How to Let Kids Play Video Games

1. Amount of Play Time - How much is too much? Ask yourself: What is the appropriate amount of time children should be allowed to spend playing video games? Although this is a highly personal decision, based entirely on your family's needs, most experts agree that setting limits on all screen time is important for healthy development. Many families start with a daily screen time allowance, such as one hour per day, and add or subtract time as a reward or punishment for good or bad behavior. Note that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting a child's use of TV, movies, video and computer games to no more than one or two hours a day. The National Institute on The Media & Family further suggests offering no more than an hour of video game time daily. Whichever advice you choose to follow, beginning at a fixed base level, such as an hour per day, can make a good starting point, giving you some wiggle room to add or subtract time based on children's behavior.

2. Health and Obesity - If you are concerned that your kids are becoming couch potatoes, you aren't alone. Parents everywhere worry about their kids becoming slothful or seeming not to get enough exercise. Video games are a part of the equation, as are the foods they eat and other issues that can range from social concerns, the availability of active alternatives and even deeper-seated emotional troubles. When it comes to games, the key is to balance game play with other activities, including, but not limited to, outdoor play, reading, team sports, group events and community service. Luckily, an increasing number of today's games require players to move around in order to control the gameplay. As a general rule, though, many parents require kids to have two hours of outside time for every one hour of video game time. We encourage you to experiment and adjust as needed, and, of course, also set aside time that the entire family can spend together.

3. Addiction - For some kids, there is a real danger of becoming too involved in playing games, or even in living too much of their lives in the virtual world of the Internet. In rare cases, true symptoms of addiction can develop, and such kids can require direct help from their parents, peers, and professionals to have a healthy, balanced life. While a change of environment and routine can sometimes be enough to break kids out of an addictive mindset, the reality is that it's hard to prohibit kids from using technology on a regular basis, since it's such an integral part of daily life. Many experts encourage parents to become more engaged in the addictive activity in an effort to better understand the problem and prospective solutions. They also encourage families to seek out professional help should children exhibit warning signs of addiction. Several of these warning signs, according to the Search Institute, an independent non-profit organization dedicated to creating healthy communities, and other sources, include:

o Playing for increasing amounts of time

o Lying to family and friends about video game usage

o Thinking about gaming during other activities

o Using video games to escape from real-life problems or bad feelings, as well as anxiety or depression

o Becoming restless or irritable when attempting to stop playing video games

o Skipping homework in order to play video games

o Doing poorly on a school assignment or test because of time spent playing video games


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