Blog & Articles

Should I Let My Child Play Video Games? by Mitch Ruoff, Ph.D.

The video game industry has now been a part of American life for more than thirty years, so lets take a look at what the current research says. First, there are both positive and negative effects from playing video games. Anyone who says we should throw them all out is ignoring the many pluses that have been found. However, researchers commonly identify two major concerns when it comes to the use of video games by children.

The first major concern involves the amount of time spent playing video games. This tends to correlate negatively with a child’s academic performance. The average preschool child spends twenty-eight minutes per day in this activity. For elementary to middle school-age children, the numbers differ significantly for boys and girls. The average girl spends 5.5 hours per week, while the typical boy spends 13 hours per week “gaming.” Researchers are very concerned about these totals. Much of their concern seems warranted in light of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that “screen time” be limited to no more than two hours per day (current average is over five hours per day of total screen time for school-age children).

The second area of concern that researchers have identified involves the content of games. Violent video games have been correlated with antisocial and aggressive behavior. They have been shown to increase physiological arousal, aggressive thoughts, aggressive feelings, aggressive behaviors, and to decrease prosocial helping. By contrast, parents who limit their children from playing violent video games typically find their kids performing better in school and getting in fewer fights.

So here are two simple ways to help your child become a better person: limit the amount of time they spend on video games and make sure you keep them away from violent ones. In the short-run it may not be easy, but in the long-run you will be glad you did!


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