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How Long Should Kids Be Playing Video Games For?

how long should a kid play video games

The debate on “how long should a kid play video games?” might not be as one-sided as it was. When video games started becoming popular, they were considered detrimental to kids’ mental health and physical well-being. Then, studies began to show that qualities like hand-eye coordination were improved and developed through playing video games. It was then that playing video games became accepted as a hobby but only in limited doses. Now with eGaming being looked as a viable and lucrative career, do the old standards in limiting play time still apply?

Careers in eGaming are not only limited to gamers – the ones you see competing in tournaments and winning insane amounts of cash. The industries around it like programming and game development are also seeing spikes in employment. Take note that these ‘behind the scenes’ jobs are also financially rewarding. If your child – especially teens – decide this is the career path they would like to take, will you stop them from playing all they want?  I mean, if your kid wanted to be a doctor, not only would you let them watch all the medical shows and read the books they want, you’d probably be the one buying the related materials. Would you do the same if they wanted to be a gamer?

Whatever they choose to be later in life, you, as parents, are still in charge while they are growing up. You are responsible for their well-being physically and mentally. You have to help them achieve a work and play balance. And yes, that includes limiting their game time privileges  – even if they say it’s for their future.

How Long Does The Average Kid Play Video Games For?

Based on several studies and surveys conducted in recent years, here are the numbers regarding time spent gaming by young children and teens on a typical weekday. Take note that hours spent on mobile, computer, or console – like PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch – games are listed separately:

  • Preschoolers (between ages 2 to 4):
    • 5 minutes per day playing computer or console games.
    • 10 minutes playing mobile games.
  • Young children (between ages 5 to 8): 
    • 19 minutes per day playing computer or console games. 
    • 21 minutes playing mobile games.
  • Tweens (between ages 8 to 12): 
    • 55 minutes per day playing computer or console games.
    • 34 minutes playing mobile games.
  • Teens (between ages 13 to 18): 
    • 69 minutes per day playing computer or console games.
    • 27 minutes playing mobile games.

Those numbers may seem small but they add up over the course of a week and do increase during the weekends. Based on the data, do you think your kids spend too much screen time playing video games? 

Let’s take the data for teens and see if we can draw a picture of a typical day. In between hours for sleeping, eating, being at school, doing homework, physical activities, and having time for friends and family, 96 minutes, or 1 hour and 36 minutes are spent on video games. Take note that time spent on social media, browsing, and other cell phone or tablet activities are not taken into account. Considering playing video games is probably the least important among the activities listed, do you think your kids spend too much time on them? 

If you think the data shows time is spent too much – or too little – by kids playing video games, read on to find out what the experts say on the matter.

How Long Should A Kid Play Video Games For?

Pediatric experts in the United States suggest the following:

  • Time spent on video games should be kept under 60 minutes on school days, and 2 hours or less on weekends, school breaks, and holidays. 
  • Children under the age of 6 should not be given over an hour of video game privileges.
  • At least one day per week should be designated as non-gaming days. 
  • Excess gameplay can lead to video game addiction. 

Just with the word “addiction”, you know that too much gaming can never be good for your kid. It can be tempting for children to engage in video gaming. For example, owning the most popular video games among your classmates. Likewise, being able to finish the most difficult and best video games out there can give them legendary status among their gaming peers. These are perks are irresistible to most children and drive them to play non-stop. Add to that all the free games on different platforms they can download, gaming addiction is highly probable. 

Now that data on suggested and actual hours spent on video games have been laid out for you, it is still up to you to build a schedule for your child’s daily activities. While you try to come up with a balanced schedule to help kids spend their hours productively, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of video gaming – maybe they can help you decide on what is too much time spent playing.

Pros And Cons OF Kids Playing Video Games

kids playing video games

Playing video games has its own set of advantages when integrated properly in their activities. Likewise, if gaming privileges are abused or left unattended, they can be detrimental to both the child’s physical and mental health.

