Most everything is fine in moderation. The same is true for teen time on video games. Below we review studies and recommendations on teen time on video games as well as other age groups on screen time in general.
Some Video Game Playing Has Benefits
Video game playing has shown many of the same benefits as playing board games or doing other activities. The fast pace of video games can actually improve teens’ attention, focus, and reaction times. Video games spark kids’ imaginations and help them to socialize. Electronics can even help dyslexic kids learn to read.
What is the Average Number of Hours that Teens Spend Playing Video Games?
The Kaiser Family Foundation surveyed youth and found that that they spend about 50 hours a week on some type of electronic device including cell phones, tablets, computers, and video games. With the average of game playing well over the hours of a normal work week, at what point does recreational game playing cross over into obsessiveness and anti-socialization?
How Much Video Game Time Is Appropriate for Teens?
Oxford University surveyed children who play console or PC games for an hour or less a day and found that they tended to be more social and more generally satisfied with life than their non-video game playing peers. The results for kids playing video games for more than three hours were not as promising. Kids that played video games for more than three hours were more likely to have social and relational problems with peers. Many of them also developed problems with hyperactivity.
Among the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations:
- For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
- For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
- For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
- Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
- Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
How Can I Tell If My Kids Are Addicted to Video Games?
Look for the following signs to understand if your teen might have a video game addiction:
- Agitation, frustration, or depressed when not playing video games
- Preoccupation with video games
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Physical problems like eyestrain, sore fingers, back or neck problems, or headaches
- Lack of interest in academics
- Aggression when asked to stop
- Trouble with relationships
At the end of the day, it’s all right to allow a little teen time for video games, but electronics shouldn’t consume the whole day.