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Can Playing Video Games Be Good for Kids?

My son loves video games. He spends hours every day in his room playing them. Is there any redeeming educational value to video games? Some seem like they could help him learn strategy. But I worry that others may be too violent or numb his mind.

Some games might improve kids’ hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills. Games that require kids to actually move or manipulate the game through their own physical movement can even get sedentary kids moving, though not as much as if they actually played outside or participated in sports. Others, though, don’t have such benefits, and violent video games have been shown to increase kids’ aggressive behavior.

Like a lot of aspects of raising kids, when it comes to video games, the healthiest approach is moderation.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids spend no more than 2 hours each day on screen time — watching TV or movies, using the computer, smartphones, or tablets, or playing video games. So consider setting such limits to keep game playing from interfering with schoolwork, household responsibilities, and the physical activity your son needs every day.

Make sure that he’s playing games suitable for his age group. All video games are rated and labeled by the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Steer clear of any rated “M” for mature. Those are for ages 17 and older and can contain heavy-duty violence, strong language, and sexual content.

Keep the video game console in a common area of the house, not your son’s room. That way you can catch any inappropriate content in the games he’s playing, and he’ll be in a position to interact with others in the house while he’s playing. Also pay attention to time spent playing games on smartphones and tablets.

Make sure your son has appealing alternatives, too: sports, activities, opportunities to socialize with peers, and downtime to be creative. If you continue to have concerns about his video game activity, talk with your doctor.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: June 2014