Video Games

How much screen time is too much? 

What should I be concerned about?

While it is uncommon for girls to be frequent, heavy players of video games, especially violent games it is unusual for boys to rarely or never play video games.  In a recent report, just 8% of boys played for less than an hour per week. Most of the time they play with other children; boys and girls who exclusively play games alone are atypical.

In a survey of young adolescents, there were significant correlations between routine play of M-rated games and greater self-reported involvement in physical fights.  It is likely that aggressive or hostile youths may be drawn to violent games. There is limited but suggestive evidence that persons with trait anger or aggression may be affected differently by violent games. In one study, players tended to be less angry after playing a violent game, but this was not true for subjects who scored high on trait anger and aggression. A possible marker of unhealthy video game use may be increased anger after a round of play.

Parents should consider two basic issues when providing guidance to their children and teens regarding the use of video games.  (1) Parents should be aware of the content of the games and question whether it is appropriate for the age and developmental level of their child. (2) Parents should monitor how much time their children spend playing video games as well as other activities.  It is true that you can have "too much of a good thing."

Parents may want to help their children and teens select play and entertainment materials that are balanced in content.  Some can be educational while others are just plain fun.  By the way, it is thought by some child psychologists that some fantasy video games may help children develop cognitive skills such as the ability to plan ahead as well as develop visual spatial and eye-hand coordination skills.

For more information on the positives and negatives of video game use, as well as an explanation of the rating scale, visit The National Institute on Media and the Family http://www.mediafamily.org/facts/facts_effect.shtml