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The experts haven’t yet decided if excessive or pathological video game play qualifies as a true addiction, but there’s little doubt that for some kids - video games harm quality of life and overall development.

The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends no screen time for children under the age of 2 and only 2 hours a day at maximum for kids older than 2 – a daily limit that’s pretty routinely exceeded in a whole lot of American households!

Want a few compelling reasons why you should limit the amount of video game and other screen time in your household?

Kids that spend too much time in front of a screen each day:

  • Are more likely to be obese
  • May have reduced creativity (passive screen time reduces the time available to flex creative muscles in free play)
  • Are more likely to bully their peers
  • Are more likely to have mental health problems, like higher levels of depression or anxiety and have more difficulty sustaining attention
  • Do worse in school
  • Sleep more poorly1

And if that isn’t enough to scare any parent – research on kids who play video games to excess (for hours a day) also makes for some pretty frightening reading.

Want a few good reasons to get your son or daughter away from the computer screen or video game console?

According to research:

  • Teens in Singapore who were classified as addicted to gaming (playing an average of 31 hours per week and experiencing problems in other areas of life due to their game play) were more likely to be impulsive and to do worse in school and more likely to have impaired social functioning and emotional health problems like depression and anxiety. The research showed that those teens who continued to play video games excessively over the course of the 2 year study experienced a worsening in emotional health and social functioning; those that managed to reduce their play improved in these areas.2
  • UK researchers found that children who spent the more time in front of a screen had the highest levels of psychological difficulties. Interestingly, they found that high levels of screen time were not offset by high levels of activity time. Kids who spent a lot of time playing computer games or watching TV and a lot time engaged in active play were just as affected as kids who did not also get the active play. The research suggests that screen time is not offset by other types of activities.3
  • Iowa State University researchers found that middle school students who exceeded the 2 hours recommended screen time per day were twice as likely to have attention problems (as reported by their teachers) as kids who watched spent less than 2 hours a day in front of a screen.4

Preventing Excessive Screen Time

Whatever your thoughts on the validity of terms like, gaming addiction, there seems little doubt that excessive time spent in front of any kind of TV or computer screen during the childhood and teen years does a lot more developmental harm than good – so how can you get your son or daughter to turn off the game and get engaged in something a little more beneficial?

According to the experts, effective strategies for reducing your child’s screen time include:

  • Remove TVs and video game players from the bedroom into family areas
  • Help your child find alternative activities to game play or TV watching
  • Turn the TV off at meal times and when no one is actively watching a program
  • Set rules limiting the amount of time per day that your child can turn on the TV or play video games
  • Do not set a bad example – make sure to minimize your own screen time to acceptable levels5
References
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Page last updated Jan 19, 2011

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