Limiting Video Games
November 24, 2004 11:36 PM   Subscribe

So say one's high-school age brother is playing way too many video games and completely neglecting school work. Is there a way to limit his Windows XP accounts to log-ons between certain times? What would you say would be the best way to mechanically limit acccess to his account, or offending games/programs?

To the smartass that's going to say it: no, just telling him to do his schoolwork is not effective, and it's impossible to be around him all the time. And yes, the problem really is that bad (about 10 hours per day on school days, more on weekends).
posted by The Michael The to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total)
Response by poster: Also, I apologize if there's an obvious answer to this. I couldn't find it, have no experience with this, and am asking on behalf of our parents. Siding with my parents, however, does make me feel like such a tool of the man.
posted by The Michael The at 11:40 PM on November 24, 2004

Are they online games? That is easy - Netnanny or the router provide simple solutions to Internet access times. This seems, though, like an issue the parents should deal with by denying permission to play games until homework is complete. Where are the parents here? If he doesn't mind, take away the computer.
posted by caddis at 11:44 PM on November 24, 2004

Or, take away all games. Get XP pro, give junior a user account with no admin rights and allow no games at all on the box. This is a cop out. Regular old "Mom and Dad say no" discipline, with consequences for misbehavior, is a far better solution.
posted by caddis at 11:50 PM on November 24, 2004

Hmm. It's not being a smartass to say that the problem you describe does not lend itself to a technical solution. Caddis is right. I assume that you and mum and dad know that though, so let's leave it there. What follows is plan B.

A determined and motivated teenager will learn enough about PCs to overcome any software based solution. I would look at limiting physical access to the machine, with a padlock on the door. You want PC access, then ask for the key. That's the best mechanical solution there is.

If the machine must be used for school work (in my day we had to use a pen and pencil), and games must be installed for other more responsible users (like you), geez, why not move to using gaming time as a reward? Say, one hour of games for one hour of homework. Bro has proven that he can't be trusted without supervision anyway.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:58 PM on November 24, 2004

As caddis and joe say, mechanical doesn't work. I learnt all about multi-use transformers and basic lock-picking when someone tried this on me many many moons ago.
This type of behaviour is a form of addiction, so you should set reasonable, stepped boundaries, enforce strongly but be sympathetic to small lapses.
posted by quiet at 12:29 AM on November 25, 2004

The addiction thing is important. Even today, I struggle with it, and my parents didn't restrict games the way they should have.
posted by SpecialK at 12:36 AM on November 25, 2004

Additionally - if it's really a problem, and your parents are really at a loss to make him follow the rules without setting him up with a restricted-priveleges user account, then I would say you guys should find a therapist that specializes in working together with parents and children.
posted by kavasa at 12:45 AM on November 25, 2004

There's a thread on slashdot about this today -- well, about using IM. There might be something useful there.
posted by tracicle at 12:46 AM on November 25, 2004

My daughter has/had the same issue more or less. I tried blocking @ the machine and she, as mentioned above figured it out. I tried it at the router, but that didn't work either. So I took the wireless adapter off and wired her and now we just unplug at the router if we feel the need to. Very rarely, but it's the threat that keeps her in line and gets the homework done first.
posted by damnitkage at 4:57 AM on November 25, 2004

More homework doesn't mean his grades will improve.

This is probably indicative of another problem, a lack of interest in high school. That's not unusual to have. I didn't have much interest in high school at all. If you manage to prevent him playing video games, you can expect not only a confrontation, but also for him to move to another form of entertainment, perhaps television, or something else.

IOW, I think you'll find you're not only wasting your time (until you solve the root cause of his disinterest in school), but futhermore will damage your relationship with your brother.

My suggestion: Don't do this.

One last thing: Doing more homework, despite what your teachers tell you, doesn't mean better grades. I've done virtually all the homework in plenty of classes, only to end up failing them. The only time homework and grades are directly related is if you get your marks from homework.
posted by shepd at 8:32 AM on November 25, 2004

Have a look at this, and then see if you can't work with him to try to bridge his video game use and school. It can be done, and a great deal of research is currently goging into this. Gee, the author, is quite prominent in several fields, including education, linguistics and cognitive science, so this book is no joke.
posted by oflinkey at 8:57 AM on November 25, 2004

Homework and grades do correlate, not perfectly, but they do correlate. If you do not do the homework in most classes you will not get a good grade on tests, unless you are really bright. Since most classes grade homework to at least some degree and some to a great degree it is hard to get good grades if you are failing the homework. I do agree that merely doing the homework will not ensure good grades. For that you have to study, and a little enthusiasm for the class sure makes that a LOT easier.

Ten hours of video games a day (and more on weekends!) is really harmful, regardless of whether the homework is getting done or not. It is a distraction from reality the same as drugs. I think it also has short term effects upon your ability to focus and concentrate on things that do not provide instant gratification. This kid should probably be cut off cold turkey and perhaps should see a shrink. Escaping reality during your formative years is no way to mature.
posted by caddis at 10:00 AM on November 25, 2004

While the smart money's not on software-based solutions (I've been reading enough AskMeta to know you kids are purty smart), let me offer this link which discusses a solution built-in to Windows. Again, it's probably something that your brother will eventually get around, but hey, it's a possibility.
posted by bachelor#3 at 6:23 PM on November 25, 2004

As an original member of the Nintendo gaming society (or whatever they called it), I spent a ridiculous amount of time in junior high playing video games.

Eventually I simply became bored with with TV, games, the whole ball of wax.

I agree with shepd as to the potential for conflict and danger to your relationship. 10 hours a day is a habit, not a hobby. If you take the power cord, he will buy his own. If you put the computer in a crate, he will figure out a way to make it accessible, but appear secure. He could also end up spending more time at friends houses, where the parents don't care or aren't around. Trust me.

I don't think that his energy or time will fall to "doing homework", I think it will first be directed towards "how to play video games, somewhere, somehow".

There must be a ton of literature/parenting stuff on this, 1/2 garbage of course, but the other 1/2 may be useful.

Software-wise, I found a program to schedule login times - Access Boss, I can't vouch for it.
The only thing that would diffuse my teenage frustration at having a locked PC would be that I had agreed to the times that were set-up.
posted by lippe at 11:52 PM on November 25, 2004

Just to second, bachelor#3 has the best suggestion in terms of disabling logons at certain times- regardless of the deeper questions and implications raised in this thread.

It costs absolutely nothing, is built-into the OS and thus can't be turned off nor is a cumbersome or hackable software package that is installed, and as a feature has been around since NT 3.5 (the long-ago precursor to Windows XP that dates back to about '91, '92) so is is very time-tested and proven to work.

The three keys are
a) setting the logon times using the net user command (earlier versions of NT had a nice little GUI, looks like they don't include that these days) as well as possibly setting a force logoff option so that when time expires he's logged off the machine automatically
b) Set your brother to be a non-admin on the machine- or he can simply undo this change- if that's not the case already, and
c) Set a BIOS password (so he can't change the system time forward then back again as needed).

This doesn't prevent him from getting clever and resetting the BIOS by pulling the jumpers (nothing short of physically locking the CPU where he can't reach it and leaving only the keyboard, mouse, and monitor reachable can do that), but so long as he's a non-admin, you can always track when he's used the computer and make it exceedingly difficult for him to use.
posted by hincandenza at 4:28 AM on November 26, 2004

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