked for it a few times that day and I just said, "I can't find it! Oh well, let's do a puzzle." I was amazed that she didn't throw a fit, and she quit asking for it by the very next day.


Obviously you can't "lose" your computer, but maybe you could say that it's broken for a couple of days until he gets over his obsession? Of course, that'll mean that you can't use it in front of him, but I've reintroduced the iPod in the car, and she did notice, but I told her, "It's only for music in the car" and she accepted that, to my surprise. 

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#5 of 15 Old 02-24-2011, 03:10 PM
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This is precisely why I made a decision a long time ago that computer/video games will never enter my home, period.  Last year I heard an expert on child development opine that games are addictive in a way that TV isn't, and from what I have seen of gaming behavior in both adults and kids, that seems to be the case.  Could the game accidentally "get deleted" from the computer and not come back?  I know this is a tough issue, and so sorry you are going through it.  I've been hearing lately about all this research (which I wonder about who funded it) saying that games can teach important skills and are not really bad for kids and can even be good, but I don't believe it.  I thought they were a huge waste of time from the time I was first exposed to them (circa Atari 1984, when I was 8-9).  Normally I'm a believer in all things in moderation, but when the effects are as serious as what you are describing I think it's definitely worthwhile to consider adopting a different philosophy. 

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#6 of 15 Old 02-24-2011, 05:56 PM
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What about cutting his time way down?  Give him 15 minutes a day, monitored by a timer, and then put a check mark on the calendar to indicate he has already used his time and can't have more until tomorrow.  We use the timer/calender trick around here.


Good luck!  Maybe cutting it for say 3 days would help a bit too, then reintroduce with the above limits?


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#7 of 15 Old 02-25-2011, 11:52 AM
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We have very similar behavior in my house with my 4 year old. No screen time is not an option for me right now - I have no outside help and with two small children I have absolutely not one moment to myself if I can't have an hour for tv. I really respect those that choose no screen time in their own homes, but I want him to learn to deal with these kinds of things now - to learn moderation. One thing I have done is allow video games only on the weekends and to give him his time right when he wakes up  - then the rest of the day, I don't hear about it again, the time already happened. He rage and tantrums are intense when angry, but I really don't see a connection - his love of screens has always been there and he doesn't play anything with any degree of violence. I could be wrong and I am always open to changing rules when something doesn't work, but right now changing the time of day that he plays has worked very well.

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#8 of 15 Old 02-25-2011, 02:27 PM
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Well, I have to say that when I find something new and fun that I'm interested in, there's generally a period near the beginning where I'm nearly obsessed with it, or at least VERY into it.


I was that way with piano, knitting, and many other things.  Everyone in my life got to hear all about these things, whether they wanted to or not.


So, I have two thoughts.


The first is that, while we dislike it when we see someone get overly preoccupied with a new interest, it's very normal and something I as an adult do.  After it"s no longer "NEW" it tends to lose its power.


The second thought is that I think this is only the beginning.  Kids love video games and they play them and whatever your outlook or limits are going to be with them, you'll be encountering it over and over into the future.  I don't think there's any harm in having this as an interest, as long as, past the initial "obsession" stage, life gets balanced - things are taken care of that need to be, they are healthy and happy, and have friends and aren't sitting in front of a screen all day eating potato chips or something.


I don't know what the ultimate solution is, but my DS has gone through a few periods of "oh my god this computer game is the funnest thing ever" and after the newness wears off, he becomes interested in something else.  I do set limits that still give him plenty of time to explore his obsession (just as I have with his other obsessions - trains, space exploration, etc.) but are still reasonable.  But what I think is reasonable as a parent wouldn't work for all houses.

