Playing video games for an hour a day can improve a child’s motor skills, reaction time and even academic performance, but more than that increases the likelihood of social and behavioral problems, says in a new research and reported by WebMD.
“One to nine hours per week seems to be safe, but playing more than nine hours -- one hour on weekdays and two hours on weekend days -- may be not recommended for children 7 to 11 years old,” study author Dr. Jesus Pujol, director of the MRI research unit in the department of radiology at the Hospital del Mar in Barcelona, told HealthDay.
Published in the journal Annals of Neurology, the study involved asking parents of more than 2,400 boys and girls ages 7 to 11 to report about their children’s video game habits. Data was collected on how much time the kids spent playing video games, the kids’ academic record and their disciplinary record. Brain scans were also done on 260 participants.
On average, the kids spent four hours a week playing video games, with boys playing nearly two hours more per week than girls.
Benefits were seen in kids who played an hour a week, but “only minor additional motor improvement was seen among kids who played two hours or more weekly,” reported HealthDay. In general, gamers were also had “significantly” higher scores in school as well.
“Gaming use was associated with better function in brain circuits critical for learning based on the acquisition of new skills through practice,” Dr. Pujol told Mirror.
Negative effects, on the other hand, were seen in kids who spent much too long playing video games. “Children gaming in the range of 9 to 17 hours per week showed significantly more behavioral problems than non-gamers,” said the study. These included getting into conflicts with other kids, engaging in problematic conduct and poorer social skills. Kids who spent more than 9 hours a week playing also got less sleep.
It’s important to note, however, that the study does not show a cause and effect -- it merely points out a connection between video gaming and behavior. “That is, children with peer conflicts and reduced pro-social abilities may show a tendency to isolate and spend more time playing video games,” Dr. Pujol told HealthDay. “Video gaming, per se, is neither good nor bad, but its level of use makes it so.”
Looking to limit your child’s video gaming? Heed these tips:
1. Set a strict time limit. Agree with your child on a set time rule even before he begins playing. If you wish, agree on a consequence for breaking the rule as well. Then, set a timer once the game starts. “When the timer goes off, so does the game, no questions asked. When he balks or tries to negotiate more time, calmly restate the time limit,” Douglas Gentile, a developmental psychologist, said on BabyCenter. If he refuses even more, remind him of the consequence and follow through with it. 2. Don’t put the computer or console in your child’s room. It will be harder to supervise him this way. You don’t want him to be sneaking out of bed to play games in the middle of the night either.
3. Offer other fun alternatives. The best way to limit your child’s video gaming is by showing him that there’s loads of fun things to do besides sitting in front of a screen. The both of you could go on a bike ride around the neighborhood together or go to the bookstore to shop for new books to read. You could also give him a recipe that shows him how to make ice cream at home. Get creative!