Introduction: Take Control of the Console and Give Your Kids Their Lives Back!

Picture of Take Control of the Console and Give Your Kids Their Lives Back!

Video gaming has caused a great deal of stress in my home.  I have tried to get my son to limit his time on the games to no avail.  I have tried to get him interested in other things but nothing seems to hold his interest like video games.  

I am not ready to get rid of the game console completely (that's the final step) because I can see that the games are fun and do allow for some social interaction when his friends come over.  For now I just need a means to control the time he can play without me having to resort to shouting and threats to get him to stop.

I checked the manuals of some of the popular game consoles- they all have parental controls for game ratings, internet access, etc., but nothing to limit playing time. After pondering the situation for a little while I realized that since the video game console makers won't make the simple programming changes to allow parents to limit game playing time, I have to take matters into my own hands.

This instructable will show you what I did to give my son his life back and to reduce stress levels in my home by automatically limiting his video game playing time.  Construction is very simple and takes about an hour.

Step 1: How Does It Work?

Picture of How Does It Work?

I used two, seven-day programmable electronic timers to control the TV and the game console power.  The timers and the plugs for the TV and the game console are locked inside a steel box so the kid can't simply unplug the cords from the timers and plug them into the wall.  The timers have built in battery back-up so messing around with the power cord won't let him change the schedule of the system.

Are there weaknesses?  Sure, but I won't point them out in case my son sees this instructable.  You can figure them out for yourself easily enough.  If my son has the wherewithal to develop counter-measures I will simply come up with some counter-counter-measures.  I think an ever-upward spiraling war of technology wouldn't be such a bad thing- at least it would get him thinking about how to solve a problem that means something to him and THAT would be a welcome change from mindlessly twitching his thumbs at images on a TV screen.

Step 2: Shopping for Parts

Picture of Shopping for Parts

The parts list for this project is really short.  You'll need:

1) one or two 7 day programmable electronic timers, about $15 each at Home Depot
2) a 3 wire extension cord, about $5 at Home Depot
3) a tamper-proof steel cash lock-box with key or combination lock, about $15 at Target
4) some short pieces of plastic tubing from your junk box or aquarium supplies.

Tools that will help:

1) a hack saw or dremel tool with fiber reinforced cut-off disc
2) a pair of pliers
3) a pair of scissors

There is no measuring, nothing is critical.

One timer controls the TV and will need to have 3 wire socket(s).  The other timer controls the game console. My son's PS3 console uses a two wire power cord so I used a smaller timer with a single two wire socket to control the game console power.

Using two timers will allow the TV and game console power to run on different schedules.  The game console operation time is a subset of the TV operation time so you can plug the game console timer into one of the outlets on the TV timer and plug the TV into the other outlet.

If you want to simplify things and reduce cost by a few dollars you can use a single timer with two outlets to control both the TV and game console power.  Just make sure that whatever timer(s) you use will fit inside the box when the lid is closed.

Step 3: Building It

Picture of Building It

All you have to do is cut a couple slots into the walls of the steel lock-box to allow the power cords to pass through but prevent the plugs on those cords from coming out of the box.  You can use a hack saw or Dremel tool with a cut-off wheel to cut the steel box.

Make two cuts and grab the piece between the cuts with a pair of pliers and bend it back and forth until it breaks off.  You need to protect the power cords from the sharp edges of the box where you cut it by slicing some air tubing lengthwise and fitting it over the sharp edges on the box.

Once you have put the air tubing over the sharp edges you're ready to program the timers, plug in the equipment, and close the box.  Keep the timer programming instructions inside the lock-box so you'll know where they are if you need to change the settings.

I didn't mount the timers to anything- they are just laying inside the box.  If it proves to be problematic I'll do something about it.


barefoot721 (author)2017-08-09

You can really tell who has kids this age... and who doesn't by how they respond (and who is not much older than a kid themselves?).

I have 3 boys and this is quickly becoming a real problem in this house - my oldest, age 13, constantly pushes the limits to the point where we are in a constant state of disciplinarian vs rebellion, which is not healthy. I also have twin 11 year old boys who do not obsess as much but one is getting closer - the other twin could take it or leave it.

A solution like this could alleviate a lot of the problems. It creates a scenario where there are set boundaries and repercussions are clear - the game goes off - if he doesn't control his time & instead tries to push the limits.

I need to go to bed earlier than they do (in summer) so this alleviates me having to keep waking up and telling them to shut it down. We already only allow them to play at night, after everything is done - but they'll play until 4am if I fall asleep and don't regulate their time!

