How Long Should a Child Play Video Games?

Published by Internet Addiction Center on

Parents often ask me how long is OK for children to play video games. The answer is, it depends. It depends on the age of the child, the type of game, other issues the child may have, what time of day they are playing, and whether or not their gaming has caused issues in the past.

The AAP has put out screen time recommendations for children. For children under 18 months, they recommend no screen time other than video calls with family and friends. Between 18 months and 2 years, they recommend watching with your child. For 2-5 year olds, they recommend no more than 1 hour per day, and also recommend parents watch with their children. For 6 and over, they do not have specific time limits, but recommend that the time they spend on technology not interfere with getting enough exercise and sleep. For most kids over 6, I recommend no more than 1 hour a day, assuming homework is done, some vigorous exercise has also been done, and they are getting the recommended amount of sleep for their age. You can check out the AAP Media Plan here.

As for video games, I recommend against violent video games, especially for younger children. Sports games, racing games, and especially games that require some movement like dancing are best if you are going to allow gaming.

If the child has has issues in the past relating to video game playing such as anger outbursts or tantrums when gaming has to come to an end, not getting enough sleep, negative behaviors at school or home, weight gain or loss due to gaming, or not completing their homework or chores, then they should not be gaming. Gaming can be a fun reward and distraction for children who do not respond negatively to it, but for many children the negatives outweigh the fun of gaming.

If the child has issues such as ADHD, depression, anxiety, anger, violence, or other mental health or behavioral problems, I do not recommend playing video games until those issues are addressed by a child psychiatrist. Gaming, especially violent games, can affect many of those issues.

If children are going to play video games, it should not be within an hour of bedtime. Gaming close to bed time will cause sleep problems and can lead to a tired and irritable child who has trouble in school.

If you have concerns about your child’s gaming, please contact us to see if we can help.