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The Sony PlayStation 4

Chances are good that a new gaming console appeared at your home within the past couple of weeks. At the same time, social media feeds seem flooded with articles talking about how we can all cut back on screen time in the coming year. So, if you’re like me, you may have been wondering about the best ways to monitor screen time when it comes to gaming.

Most teenagers in the U.S. are gamers, with 90 percent of all teens telling Pew Research Center they play video games on a computer, console or phone. An overwhelming 97 percent of teen boys say they play video games and about four in 10 actually admit to spending too much time doing so.

Parents can help kids cut back on the time they spend on video games. It’s tough to be the nag, but luckily each of the most popular video game systems has parental controls to help set some limits.

In 2017, the top three video game consoles purchased in the U.S. came from three different companies. The Sony PlayStation 4 led the way, selling more than 4 million systems. People bought slightly fewer than 3 million Nintendo Switch consoles and slightly more than 3 million Xbox One systems, according to Statista.

Here’s how to set time limits for these video game consoles hooked up to TVs in millions of households across America and the world.

PlayStation 4

Parents can control what PlayStation calls Play Time Management through the system itself, or on the web. Go to Settings>Parental Controls>Family Management and select a child’s account, then Play Time Settings. Parents can choose certain times of the day when a child can play, or set an overall time limit. When the time limit is nearing its end, notifications appear on the screen, letting the child know they should save and quit (heaven forbid they lose their progress). Parents are also able to program the PS4 to automatically log out when Play Time ends.

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo has some parental controls through the system, but for full capabilities, moms and dads will want to download the free iOS and Android app. Parents can set limits on how long or late kids can use the gaming system. When time is up, a notification pops up on the screen and the app will let parents know. It’s also possible to set the system to turn off automatically when time is up. The app also gives easy access to daily play times for each gamer and gives monthly reports for most-played games.

Xbox One

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To set up screen time limits on an Xbox One, sign in to your Microsoft account and go to the family section. Parents can decide whether to use the same time schedule for everyone, or to configure each child’s limits individually. If customizing, select the child’s name and decide how much screen time is allowed each day and/or what times of day gaming is allowed. Moms and dads may then choose whether or not they want to give their kids a warning when screen time is running out. To do so, press the Xbox button on the controller and go to System>Settings>Preferences>Notifications>Xbox Notifications>System and make sure System notifications are turned on.

If you decide to set these time limits, don’t forget to let your children know and maybe even put it in writing so there is no question as to what the limits are. Then, help your kids understand that if they are not actively playing a game, they should sign out so that time doesn’t keep ticking.

Here’s to a happier new year, putting sensible limits on screen time while also cutting back on parental nag time.