Is My Teenager Sneaking Video Games?

Twenty-first century kids are growing up in the age of distraction. Very few teenagers do their homework without their cell phones by their sides not for help with homework but to check text messages or Instagram and Facebook feeds. Teenagers are readily distracted by video games or searching the Internet when doing their homework on the computer (as are adults when they are supposed to be busy on a work project). It can be difficult to make sure your older children aren’t sneaking game time when they are supposed to be doing homework.

It is possible to minimize the distractions of social media and video games like Minecraft when teens are doing their homework. Here are a few strategies that can be helpful when you have a teenager sneaking video games.

  1. Ask them voluntarily to give up their cell phones for a set amount of time when engaged with homework.  I actually learned this strategy from teens, who recognized that checking their texts and social media feeds was interfering with their focus and attention while doing their homework. Once these teens recognized that it took them far longer to complete their homework with distractions, they became willing either to shut off their cell phones or to hand them to their parents. I typically suggest a 30- to 60-minute “handoff,” after which your teen can check his phone for messages and then return to homework if necessary.
  2. Keep computers and other technologies in public areas. This can make teenagers more aware of not doing their homework because others may see them. This approach is similar to sitting at the front of the classroom in an effort to be more focused on tasks.
  3. Focus on developing basic time-management skills rather than specific concerns regarding limiting play of Minecraft and other video games. I encourage teenagers to read the time-management chapter from my book, Train Your Brain for Success: The Teenagers Guide To Executive Functions, and for parents to review some of our articles to learn more about time management.
  4. Develop expertise with apps and browser add-ons that help with focus and time management. Two simple apps that are very helpful for staying focused for brief periods of time are “Timer Plus,” which gives a pre-set amount of time to complete a particular activity, and “30/30,” which creates categorized tasks that help users keep track of how long they have dedicated to a particular project. Leechblock is a fantastic add-on for the Firefox web browser that allows certain sites to be blocked, either permanently or during certain times.


Feature image: Flickr user Don Hankins

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