Q: While he’s supposed to be doing homework, my 14-year-old sneaks out his hand-held gaming system and plays with it. What should I do?
A: Normally I would say that ensuring homework gets done should be a teen’s own responsibility — but your son needs some help to get to that point.
First, you both need to understand that video games can easily get inside your head — so it isn’t surprising your son has difficulty putting them away. Talk to him about the problem and have him monitor how much time he spends playing. I don’t recommend confiscating the games outright, as this can kick up an extreme reaction from your son, but if he still finds the gaming system too difficult to ignore, have him hand it over to you temporarily, while he does his homework.
If your son seems to need more and more time gaming and becomes unusually irritable and miserable when denied access, he may be addicted, and you’ll have to wean him off the play. Set limits to his gaming and work with him to determine when and how this will happen. Keep computers and gaming devices in a common area of your home, not in his bedroom. If he has been sneaking to the games at night, move them to your bedroom.
Be clear on the rules, remembering to remain patient and sympathetic while you’re doing this. The change won’t be easy for your son, but with your support he can become responsible with his gaming. That said, if these suggestions don’t appear to be making a difference, consider seeking professional help for your teen.