I like this... it might work for us!

yershayec (author)2015-10-16

he could just find another power cord

HiPoweredHacker (author)2012-12-11

do you know how bad you could destroy the console? just hack it and download a timer program. or just take the games and lock it in a safe. better yet sell the console

Well, locking the games up, will not lock the hard drive up, which could have downloadable games on it, and if the kid doesnt turn it off in time, its his own fault, as previously stated.

Istarian (author)HiPoweredHacker2013-07-18

This 'sell the console' approach if you bought it for yourself and you let your kid(s) use it. On the other hand, if you bought for the kids or gave it to them for their birthday or christmas, etc it is completely inappropriate to do such a thing. The law may not prevent you, but that's effectively theft and sale of stolen goods. Besides, just taking it away and putting it where they cannot get is just as effective.

yuyushamanpiece (author)2011-03-17

um dude you can really frag your game system by doing this. just go set a timer and when goes off tell them to shutdown the system and go play outside.

You just don't get it. Telling them to turn it off and go outside doesn't work. You have to scream "turn that $%^$^&&* thing off or I swear by all that is holy you will spend the next five years in a military school!" And that's what you start with. They never respond to the first scream.

Turning the device on and off will not hurt it, and if it does, so what? If my son knows the timer schedule it is up to him to shut down his game before the power goes dead, or HE will suffer the consequences.

No yelling or screaming required- just consequences...

A-Nony-Mus (author)Mark Rehorst2011-03-18

I don't have any children (not old enough...), but I do have a younger brother. I have to say that I agree with you when it comes to getting them off the console. My brother is only allowed an hour, and we have a loud timer that he promptly ignores, and we have to force him to get off the system (though it sounds like he cooperates more than your son). Also (not to start a flame war either), but in our family we are only allowed to get the wii, because (even if it is minimal) it requires more activity than the other systems.

techboy411 (author)A-Nony-Mus2015-05-24

Well, the Kinect on the 360/Xbone require even MORE activity. This device is the only reason play Just Dance, the WiiMote is too "phallic" for my taste

A-Nony-Mus (author)Mark Rehorst2011-03-18

Awesome looking project, by the way

ChrisR9 (author)2015-02-20

I have a Tv with almost every gaming console and I purchased them all my self my dad threatens me with stuff like this and its fun cause once we did start a tech war but i ended up winning in the end cause I haven't touched my tv other than to watch a little bit of netflix but I barely play. Its different all my friends game almost non stop but I hunt and work for my collection. This is a useful idea but its easy to bypass with having a separate output cord for the console. If I would have done this I would have Mounted it to the plug and screwed it to the wall. I'm about to Grad High School this year and am off to college next year. But the instructable is great your son will try to spend more time trying to fix it than playing himself.

Dr. Pepper (author)2011-03-13

I have no tv. I'm 13 and I have a sister that's 10. It was hard to give it up but I guess I did. Hope it works out for you.

Mark Rehorst (author)Dr. Pepper2011-03-13

You'll turn out a better person for it!

It may be hard at first, but you'll discover that there are all sorts of fun and interesting things to do that don't involve video games.

Dr. Pepper (author)Mark Rehorst2011-03-14

Oh yeah! I've had no tv for about 1 year now. I actually haven't missed it!

Crabby (author)Dr. Pepper2011-03-14

And looking at the things you have on the instructables it has worked out well. I love your sweet two story fort. I bet it is great for airsoft battles.

Dr. Pepper (author)Crabby2011-03-14

Thanks! It is good for airsoft battles!

macbookacer.acerbook (author)2014-12-07

Horrible idea :/

Crafterkid123 (author)2014-10-17

This is seriously overkill. Only kids who play CoD would deserve this.

BunsOfSteel (author)2014-05-27

You could also go to an easier rout and just place the Console inside a media box with a lock and just lock it up on weekdays and let him play at weekends.

microdot (author)2014-03-13

I love this!!! I have 3 kids and over the years similar issues have
come up. It's an elegant solution in it's simplicity. I also like that
you're taking a pragmatic approach to potential circumvention.

Minecarft1guy (author)2014-01-30

You do know that your kid or Kids can just unplug you machine and plug in the console cord again

If you had read the article, you'd know that there is a timer in the box that controls power to the console. The timer has a battery built in and keeps time of day whether AC power is connected or not. The end of power cord that powers the console is trapped inside the box.

A resourceful kid could easily find ways around the box, but if the kid is that resourceful, they will probably find other things to do anyway.

ErebusBat (author)2013-07-15

I think this is a very cleaver idea.... get him to start thinking about hard (to him) problems to solve and how to circumvent them.

Also I agree with your statement that if it does ruin the console because he wont turn it off that is his own fault.

