Kids and video games: what games are safe, and how much should they play?

Kids and video games: what games are safe, and how much should they play?
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iQ Smart Parent is a television series on parenting media savvy kids in the 21st century. The first episode hosted by Dr. Debi Gilboa focused on kids, video games and how parents can balance the benefits and detriments of gaming. Video games have been a big topic on Tween Us before so I thought I'd share some of the highlights of the program that aired earlier this month on WQED, the public television station in Pittsburgh, and is now available online.

By the age of 21, the average child will have spent 10,000 hours playing video games. The average 8-12 year old plays video games for 13 hours per week.

Gaming, however, is not all bad for kids, as Tween Us has addressed before and as this show explores. Video games can both give kids skills for the future and get kids up and moving. (Play a bit of Just Dance with your tween and you know how very true that last one can be!) That said, some videos are lacking in redemptive value, and there are questions as to the impact of violent video games.

Regardless, video games and technology that goes with them is here to stay, so instead of finding way to avoid it, Dr. Gilboa, a family physician andĀ AskDoctorG.com, and iQ: SmartParent devoted a programĀ  to helping parents find good ways to help parents address the big questions:

How should parents to determine just how long kids can they play video games and what games are okay?

How long?

When answering the question of how much is too much, the show suggests talking to kids about media like we do about food and strive to have a balanced diet of screen time and media. You can look at video games in terms of food, with wholesome games with positive message being the fruits and veggies and first person shooting games as the junk food. You can have a lot more of the "healthy" video games than the junk food, although like food, too much of anything can make you feel sick. Similarly, if they have two desserts at a friend's house, they need to lay off the sweets for a bit at home to regain some balance.

Similarly, the rule that works for food also works for video games: Everything in moderation.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says no more than 2 hours of screen time per day, but Drs. Gilboa and Pirnick point out that not all screen time is equal. They said it depends on the context and that different games are valuable in different ways.

What's best to play?

In terms of determining which video games are best for your child, in the episode game designer Jesse Schell explained that the video game rating system is better than the movie rating system and that there are 30 categories used in evaluation and areas of concern to parents are clearly spelled out.

Dr. Gilboa also suggested TweenUs favorite Common Sense Media as a resource for video game reviews for parents that focuses on the prcommonsenseos and cons of thousands of games to help parents make good choices. She also said that she sometimes asks an older child if a game is appropriate for someone 2-3 years younger. That gives them a chance to be responsible and they probably have the information that you need to know.

Recommended games

Minecraftjust-dance-4 came up as a recommended game because the user can build and create a virtual world. My tween hasn't played yet, but she said she's interested, so we'll check it out. You can do so here.

Dr. Gilboa gave the Just Dance games that are popular with tweens two thumbs up in terms of getting kids active. Dr. Pirnick, however, said that the data are mixed and that you may be burning fewer calories than if you were in gym class.

With any game, the best case scenario is to play the game with your child. Take the time to find out what your kids are interested in, how the game works and how are they playing it. You have a much better idea of how active they are in that dance game if you are doing it with them.

Dangerous games

Dr. Brian Primack, Associate Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics, and Clinical and Translational Science at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said that the vast majority of game sales in the United States are violent, first-person shooter type games. He said the research shows that such games can lead to aggression and to desensitization of pain and suffering. Playing games too much can lead to isolation. Dr. Gilboa explores this in more details in her post on dangerous video games.

iQ SmartparentThe episode also addresses use of gaming in the middle school classroom, addiction to video games (it can happen), and more. You can view the entire episode here.

If you liked this post, you may also like: Violent video games are an issue for parents and Vice President Biden

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Filed under: Media, Parenting

Tags: screen time, video games

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