How Long Should I Let My Child Play Video Games Each Day? Each Week?

Being a parent is scary, but the decision behind how long you should let your kid play video games each day doesn't have to be.

Video games are now available on smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, consoles, and even TVs themselves. With nearly ubiquitous access, it's fair to wonder how much time screen time a child should be exposed to. While there's no one-size-fits-all solution, here are some facts to consider when setting limits. 

Scientific Solutions

A study in 2014 called "Electronic Gaming and Psychosocial Adjustment" claims to have found the ideal game time that will benefit children: one hour per day. In order to come to this conclusion, study author Andrew Pryzybylsky polled almost 5,000 British children between the ages of 10-15 about their psychological well-being and their video game habits. 

The study found that children who played video games for an hour or less each day were on average more social and satisfied than children who didn't play video games.

Conversely, children who played one to three hours of video games were roughly as social and satisfied as non-gamers, and children who played more than three hours per day were less happy than non-gamers and prone to behavioral problems. 

What This Means

Pryzybylsky does point out that other factors, such as parental ability to afford video game consoles, could be affecting his subjects' overall happiness. Still, the article offers good guidelines for concerned parents. 

For parents that want their children to socially benefit from video games, a strict limit of one hour of video games per day should be considered. Anything more than one hour and less than three puts gamers on a level playing field with non-gamers in terms of satisfaction and social benefits. 

That said, allowing your child to play between one and three hours per day doesn't seem to particularly hurt them either. Unless your child plays more than three hours each day, the video games aren't doing any harm. 

Additionally, as Drew Guarani writes in the Huffington Post, there are other benefits to children playing video games such as improving eyesight, slow the aging process, and help dyslexic children read. Basically, depending on the game your child is playing and their individual situation, there can be developmental benefits.

how long should I let kids play video games

3 Common Sense Solutions

There's still so much we don't know about the effects of video games on children, but there are some common-sense suggestions for regulating your children's play.

1. Familiarize Yourself With the Games

Knowing more about the games your kid is playing might help set your mind at ease about your child's favorite hobby. At the very least researching the games can inform how much time the kid gets to play. 

For instance, after researching the benefits of Lego Video Games you may decide that your kid can play an additional hour of video games every day, as long as the second hour is spent on a Lego game like the upcoming LEGO Dimensions. Maybe you want your kids to play some excellent math games, those can count too.

Knowing how your kid's games work also gives you the upper hand when it comes to enforcing time limits. As a child, it was incredibly frustrating to turn off a game before I hit a save point, just because my mom didn't understand what save points were. If you know what games save automatically and which games require additional work to save properly, you can save yourself many tears.

family playing video games

2. Provide Alternate Entertainment

If you're limiting your child to one hour or video games each day, what other activities are available to them once the screens are turned off? If the answer to that question is "nothing", it's time to get your kids friends and some new hobbies

My mother took me to the library at least once a month, so once I had watched my hour of television and played my hour of games I could read instead. Helping your child find a hobby outside of video games - be it sports, reading, sewing, or river dancing - can make a time limit bearable and even unnecessary. 

3. Relax

There is so much information and disinformation about video games out in the world, it's easy to get your mind tied up in knots over the issue. The thing is, if you care enough about your kids to obsessively worry about the time they spend playing video games, they're proooooobably going to turn out okay!

Being a parent is scary, especially when all you want is what is best for your children, but the decision behind how long you should let your kid play video games each day doesn't have to be. Just review the facts, take your child's particular needs into consideration, and add a healthy dose of common sense. That wasn't so hard now was it?

Published Apr. 15th 2015

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