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Computer time: what to do?

(47 Posts)
edithmaud Sun 28-Jul-13 19:16:19

I'd love to get some thoughts on this please. DS 8yo with asperger's is obsessed with things like minecraft, animal jam, club penguin etc etc. I am uncomfortable about how much time he spends on screens, however, for various reasons, we've let it slide a bit. These games are his special interests, and they can give him great respite after a difficult day at school. And as it's an interest that is in line with his peers, it gives him a lot to talk about and share with them. However, I worry that by indulging it too much we are not adequately encouraging his development in other areas, particularly his communication skills. He no longer has much interest in any of his other toys. Just wondered how others dealt with this obsession and to what degree you set limits on screen use?

edithmaud Sun 28-Jul-13 19:26:20

Sorry, I should add- asking him to come off the computer is usually the cue for an explosion, regardless of the amount of warnings he's had. So it's all quite fraught...

Summerhasloaded Sun 28-Jul-13 20:10:38

I could have written your post smile.

These games are his special interests, and they can give him great respite after a difficult day at school. And as it's an interest that is in line with his peers, it gives him a lot to talk about and share with them.

I also agree with what you said ^

I don't set a time limit as such for time on the computer, but what I've done is made sure the desk and seating is ergonomically uncomfortable so he stops voluntarily after not too long wink

No tantrums, no outbursts grin

Summerhasloaded Sun 28-Jul-13 20:11:40

I'm referring to my ds, of course grin

I also could have written every word. DS2 is 11, but otherwise identical.

DS2 used to completely lose it when we asked him to log off, but now we have a routine which helps. Five minute warning to save his progress, then count down from five, then turn sound off, then remove his chair so he is standing. For those without children on the autistic spectrum, this must seem like we're pandering to him, but it prevents meltdowns.

edithmaud Sun 28-Jul-13 21:33:18

7 hours. Added it up and that's probably how long DS spent between computer and tablet today. That's appalling isn't it?? If he's not on it, he's nagging to go on it, and can only occasionally be encouraged to do other things. Would anyone be gappy to share how long their kids spend on screens, particularly if they're ASD and its an obsessive interest?

edithmaud Sun 28-Jul-13 21:59:19

Ha ha sorry meant happy to share, not happy to share!

edithmaud Sun 28-Jul-13 22:00:02

Er..not 'gappy', god I can't type...

In the holidays, DS2 spends about 50 hours a week looking at a screen. DS1 about 20 hours (Skyping schoolfriends mostly) and DS3 and DD spend about 10 hours each (mostly TV). Yes, it is appalling, but when he's looking at a screen he isn't distressed or distressing anyone else. We have just got a trampoline to try to encourage him out into the garden.

edithmaud Sun 28-Jul-13 22:12:27

Snap - we just got a trampoline too for that very reason! Thanks though, it's good to know that we're not the only ones. There are so many other things I'd love him to be doing, but he's just not interested. I'm hoping it's a phase but I don't even convince myself on that one...

ouryve Sun 28-Jul-13 22:47:25

Sorry, would have replied sooner, but something has been throttling our already slow net connection, all day and I tried to reply, but it timed out.

DS1 is 9, with ASD and ADHD and loves the computer. He is extremely computer literate and does more than plays games, so it is something positive for him to do. However, he finds it hard to transition from much more than an hour on the computer to something else and ends up hyperactvie and often aggressive, so we've always been strict about pacing and rationing. When I use my laptop, I might spend up to an hour, if I'm busy with something, then get up and do something else. Even DS2 can do that with the iPad, to an extent. DS1, OTOH can't, so we have to do it for him.

So, even though it sometimes creates conflict, we enforce time limits. Usually an hour twice a day, though we will extend a little if he is being productive with something. The PC he uses is Windows 8 and DH put a time control on it for a few months. 2 hours a day on non school days, 1 hour on school days (you can control it remotely for sick days, etc). It pissed him off, but he learnt to take notice and to obey the warnings it gave so he could save work. The fact that it wasn't us to argue with took away a lot of the angst. We've now removed it, but if he messes about when we ask him to save and shut down, all we need to do is ask him if he wants the timer back. It's more effective now, after the fact, than when we had it on there.

It would probably be prudent to schedule your day so there are set hours when he's allowed the computer. Make those hours less than you'd both like so there's room for earning a bit extra. If the computer OS is anything beyond windows Vista, then it should be possible to set a timer and usage monitor.

edithmaud Sun 28-Jul-13 23:06:52

Ouryve, yours is the kind of situation I'd like to be in to be honest, in terms of amount of time. He uses the same laptop as me so we can't really use a timer and he finds the transition involved in coming off it really difficult. He gets angry, often knocks a chair over in anger etc etc. so we'll have to use a different method. Maybe a kitchen timer that is only for that use. My worry is what he'll do if not on the laptop so much. He is very oppositional and will hunt down the laptop and go on it even when told not to. (Must remember to change the password.) And I guess I'll need to reduce the time bit by bit.

