Lately I've been concerned that the kids are using the computer way too much. They recently bought a copy of Zoo Tycoon 2 which led to a set of computer upgrades and a fast new machine which they then decided warranted a purchase of Sims 2. The graphics are scintillating and they're understandably enthused. But their computer use just continues to escalate, and with these new, full-3D games, there's not nearly as much imagination coming from them. When they use older, simpler programs, they tend to make up long involved stories and create things to a much greater extent. These new programs create such powerfully realistic worlds for them that at this point at least, they're just revelling in the computer's imagination. Sigh.
When I started thinking about what I should do to reduce their use I had to be honest and look at me first. I'm not a great model. I can easily spend 6 or 8 hours a day on the computer. I do a lot of 'work' there (arranging music for the community orchestra or the violin ensemble, creating or modifying websites for various non-profit organizations, journalling homeschooling stuff, publishing newsletters, etc.) but I confess that the internet has become way too much of a habit... dare I say an addiction. So I decided that rather than riding my kids to spend less time on the computer, I would ride myself and see if their use changed over the course of three months.
Trust me to manage my addiction to technology with more technology. I downloaded the demo of a program called "Watchdog" ( http://www.watchdogpc.com ). I can set up limits for my computer time in a number of ways. I can either set a total daily limit (with an "overdraft allowance" if I want), or a on/off plan (eg. 20 minutes on, then at least an hour off before I can log on). All this stuff can be modified by day of the week or adjusted during certain hours of the day.
I've tried a few different ways already and couldn't manage. With a 2-hour (and then 3-hour) daily limit I discovered that there were necessities that I just couldn't get done in that time limit on certain days (mostly web-publishing work). A 20/60 on-off plan didn't work because I need more than 20 minutes at a stretch from time to time (big up-loads, eg.).
Now what I've settled on is 2 unrestricted hours in the early morning so that if I'm up early before the kids I have a big chunk of time for big jobs, and then a 20/60 plan during the rest of the day. The on/off plan is great for me because my tendency is to get locked in to things, including the computer. Once I'm off doing other things I tend to get locked into them instead.
I may just have to buy WatchdogPC when the 30-day demo runs out. I've already increased my productivity around the house by more than the cost of the program :-).
BTW, the PC in WatchdogPC stands for Parental Control. I believe that refers to parents controlling their children, though in my case it refers to controlling the parent, LOL!
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