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




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

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?

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

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

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.



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    42 Discussions


    1 year ago

    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!


    3 years ago

    he could just find another power cord


    6 years ago on Step 3

    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

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago on Step 3

    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.

    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.


    8 years ago on Step 3

    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.

    4 replies
    Mark Rehorstyuyushamanpiece

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 3

    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-MusMark Rehorst

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 3

    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.


    Reply 3 years ago on Step 3

    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


    4 years ago on Introduction

    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

    8 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    5 replies

    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.

    CrabbyDr. Pepper

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    4 years ago on Step 1

    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.