Levantine Sun 28-Jul-13 23:14:00

My 6 year old is the same. The only thing that works for us really is to get out of the house. Or to say we are about to go and then he will suddenly start faffing about with other things. We need to limit it more too, i was thinking about drawing up a timetable over the holidays. Tbh if he is on minecraft I don't really mind and leave him to it. If it is Templerun I mind more. I see it to an extent as a way of him regulating himself after school, it helps him wind down. he gets about an hour on school days and probably 2 or 3 on non school. But I think that's too much, especially when combined with tv time.

ouryve Sun 28-Jul-13 23:17:17

You can create individual user accounts, password protect yours and use a timer on his. (makes sure yours is an administrative account and his isn't)

edithmaud Sun 28-Jul-13 23:26:03

I know what you mean Levantine about minding some things more than others, ie minecraft vs temple run. Going out is good for us too, but we've been having major problems lately getting him out of the house (sensory/anxiety issues) so we're getting out less than we used to. He finds it incredibly hard to play alone (no siblings) and I can't constantly play with him so I get 'what shall we do?' on a loop, seriously, rejecting every suggestion, and hideously grumpy, until he's back on screen.

edithmaud Sun 28-Jul-13 23:28:25

Ouryve I had NO IDEA you could do that! Thank you! I will defo do that. Does it give you a warning before logging you out? I'd better brace myself for a stormy time though.

Ours all have individual accounts (which is how I know how much time each of them spends logged on per week). DS2 worked out that even after his time was up and it logged him out, he could log back in and get an extra five minutes before it chucked him out again, so he used to do this over and over again!

MovingForward0719 Mon 29-Jul-13 08:48:43

Same with my little man. Minecraft is okay, but some games seem to wind him up more. Getting out works for us and when the weathers been nice, mention of the sprinkler/paddling pool has him racing down the stairs. I don't mind it in school time when he gets in cos I can see it helps him to wind down but there's a lot of hours to fill in holidays! On the other hand it's something that he can do independently.

Trigglesx Mon 29-Jul-13 09:41:44

DS1 is obsessed with the computer. He used to have an old laptop until the motherboard decided it was time to give up the ghost. Now I have a Nexus 7in tablet in the house, he uses that. He would play all day every day if given the chance.

Basic rules we use that limit it:
- can only play while the battery lasts - which means at least a couple hours every day while it's charging, he's doing something else.

- his almost (in 2 days) 4yo brother gets to take turns as well with it. I use a 15 minute sand timer. They remind me to turn it over. And often he willingly hands it over early to his brother. This seems to break it up a bit and keeps him from getting too entrenched in playing it.

- No tablet before breakfast (and during term times, none before school at all).

- from about 4pm until his brother goes to bed (around 6pm), no tablet, as we're organising tea, eating, bathing, etc, and otherwise it's just a hassle.

- none on Saturday morning before visiting their dad, as otherwise the battery will be dead when they want to bring it with them.

So while often it seems like he is on it all the time, I know we have little breaks here and there. And I do try to organise activities outside the house regularly so he's just away from it.

But it's his down time as well, so I don't like to take it completely away. He has an uninterrupted time in the evening that he really looks forward to. The rule is basically if he has green card behaviour all day, then he can do what he wants (within reason) during that time - tablet, wii, Netflix (johnny test always). But if he has yellow or red card behaviour, then that time is reduced accordingly. I always make sure he has a small amount of time, as it's a wind down time for him. But how much time he has depends on his behaviour that day.

God, that all sounds ridiculously complicated, doesn't it? blush Sigh. It works fairly well.

ouryve Mon 29-Jul-13 10:15:01

It does give a warning, yes. DS1 often chose to ignore it and not save stuff but, if he didn't ask very nicely to be let back in to save, he had to deal with the consequences, himself and accept responsibility (something he really struggles with)

youarewinning Mon 29-Jul-13 11:31:07

I too could have written your post. I have an 8yo with suspected AS or very similar. We are just starting the assessment process.

He is also addicted to minecraft - to the point he cannot function in RL to get back to it.

I NEED a timer! Brilliant idea - how do you do it?

I also have a not before 9am rule, and make sure I tell him the days plans as if he decides he wants the laptop for his hour and we're going out in 1/2 hour it causes problems - and he spends the whole time we are out anxious about getting back to finish his 1/2 hour.
I do not count time he's researching and producing powerpoints as computer time (altho do distract and limit it) because at least he's learning and as his writing is years behind for his age and comprehension a little behind I see it as beneficial.

ouryve Mon 29-Jul-13 11:40:20

It looks like the timer, itself, is unique to windows 8, via Family Safety
http://howto.cnet.com/8301-11310_39-57533877-285/how-to-use-parental-controls-in-windows-8/

If you don't have Windows 8, you can download the Family Safety software separately.

What is Templerun?

Trigglesx Mon 29-Jul-13 14:16:01

I have windows 8 on my laptop, but I don't let him use my laptop as he has the tablet. Otherwise I'd never get to my laptop! grin

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