Video Game Survival Guide for Parents and Kids

Another study has linked playing video games to aggression. How much playing time is too much, and how should you pick the games?

Most parents would prefer their kids spend more time reading books than playing violent video games, and another study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, confirms that their instincts are correct: Violent video games are again linked to an increase in aggression. The kids who reported playing more violent video games were more likely to think hitting was acceptable and were more likely to fantasize about violence than kids who did not, the research found. The new study also shows that these emotional changes happen in kids regardless of their age or gender, or how aggressive the child is from the start.

Here’s a guide for what amount, and what kind, of play is appropriate for different ages.

0-2 Years Old:  Kids this age shouldn’t even be exposed to television screens, never mind play video games, said study author Craig Anderson, PhD, director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University. The young brain is still developing, so exposure to overwhelming amounts of information on screens is difficult for babies to process, and might lead to attention problems later in life.

2-6 Years Old: Even though your child has probably figured out how to use the television by now, its still recommends that they don’t start playing video games quite yet. There are too many other things that kids this age need to focus their brain energy on, such as learning to read, playing with other children, and playing outside.

7 and Older: recommends that at this age, kids can play, but they shouldn’t play more than 5-10 hours a week. “Anything over 10 hours a week, and you have to start asking ‘what is this person learning,’. If a kid starts playing more than that, it might cut into other healthy activities, like being active, and forming friendships.

What Type of Games to Play: There are plenty of non-violent games that focus more on cooperation and reward positive social behavior. Those are good choices for your kids.

The rating on a game doesn’t guarantee that it’s not violent, he emphasized. “Ninety percent of E-rated games have ‘happy’ violence. Even though there’s no blood, violence is still encouraged. “If the player has to kill someone or harm another creature to advance in the game, that’s the definition of media violence.

In order to avoid this, its recommended parents read the descriptors, and see if there’s any kind of “action violence” or “comic violence.” It’s also easy to find short clips of games and reviews online, so parents can see first-hand if there are better or worse games.

And when it comes to bloody, gore-filled games? “Those types of games should be out — they’re not allowed in my own household,” he said.

What Time of Day to Play: Both Easton and Anderson emphasized that kids shouldn’t play video games too close to bed, since they tend to overstimulate them and keep them awake. Instead the hour before bed should be spent reading and shifting to calmer, quieter activities.