Too much gaming can get kids in trouble

By Shayna Brouker • Published: December 29th, 2016
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Video games can be a useful babysitter for unruly kids, and may even boost brain development and motor skills. But like most things, too much can be a bad thing, according to a study of more than 2,000 kids published in the Annals of Neurology. Eight is the magic number when it comes to the upper limit of hours a week for safe video gaming.

To arrive at this conclusion, researchers asked the parents of twenty-four hundred children between the ages of 7 and 11 living in Barcelona to track their children’s video game habits. A majority played at least one hour per week, and on average they played four hours per week. Compared with girls, boys played two hours more. They found that kids in this bracket actually had much higher grades in school – but that’s where the benefits end. Kids who played nine or more hours per week slept less, and showed poor social skills and more behavioral problems, such as getting into fights with other kids.

The study didn’t clarify whether kids with antisocial tendencies gravitate toward video games or whether video games exacerbate antisocial behavior. But it does underscore what pediatricians already know: too much screen time is bad for kids.

So what’s a parent to do? First, don’t let young kids have their own smartphone or device. And make sure TVs and video game consoles are in common areas of the house so you can supervise what they are watching and limit the play time. Schedule family time and use it as an opportunity to instill the values you want to instill. Set guidelines early in childhood — limits are better late than never, but a lot harder to implement once your child has gotten used to relaxed rules. And stick to your rules! Warning: Whining may occur, but his or her well-being is worth it.