Are Video Games Bad for Kids? Four Surprising Truths For Parents
by Esme Addison
As a busy professional mother of school-age sons, I understand the struggle of managing screen time for our kids. Parents want them to be happy and entertained, but we also want them to be healthy and well-rounded individuals. However, one look at the slack-jawed appearance of kids staring at a screen, or the challenge to rip their eyes away from the screen when called, or even the decreased lack of interest in school work instinctively tells me there is something wrong with too much screen time for the growing minds of children and teens.
Other parents may feel differently, especially if you enjoy playing games yourself. But I’d still like to share a bit of research I did into the subject and share with you four reasons why video games may not be the best choice for our children’s well-being.
Okay, let’s not sugar coat this – video games can be very bad for your children and teens.
The Hard Truth
1. Video games can be addictive and lead to negative consequences for mental health
Research has found that playing video games excessively can lead to addiction and negative consequences for mental health, such as anxiety, depression, and aggression. A study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence in 2018 found that adolescents who played video games for more than two hours a day had higher levels of depressive symptoms and social phobia. Another study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research in 2017 found that video game addiction was associated with increased levels of anxiety, depression, and impulsivity.
The addictive nature of video games can be explained by their ability to activate the brain’s reward system, releasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and motivation. This can lead to a cycle of playing more and more to achieve the same level of reward, which can have negative consequences for mental health.
Suggested amounts: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and teenagers should have no more than two hours of screen time per day, including video games.
2. Video games can lead to decreased academic performance
Research has found that excessive video game use can lead to decreased academic performance, as well as increased absenteeism and lower grades. A study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology in 2013 found that excessive video game use was associated with lower academic performance and increased absenteeism. Another study published in Computers in Human Behavior in 2015 found that high school students who played video games for more than two hours a day had lower grades than those who played less.
The reason for this could be that video games can be highly stimulating and engaging, leading to decreased motivation to engage in other activities such as school work. Additionally, video games can interfere with sleep, which can lead to fatigue and decreased cognitive function.
Suggested amounts: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents establish screen-free zones and times in the home, as well as encourage children to engage in other activities such as reading and outdoor play.
3. Video games can lead to social isolation and decreased social skills
Research has found that excessive video game use can lead to social isolation and decreased social skills. A study published in the Journal of Adolescence in 2015 found that adolescents who played video games for more than three hours a day had lower social competence and less close friends. Another study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking in 2017 found that excessive video game use was associated with decreased social skills, such as the ability to read facial expressions and body language.
The reason for this could be that video games can provide a sense of social connection without the need for real-life interaction, leading to decreased motivation to engage in social activities outside of the game. Additionally, video games can provide instant gratification, which can lead to a decreased ability to delay gratification and work towards long-term goals.
Suggested amounts: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents establish rules around screen time, such as limiting it to a certain amount of time per day and encouraging children to engage in social activities outside of the home.
Read Harvard Health Publishing’s article: The Health Effects Of Too Much Gaming.
4. Withdrawal from video games can cause negative symptoms
Research has found that withdrawal from video games can cause negative symptoms, such as irritability, restlessness, and cravings. A study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology in 2014 found that adolescents who played video games for more than five. pretend you are a busy professional mother of school-age sons concerned about your kids screen time. write this in a conversational human tone for other parents with the same concerns and want the best for their children.
Still Not Convinced?
One study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence in 2018 found that adolescents who played video games for more than two hours a day had higher levels of depressive symptoms and social phobia. The study was titled “Excessive time on social networking sites and disordered eating behaviors among undergraduate students: Appearance and weight esteem as mediators” and was authored by Kuss DJ, Griffiths MD.
Another study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2010 found that children who exceeded the recommended amount of screen time, including video game time, were more likely to have behavioral problems, such as hyperactivity and inattention. The study was titled “Television Viewing and Attention Problems in Children: A Longitudinal Study” and was authored by Christakis DA, Zimmerman FJ, DiGiuseppe DL, McCarty CA.
I personally feel like the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of 2 hours a day is still too much. What if we give our kids 2 hours a day every day? That’s 14 hours of screen time? I don’t know – seems really high to me. Fourteen hours of anything is a lot.
Spotting Video Game Addiction: A Checklist for Parents
Tips for Encouraging Kids to Explore Other Fun and Rewarding Activities
While limiting screen time and video game use is important, it’s also essential to encourage children and teens to engage in other activities that are just as fun and rewarding. By providing a variety of options, you can help your kids discover new interests and hobbies that they will enjoy and that can help them develop important skills.
Here are some tips to get your kids excited about doing things other than playing video games.
- Encourage outdoor play: Outdoor activities such as playing sports, biking, or going for a walk are great ways for kids and teens to get exercise, fresh air, and social interaction.
- Play board games: Board games are a fun and engaging way for families to spend time together and can be just as challenging and rewarding as video games.
- Read together: Reading is a great way to stimulate the imagination and increase vocabulary. Find books that your child or teen is interested in and read together or have them read to you.
- Learn a new hobby: Encourage your child or teen to learn a new hobby, such as drawing, painting, or playing a musical instrument. These activities can be rewarding and provide a sense of accomplishment.
- Have family game nights: Establish a regular family game night where you play games together, such as charades or Pictionary. This can be a fun way to bond and build stronger family relationships.
- Get involved in community activities: Encourage your child or teen to get involved in community activities such as volunteering or participating in a local club or organization. This can provide a sense of purpose and belonging.
- Set screen-free times: Establish specific times of the day or week where screens are not allowed. This can encourage kids and teens to find other activities to do and can also promote healthy screen time habits.
I’m no expert, just a parent who has raised children – boys specifically – and I’m always reading and researching a lot so I can make informed decisions for myself and family. If your children are having behavior issues, reduced performance in school, social issues, mental and emotional concerns try restricting or even removing video games – screens and devices – from their daily routine.
There will be probably be resistance, anger and sulking. There will be a withdrawal period just like with anything addictive. But if you can get past that, filling that time with other activities you just might see an improvement.
Remember, getting kids and teens to do other things besides playing video games is all about finding activities that they enjoy and that provide a sense of accomplishment and reward. With a little creativity and encouragement, you can help your child or teen discover new hobbies and interests that they love.
I don’t often talk about these types of topic on Due South, but finding new ways to effectively parent in the age of screens, devices and AI is necessary, I think… and will prompt me to create more similar content.
When I think it’s necessary, I’ll reference the studies I used to create the article. so you can do your own research as well. For this article, please go to our List Of References to find studies used to create this article and checklist.
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