Here are some health aspects that can be affected by video games:

Mental Health

  • Depression and anxiety: Kids who show signs of depression and anxiety can have these symptoms exacerbated if they are unmonitored. Even those kids who have shown no signs of the mental issues can develop them through spending excessive amounts of time playing video games. There are studies showing the opposite. Children who spend the right amount of time on video games, coupled with physical activities, can help alleviate depression and anxiety.
  • Gambling Behaviors: Many games offer mystery boxes or loot boxes. These in-game purchases utilizing real-world cash. The value of these items found in boxes can vary from the mundane to the insane, and could be the difference from being stuck on a certain level or becoming an all-world conqueror, game-wise that is. You can think of it like the slot-machine in casinos: from no-luck spins to jackpots and everything in between. It’s this luck aspect in purchasing loot boxes that can lead to gambling behaviors later on.
  • ADHD: Children with Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, can experience intense symptoms of this disorder while gaming. It may lead to more problems with other interactive media. There are games specifically developed with the help of mental health experts to help assess and treat ADHD.

Physical Health

  • Motor Skills: Research throughout the years has shown video games have a positive effect on one’s motor skills. For example, video gaming can improve one’s hand-eye coordination. Also, playing video games can improve spatial skills like the ability to understand and know where certain objects are in relation to other objects.
  • Physical Activity: This is a two-way street when it comes to how video games affect kids’ lives. On one hand, if the video games our children prefer to play involve hours of sitting, this can lead to obesity and other health problems. On the other hand, exergames are games which involve physical activity to interact with the game, can reduce obesity and improve balance, speed, and agility.
  • Sleep: Kids playing video games at night is a common occurrence. However, this can lead to sleep problems including sleep quality, lack of sleep, or not being able to sleep at all.

Social Health

  • Improved Social Behavior: Games that involve much interaction – whether with other player online or in-game characters – like helping, sharing, and cooperating, can transcend into kid’s real-world decision-making skills, making them able to maintain positive relationships in real life.
  • Sense of Community: Those who delve in multiplayer online games often interact with real people through competition, cooperation, and communication. Studies have shown players of these games experience lower social anxiety and feel a sense of belonging. These open lines of communication however, if left unmoderated, can also become avenues of cyberbullying and other online dangers, which can be very detrimental to a child’s well-being.   

As you can see, the effects of video games are not necessarily black and white. This just goes to show that to enjoy a positive gaming experience, a balance must be attained. And with such, parents must be the ones to determine, achieve, and maintain that balance so their children do not suffer from the ills of gaming.

How To Limit Your Child’s Gameplay

To achieve that balance, here are some suggestions on how you can limit the time your children spend playing video games:

Parental Controls

Most gadgets have parental controls built into their systems. Even the apps themselves can have their own settings you can apply to keep your child in check. If you are in the market for a third-party app, phone monitoring apps like Highster Mobile can help keep track of how your child’s phone is being used. 

Make Gaming Time A Reward

To a child, video games were made for them to enjoy anytime they want. Make it a house rule that gaming privileges can be used only after chores and homework are done. Ensure the chores are done well and their homework is complete and correct before allowing them to play. Remind them playing video games is an earned privilege and not a right.

Determine Consequences For Breaking The Rules

Set the ground rules on what happens if they exceed the allotted gaming time. Make it a relative consequence as well. For example, doing the dishes or taking out the garbage for a week will not have the same effect as, say, no gaming or social media use. Not being able to stay updated in the online world would surely make them think twice about gaming a second longer.

Have Them Engage In Physical Activities

Make time in their schedules for activities not requiring the use of their phones or tablets. Playing catch outside, taking walks, playing with the pets, or playing with their toys are just some of the activities they can do. Not only will it take their phones away from them, it can be good physical exercise as well.

While these are good ideas in limiting their time playing video games, the best solution we can suggest is you be there for them. Nothing can replace your physical presence. Spend time with them and engage in activities that involve the whole family.  It can be old-school family game nights, a movie night, or a backyard barbecue where everyone gets to help out before eating. Whatever the choice of activity, knowing you are there whenever they don’t have their faces buried in a screen will make them feel not being able to play video games is more of a family thing rather than a punishment.