To game or not to game … that is the question! With high definition graphics, multiple levels and players, and even bouts against other users via the internet, video gaming has reached a new technological level. These graphics are appealing to children, but researchers and parents often want to know about the potential negative effects of video gaming.
While video games have some positive effects on children (fine motor skills, mouse/keyboard abilities, and visual attention skills), they have been shown to increase aggression in children, both in the short and long term. Even playing a hostile video game just once increases a child’s likelihood of being aggressive towards others in the near future. Continued exposure to hostile video games has the long term effect of making children more aggressive over time. In fact, regular exposure to violent video games increases a child’s likelihood of getting into a fight by two to four times! On top of this, spending too much time playing video games has been linked to decreases in school performance.
To avoid the negative effects of video games, parents need to pay attention to both the content of video games, as well as the amount of time children are playing the video games. Video game ratings serve as a good starting point for gauging whether or not a video is appropriate for your child, but don’t stop there. Parents also need to look at the content of the game. If the game involves aggression or harm toward others, this game is not appropriate for children and will likely cause increased aggression (even if the game involves cartoon characters).
When it comes to the amount of video game playing time, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued guidelines for recommended total screen time each day. This includes video games, television, and computer usage:
- Under 3 years old = NO screen time
- Elementary aged children = 1 hour per day
- Middle and high school children = 2 hours per day