I’m certain that many parents purchased or friends and relatives purchased video games for their children or other young relatives as gifts this past Christmas. As the mother of two sons, I know well the desires that children have to play video games, especially boys.
Many parents ask – can playing too many video games really hurt my child? According to developmental psychologist Douglas Gentile, the answer to that question is “Yes”. He gives the following reasons why:
- Kids who spend too much time at the computer are missing out on other activities fundamental to their physical, social, intellectual, and emotional development. Time spent in front of the computer or game console is time taken away from playing with friends, reading or doing a project with you, and other activities.
- Kids usually play video games alone, and too much time spent alone can foster social isolation.
- Children who watch more than ten hours of TV a week don't do as well in school as kids their age who watch less. When setting limits, it's important to consider the total amount of time your child spends in front of all electronic screens — TVs, computers, movie screens, etc.
- Bad habits can become ingrained and are more difficult to change as children get older. (According to research, the average American 4th-grade boy spends 9.5 hours each week playing video and computer games, in addition to other screen time.)
- If your child regularly plays games with plots based on violence and aggression, research shows he is at risk for increased aggressive behavior.
There are pros to video games, though. He recommends quality games that give children the opportunity to practice problem solving and logic skills. They help the development of fine motor and coordination skills and also help children become familiar with information technology. He strongly suggests playing these games with your children as special bonding time.