Hello Again Parents!
Bill Strong Denver Counseling here!
I’m often asked by parents about the use of video games, computer use, television time…or what we call “Screen Time”. Just how much is too much? You’ll hear very different opinions on this, that’s for sure. One thing is certain; the use of electronic media and games has changed and increased significantly over the years. And as you might think, video games aren’t going anywhere and most kids play them. A recent study showed that 97% of kids play video games! (go here)
How much time is too much time?
As you monitor your child or teen’s use of video games what are you seeing? More than an hour a day (probably)…two hours, three or even more. Some male teenagers that I work with tell me that they are playing 4-6 hours on school days and 8-12 hours on weekends. If that sounds outrageous keep in mind that the teens I’m referring to see their video game habits as normal, and “social” due to the newer games which all players to link-up with friends to play team games.
Neurologists remind us that children between the age of 5-15 are in a physiological stage that neural pathways of the brain are being formed. The “plasticity of the brain” at this stage is very significant to the child’s development. There is contradictory research about what video games do at this stage, but there is significant concern that game overuse “re-wires” the child’s brain. Go here for a great article on potential effects that video games have on the brain.
So…”do you have friends” takes a whole new meaning. I just had a mother point out to her son that his “friends” were all online (nothing new here) and that his out-of-school social interactions are limited to video gaming online.
Current research shows significant concerns about excessive video gaming. There are studies that show increased attention problems with excessive video gaming (go here). Whether it’s a desensitization to violence, attention problems, or more physiological problems, I think the prudent parent is aware of how much screen time their child engages in, and limits overuse.
I’m asking my clients and readers to look closely at this. Is your child or teen staying up late to play games? Is he/she fairly balanced in their life, ie school, social, physical/artistic activities? Or are you seeing that video games are a primary part of your child’s life?
Everyone will give you a different answer about how much is too much. Me? I say only an hour a night on school nights (after homework and chores are completed). On weekends I’d suggest no more than 3-4 hours of screen time, which still sounds like a lot to me, but doesn’t to most male teens I know. I never want screen time to cause a significant loss of sleep.
That’s a start. Feel free to email me your thoughts and experiences so I can include them in my next blog. Go here to contact me.
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