Introduction: 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?
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.