Is playing video games unhealthy for kids?

Michele Borba
For some kids games are “everything.” That’s why there’s also a growing concern among parents about video games that range from: making kids more aggressive, developing sedentary lifestyles, squelching cognitive development or academic potential. After all, it’s very easy for kids to fall into the habit of spending too much time in front of those controllers.

The truth is too much videogame playing isn’t healthy for anyone and can rob our children from experiencing the great outdoors, reading for pleasure, getting enough exercise, doing their homework, as well as learning to get along with others. But don’t rush to judgment too quickly. Over the last decade video game makers have come a long way and playing some of those games actually benefit our kids’ learning, motor dexterity and even help keep them in better shape.

For my two cents, I don’t think it’s healthy for any kid to be play violent video games. But don’t get me wrong, playing one video game is not going to cause irrevocable damage. Just please know that some children are influenced by aggressive content. If they continue playing violent games they will stress more and become more aggressive and less empathic. Research finds that video games may decrease our kids’ capacity to feel for others

Kids who are more sensitive, have an aggressive or hyper temperament, or are predisposed to aggression by witnessing or experiencing it are also more likely to be aggressive after playing certain video games.

A review by the University of Michigan of over 85 studies found that “video games increase aggressive thoughts and angry feelings, aggressive behaviors and decrease helping behavior.”

But you don’t need research to prove that to you. Just monitor your child’s behavior closer. If you notice he becomes more wound up or aggressive and you think it’s due to playing that game, the solution is simple: Take away those controllers and stay abreast of late-breaking research so you can make responsible parenting decisions as to what is best for your child. Be clear as to not only which games are off-limits but how long your kid is allowed to play.
Diana K. Blythe, MD
Thirty minutes on some days of a non-violent video game is not unhealthy for your child and some games can be educational. Like anything, they can be used to excess. If your child avoids other kids and outdoor play to have more time for video games, that is when problems can start.
First, make sure the video games are not in your child's room. By keeping the activity in a public area of the house, you child is not as secluded. If the games are already in your child's room, move them out. Second, keep video game time to a set amount of time somewhere around thirty minutes. By keeping the time down, you are letting them have fun without having to worry about them avoiding other outdoor and engaging activities.
Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine
Depending on the content and themes of the video games and the kids’ personalities (such as an addictive personality), playing video games may or may not be unhealthy for kids.  If proper themes are chosen for enhancing learning, mental and visual skills, with appropriate parental supervision and good self-control while playing in moderation, video games can be healthy for kids.

Continue Learning about Parenting

New Screening Guidelines for Kids: What Parents Should Know
New Screening Guidelines for Kids: What Parents Should Know
In 2017, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its schedule of the preventive screenings children and adolescents need. The most notable changes ...
Read More
How can I help my kids develop morals?
Michele BorbaMichele Borba
Know what you stand for so your kid knows. Parents with clearly identified moral convictions are mor...
More Answers
The Scoop on Baby Poop: 5 Hues and What They Mean
The Scoop on Baby Poop: 5 Hues and What They MeanThe Scoop on Baby Poop: 5 Hues and What They MeanThe Scoop on Baby Poop: 5 Hues and What They MeanThe Scoop on Baby Poop: 5 Hues and What They Mean
Here’s what’s common, what’s not—and when to call the doc.
Start Slideshow
Should You Reprimand Your Child for Health Issues?
Should You Reprimand Your Child for Health Issues?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.