Deming Junkie (author)2013-05-15

Do I understand correctly that your solution has pre-programmed times for operation? Your son must make use of the tv and system during those set times only?

Digitaldreamer7 (author)2011-04-22

Or you know, you could not be passive aggressive and turn the machine off yourself when he doesnt do what you tell him. No wonder your kid doesnt listen to you the first time. You haven't given him any reason to. You are his parent. YOU make the rules. YOU enforce them, stop hiding behind a timer, if he doesn't listen then sell the game system. it's not rocket science. Oh and that thing's going to overheat in that metal box BTW.

I agree.

kondoruy (author)2012-04-29

"If my son has the wherewithal to develop counter-measures I will simply come up with some counter-counter-measures"

Absolute amazing :D
I give you the next steep in the future "war" if you son want it.
PD: its from BeenHeck

ViperSniper (author)2011-10-17

we had a tv till i was 3 when it broke, my mum and dad didnt bought one again and last year thy bought a 32" lcd with av and hdmi but no tv and they bought us (me and my sister) a PS2 and weare only allowed to play weekends and school holidays.

P.S sorry for my bad english its not my first language

A-Nony-Mus (author)2011-03-25

I personally really like the wii, obviously you don't. As stated before, my intention was not to start a flame war, therefore I will not speak any more on the topic of which console is better. Everyone is, after all, entitled to their own opinion; I stated mine and you stated yours.

Okay that's not what I ment. I own and love my WII yes I know that sounds weird but what I ment was that every time I hear someone talk about what game system to get they say WII because of the motion control and gets people to move. That is not what gaming should be about it should be about good games the only system I don't like is the 360 and I wasnt try to come off like a jerk

If u dont believe me look at the stuff I have built

Well I am personally of the belief that once they start making REAL 3D gaming consoles (and not like the 3D tvs they make) that obesity will no longer be a problem among video game players, and the Wii is the closest thing I have yet seen to it.

myalt22 (author)A-Nony-Mus2011-07-12

I love the stereotype that all video-game players are greasy fat nerds with no friends.

Also, the assumption that 3D Games offer some kind of magical cure.

Callum Snowden (author)myalt222011-07-27


legolouman (author)2011-03-16

Great 'ible... But the Xbox 360 does indeed have one of those systems built in, not to accidentally start a flame war, but that is one of the things that makes it better...
You could turn him into a nerd (liek meh) and create challenges into the system, instead of a war, that give him time to play. Let's say you code a script that has an unlock code. If he were to either brute force or look through the code, he could find it. Then you could per say, have him create a new code for it, or have him hack the hardware. It would be awesome if my parents did that.

Mark Rehorst (author)legolouman2011-03-17

I was not aware of a timer in the X-box system.

Also, not to start a flame war, but for years I have been forced by compatibility issues to run and maintain buggy, security-hole filled Windows computers, so there's no way I'd give MS money for a game system that has been as prone to failure as the X-box has proven to be.

legolouman (author)Mark Rehorst2011-03-22

I agree that there are some "drawbacks" with Windows, personally, I am a Linux user, but I've used Windows forever... The new Xbox 360 S does not have any failure issues, as I am aware of at least. The Xbox DID have its problems, and I've spent hours fixing mine,but that is no longer the case...

Crabby (author)2011-03-13

With the computing power of modern gaming systems you would think they could add a feature that limited play time to so much a day. Then again I guess game companies want kids addicted to their games. This is a great no hassle way to put your foot down.

Mark Rehorst (author)Crabby2011-03-13

It's war!

It would take any decent programmer 5 minutes to add code to allow parents to limit play to specific times of the day, but it doesn't happen. Who would think to add parental controls for game ratings and web access but not to control the time wasted - oops, I mean spent- playing video games?


Crabby (author)Mark Rehorst2011-03-14

War is right.
Once they get addicted to those flashing lights and fast shiny graphics it's all over, it's like trying to get a junkie to quit.
My parents had nice simple rules; if it's nice out go and play, if it was cold or rainy then find something constructive to do, what you're bored I got some chores you can do if you want. Easy, said and done.

ironsmiter (author)2011-03-13

they make those timers, with remote controls...

Get him into hacking IR remote codes, in an attempt to bypass your security ;-)

janesycamore (author)2011-03-13

We started off first limiting the tv to just local programs. No cable, only antenna. Nice not having to pay for cable! Once you get used to not having something always being on all the time, it is not so bad. We rarely watch tv now, and my boys only have video game or DVD to watch. They now get tired of playing the Wii on their own.

About This Instructable




Bio: I was electrical engineer for 22+ years, then went back to school for 6 years and became a dentist.
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