Chances are, your child plays video games — whether on the phone, computer or a gaming system like PlayStation or Xbox. Research shows between 75% to 90% of American kids under 18 play some kind of video game at least once a week. Video gaming also increased measurably during the pandemic, as people spent more time at home.
“The good news is that video games can actually have a positive influence on child brain development,” said Alam Khan, MD, pediatric neurologist at CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Neurology in London. “Many early studies that showed the negative effects of gaming on brain development have been found to be biased. However, as with many things, video games can be a double-edged sword.”
How Video Games Help Development
For younger children, video games can be educational, helping kids develop both language and motor skills.
“There are games that can help your kid learn a language, like basic Spanish,” Dr. Khan said. “For shy children, gaming can be a good way to learn how to interact with other people at a safe distance.”
Video games can also can help teach kids how to win, lose and problem-solve.
When Gaming Turns Dark
Despite decades of research, there is still no consensus as to whether playing violent video games increases aggressive behavior. Dr. Khan recommends parents stay involved in monitoring what their kids are playing to ensure it is age-appropriate. And no children under 2 should be playing video games at all, even on your phone.
“Parents should consult a doctor if their child won’t stop gaming and their grades and mood seem to be suffering as a result,” Dr. Khan said. “My son is 25 and has played video games since childhood. As long as you’re involved with your kids and finding balance, gaming can be safe and beneficial.”
Dos and Dont's of Video Gaming for Parents
- DO limit playing to an hour a day or less, depending on your child's age.
- DON'T let your kid connect with strangers online to play games without your knowledge or permission.
- DO make sure your kids are playing developmentally appropriate games.
- DON'T forget to limit or ban in-game purchases to avoid surprise phone or credit card bills.
- DO try to play video games with your kids. It can be a fun bonding experience – and a good way to keep the lines of communication open.
If you have concerns about how video games or other screen time is affecting your child’s health, visit CHISaintJosephHealth.org/find-a-provider to connect with a CHI Saint Joseph Health pediatrician.