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How much is too much: My Kid's a gamer

  • anonymous Asks ...

    What’s an appropriate amount of computer time each day for a 13 year old and an 11 year old? Mostly they want to be on the internet or playing games on the computer – not so much watching TV.

  • Milena Colyer Says ...
    Milena Colyer

    Thank you for your question and let me say, I do not believe there is a set number of minutes or hours that can prove to be the correct answer for all 11 and 13 year old children. Before I begin to suggest an answer, I would like to share some facts about video games and the positive and negative effects video games can have on the brain.

    Positive Effects: Several studies have shown that playing Action games can enhance low-level vision, visual attention, speed of processing, task-switching, decision making, and statistical inference. Daphne Bavelier & C. Shawn Green have published studies demonstrating that video games are beneficial in rehabilitative training and in the training of surgeons, and other skilled positions that require great levels of concentration.

    Negative Effects: While video games improve one’s ability to process and switch tasks in a fast-pace situation, there are recent studies that suggest that the games have an opposite effect on one’s ability to maintain focus on slowly evolving information, such as lessons being taught in the classroom. Furthermore, over use of games can increase anti-social behaviors, aggressiveness, and reduce empathy. Several studies have displayed the increased ADHD-like symptoms long periods of game-playing causes (See publication by Michael M. Merzenich).

    In reference to online computer games, another researcher made this statement, “Early studies on internet addiction (involving game playing) reported altered social behavior, increased aggression, loneliness, reduced attention, and depressed mood…,” “Recent studies have also reported relatively high rates of co-morbid psychiatric illness in people with internet addiction, including major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and anxiety spectrum disorder (See published articles by Doug Hyun Han & Perry F. Renshaw).

    A Statistic to consider: 1 in 5 gamers meet the criteria to be considered “addicted”

    In summary: I cannot give you a set number of appropriate hours that should be considered okay. I can suggest that you take the opportunity to explore when and how often they are gaming. What isn’t being done while gaming? Are there responsibilities not being met? Are there relationships not being nurtured? Is there studying, reading, or personal growth time that is being thrown away?

    Leisure is meant to be enjoyable and gaming is a leisure, but like all things, gaming should be indulged in moderation. Merzinich said it best when he stated, “...it should be noted that the daily time spent playing video games in school-age children has been shown to be inversely correlated with academic achievement, arguably because time spent playing video games is time stolen from reading and curriculum-related academic study.”


    I suppose my answer to your question is: If the gaming is taking away from their social relationship, academic studies, personal responsibilities, or general ability to experience life’s rewards, they may be playing too much and are likely indulging an addiction and that needs attention. However, if after a long week of being responsible they like to use a chunk of free-time to indulge in some gaming, what the heck… let them enjoy!


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