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How To Monitor Your Child’s Use of Video Games

July 11, 2023

We’ve all heard about the potential dangers of video games. Your child could spend hours absorbed in a game that might be violent, instead of getting some much-needed physical activity or hanging out with friends.

Your child might argue that they are talking to friends through headsets while playing their video games, but that doesn’t take the place of real-life interaction.

Video games also can become addictive, leading to a lot of anxiety and stress in the home when parents try to wean their children off of them.

Screen Time Guidelines

A recent study has found positive links between gaming and the development of children’s brains, but that doesn’t mean that your child should be allowed to play unlimited video games. Moderation still is the key to a healthy lifestyle, and video gaming should come after homework, exercise and household chores.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours a day of screen time for children ages 5 through 18. (Screen time includes all digital entertainment, including video games, movies, television shows and social media use.)

As digital media has become increasingly integrated into our daily lives, it’s important for parents to sit down with their children to create a Family Media Plan. The AAP recommends that parents and caregivers develop a plan that takes into account the health, education and entertainment needs of each individual child as well as the whole family, and then follow the family media plan together, revising it when necessary. 

Violence in Video Games

To reap the benefits of playing video games without harming their mental health, children not only need to limit the number of hours spent on games -- they also need to avoid violent games.

Decades of research link virtual violence to aggressive thoughts, feelings and actions in children. And even though we're still learning about the effects of violent video games and social media, experts agree that kids are deeply influenced by brutality wherever they experience it.

Witnessing violent acts — whether real or simulated — may give kids the sense that aggression is normal and acceptable. This may lead them to act out what they see and hear. Newer studies show that exposure to virtual violence can trigger mental health struggles, including depression and anxiety.

Benefits Of Playing Video Games

When a child’s video game use is monitored, there have been some benefits reported. A recent  study of almost 2,000 children found that those who reported playing video games for three hours a day or more performed better on cognitive skills tests involving impulse control and working memory compared to children who had never played video games. Specifically, the National Institutes of Health reports that gaming activates the brain and improves:

  • Impulse control
  • Vision
  • Paying attention
  • Memory processing

You can help your child not only by setting limits on playing video games but also by modeling appropriate gaming choices in what you choose to play.

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