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Monday, December 03, 2007


Bad Guy Bob

Bob arrived at our house a few weeks ago.

My kids think he's a bad guy because he's always turning off the computer right in the middle of their games.

But they're quickly learning to work with Bob. To negotiate for more time or to limit themselves to the hour or two that Bob gives them.

Bob is a TV Time Manager. And it's not really a guy. It's this small electronic device that you plug into your TV, computer, or videogame into, and then you can set specific time limits and time blocks for up to six different children.

In our house we don't have a problem with the kids watching too much TV, as they only turn it on by themselves on Saturday and Sunday mornings when they're allowed to watch DVD cartoons for an hour or two. So far they've been good about regulating themselves on that.

What we do have a problem with is computer games. My son, especially, likes to play games at the free online sites, like NeoPets and Yahoo Games. We give him an hour a day, usually just after dinner. But that hour goes quickly, and he's so caught up in the action that he forgets the time.

That's where Bob comes in. For computers, you can plug the monitor's electrical cord into Bob, which has a locked outlet so the kids can't simply plug the cord back into the wall outlet. Then your child types in his own 4-digit pin number, and Bob will turn the monitor on for the amount of time the child is allowed. When the alloted time is just about up, Bob gives a 60-second countdown, so your child knows he'd better finish up the game.

You can also set up time blocks when Bob will refuse to accept a PIN, so your kids can't play games or watch TV during hours of the day when they should be doing other things.

It's all worked wonderfully with our son. He has no reason to complain, because we all agreed on how much time he would have on the computer each night. I don't have to watch the clock, and my son is learning a little something about time management.

Bob has an extremely simple interface. It's easy to use, and easy for the kids to understand. They can see right on the screen how much time they've used. Parents can give more time as a reward, or take away time as a punishment.


Bob is made by a Colorado company called Hopscotch Technology. They have graciously offered up a free Bob to one of my readers. If you think Bob would be useful in your home, putting an end to the struggles and frustrations of too much TV or computer time, then leave a comment here. Friday I'll pick a lucky winner at random.

In case you don't win, you can always buy Bob at Amazon. He's well worth it!


Anonymous alli for said...

That is so neat! I can see that being useful for my family in a few years. Glad your family is getting used to Bob.

4:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this could save nightly fights with our teenage son. I come home from school and he's on the Xbox life. It is a battle from that moment until the end of the night. He seems to think that if he doesn't bring home his school work.... he doesn't have homework.... therefore he should have unlimited access to electronic games.

His father and I are constantly turning off his games midstream.


5:01 AM  
Anonymous Piseco said...

So how ethical is it to force my *husband* to enter a pin in order to play video games?? My son needs some help, but it's dh who's the worst!

5:57 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

If I am totally honest, I probably need it as much as my kids.

6:27 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

I was going to say the same thing as piseco about using it on my husband and his video games. LOL. my kids are too young still so i don't need to be in the drawing, but it's good to know this kind of stuff is out there.

6:29 AM  
Anonymous baggage@ said...

That sounds great. I agree with Karen, I could probably use it as much as the kids. I have a hard time stepping away from the computer!

6:38 AM  
Blogger ttrentham said...

This isn't too much of an issue yet, but I can see it becoming a problem. The kids were slow to come to dinner last night b/c of Lego Star Wars.

Sign me up!

9:58 AM  
Blogger Dionna said...

I would love for Bob to come to our house! My girls weakness is also the computer. Bob would be a nice asset to have around.

2:44 PM  
Blogger The Father of Five said...

Having five children, managing TV/Computer/Xbox time is a full time job!

When younger (and still to this day) our #1 of 5 (19 years old boy) has sleep "issues". I believe his body clock is exact opposite of the rest of the world. If given the option, he would stay up until 6am and sleep until noon. As a younger child - we would often find him awake and watching TV at all hours of the night. As he got a little bit older, he wised up and used a pair of headphones while he watched, eliminating one of the of triggers that alerted us to his shenanigans. It got to the point where we would have to disconnect the cable to the whole house at night just so there would be nothing on. Bob would have been the answer to a prayer back then!

Our #2 of 5 (12 year old boy) is an absolute TV ADDICT. If the TV is on - he is in front of it. His (3 year old) sister can be watching Dora the Explorer, The Care Bears, or Madeline and he will stop dead in his tracks like a deer in headlights, and start watching it. When asked if he enjoys these shows, he will blush, and vehemently deny it, yet it happens time and time again. My threats of throwing him a Teletubby birthday party for he and his friends, or populating the gifts under the Christmas tree with stuffed with Care Bear DVD's, and a Plush Clifford for him makes him beg and plead for forgiveness (he knows I'd do it)- promising it will never happen again. But, yet it does.

