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1/9/24 blog post

are video games good or bad for kid's mental health?

help your child find the right balance between gaming and other activities to improve their mental health

father and son playing video games

Children are learning to play swiping games on a smartphone or tablet well before they learn to read! Playing video games feels as natural for kids today as it did for you to flip through TV channels to find something to watch when you were a kid!

what are the pros and cons of my kids playing video games? 

Some online or video games are educational. They may help your child improve their fine motor skills, their problem-solving skills or their ability to take turns. Kids may learn math, music or other topics of interest. Your child may learn persistence by working to improve their skills over time. Or they may even learn to cope with frustration as they work toward a goal.

But not every game is appropriate for children. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) provides ratings on a game's intended audience and appropriateness. Sites like Common Sense Media can also help you understand what kinds of content are in specific games. Some games designed for teens or adults are too violent for kids. They’re not necessarily ideal for teens, either. Research has shown that exposure to violent video games may increase the chance of teens being more aggressive and less empathetic.

how can I help my child balance playing video games and being healthy? 

It’s fine for children to play games some of the time, but too much game time may have negative effects. Kids who spend hours playing video games or online games are less physically active than their peers, which increases the risk of obesity. Children may prioritize playing games over doing homework, which could harm their academic performance. Kids who spend hours gaming may have fewer face-to-face interactions with their peers, so their social skills may not be as developed as in other children.

To help your child find the right balance between gaming and doing other activities you can: 

  1. Model good behavior. How many hours a day are you looking at screens? Children copy their parents’ behaviors. Kids may play games for an hour or two daily, but adults may watch five hours of TV. To encourage your child to spend less time gaming, make an effort to step away from screens, too.
  2. Pay attention to your child’s gaming. Ask questions and watch your child play. Are the games educational? Are they age-appropriate? Does your child play online with friends or with strangers? Make recommendations to limit their exposure to violence and to keep your child safe. Our conversation starter download can help you know what questions to ask.
  3. Set time limits. Don’t let your child spend time gaming without time restrictions. Decide how long you’ll let them play daily, and make sure that they stop when they hit that limit. Kids don’t like it when they have to stop playing, especially if they’re in the middle of something exciting. Consider offering a reward system, so your child can earn prizes or one-on-one time with you if they shut their games off quickly when their time runs out.
  4. Monitor your child’s well-being. Periodically assess whether gaming has changed your child’s behaviors. Have their grades started slipping since they began playing? Have they become more sedentary, or are they gaining weight? Have they gotten together with friends less often because they’d rather play videogames? Do they seem more irritable, aggressive or withdrawn? If you’re concerned that gaming is an overwhelming influence in your child’s life, ask your pediatrician for guidance. 

level up with these free game-inspired conversation starters

It's important to be engaged and pay attention to your child's video game play!

To help, you can ask your child questions to learn more about what games they're into and to find why they think playing video games is fun.

Power up your conversation by downloading this free conversation starter sheet about gaming! Just click the button below to get started! Or you can download it en espanol!

download the conversation starters

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