Are Video Games Safe for Children?

Playing video games is a popular activity people do in their free time. However, video games can have major effects on health. People debate whether these effects are good or bad. Video games can improve children’s learning, health, and social skills.

Both children and adults enjoy playing video games. There’s research that shows there’s a benefit to playing video games. There’s also research that implies video games could lead to disrupted sleep, media addiction, and violent behavior.

If your child is showing concerning behavior, you may need to step in. These may include irritability when not playing their game or they’re showing increasing aggression. Even if this behavior occurs, there are steps you can take to regulate violent media intake.

How Safe Are Video Games?

Video games are relatively safe for your child to play. Despite previous research suggesting the dangers of video games, there are ways to protect your child. You can prevent potential harm from a video game by monitoring and limiting what they’re playing. Talk to your child about staying safe online. 

Building a trusting relationship will make your child want to talk to you. They’ll be more inclined to let you know how they are feeling about life. This can help you notice if they are struggling and need help. There are three parts to consider before you worry about your child and violent video games: their personality, the situation they're in, and their motivation behind playing video games. These play a part in how they react to violence on screen.

Symptoms of Video Game Aggression in Children

Video games are not the sole reason for a child becoming aggressive. Other factors make a child aggressive. However, in rare cases, your child may become addicted to video games. This could make them irritable, have hallucinations, experience physical pain, and be at risk for being overweight. Luckily, research shows that many of these problems can be resolved by limiting or suspending video game play. 

Benefits of Playing Video Games

Video games are good for helping children develop problem-solving skills. They aren’t lazy as previous research has suggested. Video games can strengthen your child’s cognitive skills. They can improve your child’s capacity to think in three-dimensional ways. 

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Video games have a range of benefits for your child. Playing simple games can improve your child's mood, promote relaxation, and reduce anxiety. Children can also build emotional resilience by learning to cope with losing in video games. 

Socialization is another benefit of video games. In a digital world, this is how your child can connect with their friends and release stress. Playing online can connect your child with kids their age that have the same interests. 

Best Games for Children

If your child wants to play video games, there are better options than some. While violent video games don't necessarily contribute to actual violence, they might not be productive. The following types of games can engage your child’s mind and help them socialize: 

  • Role-playing games
  • Simple games
  • Multiplayer online games
  • Some shooter games
  • Strategic games

Tips for Safe Game Play in Children

These tips will help you monitor your child’s video game play and help you set boundaries with them. 

Limit screen time . If your child’s gaming console is in their room, you may not know how much time they spend on it. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests no more than two hours of screen time. Keeping your child’s console in another room can help you monitor their time easier. 

Know what they’re playing. Stay informed about the games your child’s playing. While it’s unclear if violent video games make kids violent, you might want to restrict violent or inappropriate video games. 

Look for concerning behavior. If you notice your child is always tired, irritable, or not doing well in school you should talk to them about what’s going on. Approach them with a kind and helpful demeanor. 

Play together. Sitting down and playing games with your children is a great way to bond. You also get to see what they’re playing. Games are great for socializing and connecting with others. Make a point to understand their game and what they like. Then they’ll be more open to talking about issues they have. 

If your child is showing sedentary or erratic behavior, it might be time to put a pause on gameplay. However, video games in moderation are a safe way for your child to learn many skills and productive behavior.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 04, 2021

Sources

SOURCES: 

AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION: “Video game play may provide learning, health, social benefits, review finds.”

BMJ: “Video games and health.”

Games for health journal: “Games for Health for Children-Current Status and Needed Research.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Violent video games and young people.”

Michigan Health: “Healthier Video Game Habits: 5 Tips for Parents of Teens.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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