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How to Determine if Your Child is Too Young For Video Games

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More than 150 million Americans play video games. And 90 percent of parents who have gamer kids say it’s okay as long as they approve of the games played. According to an NPD Group study, 90 percent of kids 2 to 7 are playing video games. Such games can take the form of mobile apps, console games, and PC games. With the biggest growth in gaming in the 2-5 age range, it’s understandable to wonder if your child is too young for video games.

Keep Kids Under 2 Away from Screens

The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that there are both positive and negative things associated with video game playing among kids and teens. As for the specific age to allow your kids to play, there is much debate. The only generally accepted recommendation is that children younger than 2 shouldn’t have any screen time. This is a time when kids are developing important neurological connections, and it’s widely believed interactions should be strictly real world during this time.

Is Your Child Already Active?

Before you give the green light for video games, consider how active your child is already. It’s not a good idea to steer kids who aren’t already active to games that will keep them indoors even more. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children need about an hour of physical activity a day. A happy medium here is to choose games that require active participation like the Just Dance series, which is recommended for kids 4 and up. The Journal of Pediatrics cites research showing that playing such games can improve heart health and boost energy expenditure.

How Receptive Are They to Learning?

Consider your child’s ability to comprehend new skills. Most “experts” on the subject suggest educational games should be the kind of video games learn how to play first. If your child isn’t yet ready to focus and learn, then hold off on the video games until they have better comprehension abilities. Leap Frog, a company that makes many popular learning-centered games for younger kids, suggests video games in any form for younger children, especially those 5 and under, should:

  • Encourage creativity
  • Include basic reading, math, and science skills
  • Be both fun and engaging
  • Protect your child’s online privacy

Can They Accept Limits?

Another factor to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to introduce your child to the wonderful world of video games is their maturity level and ability to accept limits. Do you really want to deal with a temper tantrum every time you tell your kid that’s time to pause the game for the day? If you feel your kids can accept reasonable limits with how long to play each day, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Choose video games that are age-appropriate (no child should be playing Grand Theft Auto)
  • Schedule media/game playing time in advance and remain consistent with sticking to those limits
  • Include some group video games so the entire family can play at the same time
  • Stay away from any games that emphasize violence (aggressive behavior in adolescents increases 13-22 percent when violent games are played)

Everything in moderation should be the rule with videos no matter how old your child is when they begin playing video games. The Child Development Institute recommends parents check a game’s rating before giving the okay along with reviews for the game since ratings can be fairly vague and not a clear indication of the nature of the game. While many video games can be educational in nature, it’s just as important to encourage active play in the real world.


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About Brad James

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    The real world doesn’t necessarily play out like fast paced video games. In addition, young children should be reading books and learning the mechanics of vocabulary before anything else.

    Video games can be good instructional tools if they are used to teach grade level appropriate material like arithmetic compilation, simple geometric forms and general science.

    Video games can glorify bizarre behavior. This aspect is a distinct downside until children develop the requisite experience and judgment to place these artificial worlds within a proper context.

    At bottom, children need a firm grounding in the basics until a little bit later in the academic experience.