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#9 of 15 Old 02-25-2011, 02:28 PM
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does he understand he can only play for an hour?does he get to choose the hour? with my kids it was always screen time first thing in morning or while i was doing dinner ...it helped them to know they could chose am or pm.....now of course they are teenagers and are always attached to a screen of some kind...lol

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#10 of 15 Old 02-25-2011, 03:08 PM
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Ok  I am waay different than most of the above posters....we have 3 xbox 360s (plus kinect on one) in our house, a wii, 3 NDS, ds has a Leapster Explorer and Leapster 2 as well as an Itouch, plus a computer in his room (with only educational games).  Our tv in our living room is 65"  the one in the basement is 52" and the bedroom one is 36" so yeah tv and computer games are a big part of our family. 

That said....ds (4) knows that the xbox is for only the evening (and not every one). The Leapsters as well as his computer are used in part of his homeschooling educational aspect (very good for this) and the NDS is mainly used in the car.  He has been able to tell time for a while now and before that we used a timer to help him set boundaries.  Yes, there are battles ("I just want to finish this game") but we give him a heads up just like at the park "ok you have 10 min left/5 min before you have to turn it off".  I find this works to remind him while getting caught up.

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#11 of 15 Old 02-25-2011, 03:23 PM
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I would just stop doing screen time, that way you avoid the battles that come with when it's time to turn it off, etc.

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#12 of 15 Old 02-25-2011, 04:13 PM
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Originally Posted by RockStarMom View Post

I would just stop doing screen time, that way you avoid the battles that come with when it's time to turn it off, etc.

I agree. There is no reason a 4yo should be obsessed with computer games to the point that it's affecting his and your whole day. Cold turkey is the way to go.
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#13 of 15 Old 02-26-2011, 11:04 PM
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I am so glad younposted this! We have been going through the same thing with our four year old. Although he is limited, he has been havin accidents while playing. It is so frustrating because I fully believe in moderation, but we are going to have to cut it completely. I just wish I knew a gently way to do it. I don't want to lie to him and tell him it's broken. I want to be honest, but the tantrum is pretty extreme. Wish us luck, and good luck to the rest of you dealing with this! Must be a developmental stage or something for so many four year olds to be going through this.
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#14 of 15 Old 02-27-2011, 01:19 AM
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IMHO, cutting anything completely is a bad idea. It's such a hard line to toe. Not to mention the fact that computer gaming is not going away... in fact, forbidding it will only make it more desirable and addictive in the long run.


That being said, eliminating opportunities is a great tactic. For example, we don't have a zero tolerance on video games, and DS has some spelling and matching games on an I-touch type thing that he plays. On the plane to Florida, he can play as much as he wants. Around the house, we tend to have more interesting things to do.


This is because we don't have a tv. Which is different from screen time. He watches Charlie Brown on youtube, but we have some limits. A great strategy I found on MDC a few months ago was limits to the DAY not the HOUR. Hour limits = battles. "just one more" syndrome. So we said "Sunday is video day" and he can watch all the videos and play all the games he wants.


Typically this winds down after a few hours. What this demonstrates and teaches is that playing video games is not the be-all-and-end-all. As in, it's possible to get tired of it. Whereas, if someone is always limited to 1 hour or whatever, DC never has a chance to feel the "okay, I'm done. What should I do now?"

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#15 of 15 Old 03-10-2011, 02:14 AM - Thread Starter
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well i was at wits end because dh wasn't totally onboard, but a week ago, dh too realized that the game was affecting ds's behavior and he suggested i tell ds that the game was broken, and honestly it has gone a lot smoother than i thought. It helps that the weather is getting nicer, and we are going out more as well. His behavior is like night and day from a couple weeks ago. He is still watching tv, I don't think that will be eliminated, but I would like to cut back on it, but one thing at a time. I do let him play his hooked on phonics on the computer, but he only plays for about 15 minutes and doesn't ask everyday. I am so glad dh finally agreed with me, because that is where half the problem was coming from, I would give ds his hour and then would go out for errands and dh would let ds play the games for another hour while i was gone, which would make ds angry that i was home b/c i would tell him he needed to stop, dh was having a hard time giving ds limits on the computer games. I think that this certain game will be permanently 'broken', and for now ds will only be allowed to play hooked on phonics but that is it.

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