#3 of 5 (10 year old boy) is the least likely to abuse the TV. If a younger or older sibling is watching TV, he will for the most part be successful at ignoring it. If #2 of 5 is watching something, then #3 of 5 usually gets hooked in - but that seems to be due to their age (and gender) proximity. Of the electronic gadgets, he is more drawn to the interact-ability of the computer or the Xbox. When complaining of being board, #3 of 5, will undoubted ask for Computer time.

Sigh... here is where I know my children are somehow linked by DNA. #4 of 5 (7 year old girl) has #2 of 5's TV addict gene. She will watch what ever, when ever, and frankly - however. The true challenge is trying to keep her tuned in to age appropriate matter. She will try and watch some of the shows that are appropriate and entertaining for the older boys, but yet are just a bit too "old" for her. (I think this is a common issue with parents of children that have ages spread out like ours (19 down to 3)).

Finally, I'll finish this of with little #5 of 5 (3 year old girl). So far, she seems to have the most balanced and appropriate TV time of the five. She gets board quickly with the older boy's shows, and has enough of an interest in her dolls, and play kitchen - that the TV (at least so far) is not a significant draw to her. Perhaps I lucked out. She seems to share #3 of 5's slightly diminished attraction towards the television.

Then, there are some times / shows when all bets are off. For example, the draw of Sponge Bob, and Full House are just too great of a draw, and even get their dad (The Father of Five) to stop for a minute (or thirty). (Shamefully lowering my head in defeat). These are the shows that ALL AGES tend to enjoy.

Would Bob answer all our Television issues? No - I don't think so. But - I am intrigued to find out if Bob could make a part time job out of (what is now) a full time job of policing the Television. I think it could free up more time to spend with the kids, and help us spend less time having to watch the kids watch the television.

I worry that the Mother of Five may try to put Bob on the computer during my blogging time so that I would have to spend more time with her! (Wink)

3:13 PM  
Blogger Mrs Groovy said...

Thanks for an introduction to Bob, can he come stay with me? heh Really though, I'd love to win him.

4:32 PM  
Blogger jaunti said...

Our 6 year old girl loves Disney and many shows that make her 6 going on 13 (Hannah Montana, High School Musical...).

She loves other activities but is mesmerized by TV - will even watch the Food Channel for hours on end if allowed, which she is not.

We try for half hour after school and half hour after dinner. Bob would help remind when half hour is up.

We are so busy on the computer we sometimes don't realize how time goes by. Does Bob have a friend - can he do computer and TV both?

11:18 PM  
Blogger cndy said...

that is a great way to keep everyone accountable. I know it is an area that I am way too relaxed with. It takes the argument out of how long to play etc because it is decided before they get on and is tracked.. not questions. Perfect

5:08 PM  
Blogger HoorayForSaturday said...

I've heard about this device, however we don't really have any problems in our house that Bob would help out with.
When you come across a device that will make me tired and tell me to go to sleep before 3am, I'm all in.

7:50 PM  
Blogger amberj said...

Bob would be a wonderful addition to our family of five. My 7 year old son is so fascinated by the computer that we struggle to keep him "unplugged". Following right on his heels is our 3yr old, Jack, who spends his time "typing" whatever key he happens to strike. PIN access is genius. Thanks for the tip.

6:27 PM  
Blogger Katey said...

wWONDERFUL as a mom to 2 teenage boys, a tween girl, and an 8 yr old boy!! PERFECT I wish I had thought of it. We are constantly having issues with time spent on games. They try to say "but they're educational mommmmmm!!"

and the free game sites are the worst...

10:19 AM  
Blogger Daquell said...

A Bob would definitly be nice to have. The problem would be deciding which appliance to plug it into: the TV, the computer?

9:12 PM  
Blogger Java said...

What a cool gadget! My kids use an egg timer to tell them when their time is up, they usually try to sneak a minute or two in but then I can just yell out "I hear that alarm go off". Their excuses are "but I'm saying goodbye to my friends still" or "I'm selling something" They love to play Runescape. I started to say if they don't get off then I'll take more time off for next time or say No for next time, they learn eventually.

2:46 PM  

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