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Are your kids choosing video games over homework? Smart home tech can help

Working from home for close to a year now has brought this question to my mind: Are kids playing video games now more than ever because of the pandemic? I’m brining up this idea because of my neighbor’s son, who is constantly playing video games whenever I’m working in my home office. In fact, I can hear him chatting with his friends on a daily basis — as well as yelling whenever he dies in a battle.

Schools around my area plan to offer a hybrid strategy, where students have in-school sessions paired with virtual learning. At the moment, however, it seems like he’s home more than at school. Even though I don’t have children, it made me wonder how working parents, especially who that don’t have the option to work from home, can ensure that their children are doing their homework and not playing video games.

Since I’ve spent a great deal of time covering the smart home, I know a few ways that smart home tech can help tackle and remedy the issue. At the same time, I asked some friends for solutions they employ to make sure their kids are getting their schoolwork done and not playing video games when they’re not there.

Point security cameras at the TV

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When it comes to keeping homes safe, security cameras are useful deterrents that can prevent crime and keep those inside the home protected. However, there’s a level of precaution that needs to be kept in mind if you plan on using one to keep tabs on your kids at home. Some parents, quite frankly, don’t feel comfortable at all with a camera recording a wide area where children are present.

Privacy is always a constant concern, so it’s a better idea to have a security camera pointed in the direction of the television, or the area where video game consoles are kept. This not only helps to maintain a level of privacy because its view is isolated to a certain spot, but still enables you to determine if someone is playing video games when they’re supposed to be doing homework. You’ll want to decrease the sensitivity of its motion detection to ensure the slightest movement isn’t detected and recorded.

Door/motions sensors in rooms

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Do you prefer something that’s not as obtrusive? Another idea worth looking into is using door and motion sensors in rooms where consoles are stored. For open rooms such as the living room and family room, motion sensors can be anchored above entertainment centers and cabinets where those video game consoles are stored — so whenever someone comes close, you can get a notification about it.

But what if the console is inside your kids’ room? Well, that’s when a door sensor would be more ideal. If the video game console is stored on a shelf or in a cabinet, you can place a door sensor on it, so it can detect whenever it’s opened. This solution maintains your kids’ privacy, while still giving parents a clue if consoles are being accessed during school hours.

Smart plugs that can tell if a console is turned on

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Smart plugs are handy for many reasons, but in situations where parents are keeping an eye on their kids’ gaming usage, some can show you when they’ve been turned on. For example, the Eve Energy Strip can not only be remotely turned on and off, but it also tracks power consumption with each of its outlets, allowing parents to tell what time of the day a video game console is drawing power.

There are also scheduling options that enable users to set a time and date when a particular outlet can be active, so this is a wonderful tool that can be automated.

Hardware firewalls that block gaming services

Eero 6 Wi-Fi Mesh Router
John Velasco / Digital Trends

While the other solutions are more obvious, this next one is actually something that doesn’t receive as much attention. Parents have more control than ever before in regard to the internet, which is why using your router’s firewall controls is a good way to curb video game play during school/homework hours.

Modern routers such as the Eero 6 and Google Nest Wi-Fi have the ability to block gaming services, rendering those consoles useless when it comes to online play. Yes, they’re still able to play locally by themselves, but it’s a solution worth adding to your arsenal. And if you rent a modem gateway or router from your internet service provider, chances are that it offers some firewall options as well to block gaming services.

Reward good behavior

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I’m not saying that kids should be prevented from playing video games during school days. I actually feel the opposite. Just like anything in life, video gaming should be done in moderation, which is why I feel that dishing out some playing time should be treated as a reward. If they’re doing well and properly focusing on homework, then what’s the hurt in rewarding them with some video game time? It’s a wonderful way to build trust, too.

Then again, there are kids who want to stay one step ahead of their parents — I was one of them! That’s why parents need to ensure that parental controls are at the very least activated on their gaming consoles (and their smartphones, too). I can’t stress this enough, it’s crucial. It’s the first barrier that will prevent them from playing. Combine that with any of the solutions I’ve detailed above, or perhaps use a combination of them, to stay one step ahead of your kids.

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John Velasco
John is the Smart Home editor at Digital Trends covering all of the latest tech in this emerging market. From uncovering some…
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