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Son Spends Too Much Time on Computer

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My son is not interested in sports or any other activities besides the computer. Our counselor said to allow him free access to the computer and not to worry that he spends three to five hours a day on it. He compared my son's computer habit to playing tennis for the same period of time. My son also doesn't help out around the house, so the therapist said to make a chores list and, rather than ask my son if he finished a specific task, check the list to avoid confrontation. My husband and son assume that means never checking to see if he followed through on his chores. They are pleased because the counselor validated this behavior.

Should he spend so much time on the computer?

A: I don't believe that it's a healthy practice for a child to spend three to five hours per day on the computer. I am stunned that a professional counselor compared being on a computer for hours every day to playing tennis. If your son were playing tennis, he would be maintaining his physical fitness and having fun as an active participant. So many more senses are brought into play in tennis or other sports than while passively clicking the mouse.

It appears that you have a major problem in terms of how your husband is treating your son's behavior. You and your spouse need to be on the same page about all these issues or else your son will be getting mixed messages and continue to play you and your husband against one another to get what he wants.

Place the computer in the family room or a place where everyone can see who's using it. Your son shouldn't be able to shut himself in his room to play on the computer for hours at a time. Unless your son is using the computer for academic purposes, limit his computer use to an hour a day. I would also suggest that the combined use of computer and TV time should be no more than an hour and a half each day.

As for his chores, I would sit down and draft a contract with him, posting a weekly list of chores in plain view. As he completes the chores, he needs to check them off. If he does not comply with this within the first week to ten days, then I would recommend that chores be assigned on a daily basis with consequences attached to non-performance.

Your son has been allowed too much power in your family. He seems to do whatever he pleases and shows disrespect toward you.

I hope that a different family therapist will provide you with a much healthier and more effective approach to parenting your son and encourage you and your husband to act as a team in the process.

More on: Expert Advice

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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