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Moms Council: When and How Often Should Children Be Allowed to Play Video Games?

Check out the latest "Moms Talk Q&A" column.

When and how often should children be allowed to play video games?

From Melisa Thorne:

At ages 2 and 5, my children are too young for video games.

We don’t own a video gaming device nor do we plan to own one in the immediate future. I feel that costs of video games far exceed their entertainment value. I also feel that even the games that are advertised as “educational” or “inspire physical activity” pale in comparison to reading books and playing outside. Thus it is for these reasons that I don’t support the use of video games for my family.

Despite my vehement opposition to video games, I live in a society where they exist and my children will be exposed to them. 

If a time ever comes that we would have video games in our home, I will use the same principles and discipline that I use to monitor my children’s TV time and computer use. Here are some examples:

1)     Video game activity is limited to one hour a day. The limit is one hour. Not a minute more. 

2)     They can only play games that are age appropriate.

3)     No Video games when the sun is up. I know I’ve said this before in earlier Moms Council articles and it’s worth repeating. When the weather is nice we go outside and play. In the dead of winter when it was impossible to play outdoors for more than a few minutes at a time, we did a lot of activities indoors such as crafting, playing hide and seek, dressing up and cooking.

4)     Practice what you preach. If you’re limiting your child’s video game usage, then you should follow the same principles and set the right example. No sneaking in the other room to use the computer while the kids are playing and this includes use of smart phones.

5)     Be consistent. Both parents need to be on the same page when enforcing your household rules and restrictions.

From Pallavi (Prajakta) Shastri:

Yes, I think every parent should monitor their kid’s video game usage!

I think playing video games is like watching TV and it should be monitored and controlled. To guard against the possibility of violent content, every parent should keep an eye on the content of the game the kids are playing. Nowadays I think this is the basic step everyone is following, there is nothing much to say about it.

Another thing that I like to watch out for is the time kids are spending playing these games. During winter, when they have limited outdoor activities, playing video games can be fun, but I strongly believe that playing games for a one hour a day is more than reasonable. Also, I try to limit the game playing activity to two days a week on a school night during the week.

My family is pretty basic in the area of video games. We only have the Nintendo Wii and nothing else. Fortunately, my kids are also not demanding other stuff, they are just happy with the Wii.

My kids are allowed to play the Wii, but my husband and I choose the games. Mostly they can play simple games like racing, tennis, baseball or boxing. It’s a good idea to choose the games that promote physical activity. My son is sweating after he plays boxing. I am thinking about getting some yoga stuff for my daughter and I, as it will be great fun and a quality bonding activity for both of us.

One thing I want to note here is my husband and I do not encourage the activity of playing video games at a very early age, so we bought the Wii when my older daughter was seven years old. I think it was a very nice thing that she got the Wii that late.

Like many experts out there, I believe that too much video game play affects our attention span. So it’s better for the kids to go out and play in the open air than playing video games. Only when its not possible weather-wise or due to any other inevitable cause, kids can play video games as fun, time-passing activities. I would choose any activity involving some physical exercise like swimming or gymnastics over playing video games.

From Christa Ciccia:

I do allow my children to play age appropriate video games. I would like to stress the age appropriate subject.

Few occurrences make me as upset as hearing 11 year olds talking about mature video games. Two offenders come to mine: “Call of Duy: Black Ops” and “Grand Theft Auto.” The parental guidance markers are there for a reason. The “M” rating is for mature audiences and that means the game is intended for those over 17. There is also a “Y-10” rating, which means  games are intended for 10 year olds and over.

My personal favorite is the “E” rating. This means the game is appropriate for all ages. Learn them, live them. No 11 year old is mature enough to handle the violence and crude language that are commonplace in “M” level games.

With that being said, video games are acceptable on weekends for one hour a day. It has been my experience that anything more than that literally scrambles their brains. If there is time during the week it is allowed, but there is rarely a minute to spare between homework and sports.

If a parent is thinking about investing in a video game console, I would suggest the Nintendo Wii or the Wii Fit Plus. These consoles come with family-friendly games that promote physical fitness and agility. 

Annie May 26, 2011 at 04:31 AM
Is moms council made for making their kids lives worse? Video games help with hand-eye coordination. I play video games with my daughter often. One game we enjoy, is Black Ops. (and I'm just mentioning this for the image.) Because of this game, it has inspired her to raise his grades in the hope that she could get into a spy program. It has also helped her look past gender roles. And limiting the hours? Who was the nutjob that thought that up? And better time spent reading, and playing outside? Kids shouldn't have to be made to read if they don't like it. I for one love reading, and I'm apart of my local roller derby team. But really, what is Harry Potter going to teach you? (I also love this series, but knowing the charm scurgify won't do any good.) And do you forget about kinect and wii? You may think this doesn't count, but it does. I always work up a sweat in the Zumba kinect game. What are you going to say next? Moms Council: If you don't read this blog, are you a bad parent?
Melisa Passanisi Thorne May 26, 2011 at 02:16 PM
Hey There Annie, I love that you are passionate on your views. Because you don't agree with the views of the women who contribute to this blog doesn't imply that you are a bad parent. That isn't the intent. In fact, we are always looking for mom's to weigh in on discussions and an opposing position makes for an interesting read. So if you ever want to contribute to a topic, let me know. I'll be happy bring you on board. As far as 'making our kids lives worse'... How can encouraging reading and physical activity be a bad thing? Annie, not every parent has the same views or opinions and there isn't anything wrong with that. Parenting is tough work. We do what's best for our kids. We just do it differently. Trust me on this, parent to parent, we're on the same side. I admit that I am on conservative side of the parenting spectrum and I make no apologies for that. Education, faith, fitness and respect encompass my family's values. These values guide me as I raise my family and in my everyday life. Again, thanks for you feedback.
Christa Ciccia May 26, 2011 at 04:16 PM
Hi Annie, Thanks for reading Mom's Council! I totally agree with you on the hand-eye coordination bit. The small buttons and movements helped my son's fine motor skills a bunch. We also enjoy Wii Fit Plus on a regular basis at our house. We love it, especially the balancing games. Although we may not all understand one another's choices, are goals are the same. To raise happy, healthy kids. Thanks again
Ny January 29, 2013 at 12:08 PM
I agree COMPLETELY about limiting the time used on video gaming! My son began playing the wii at age 7. I began getting notes sent home from school about how he was drifting off in class. He even began drawing pictures about the games he was playing. I then made the rule only on weekends and only for 1 hour a day. After making this rule I no longer reciever notes of day dreaming. They were ready to have me test him for ADD, clearly video games may help "hand and eye coordination" but there are OTHER activities that do so as well.

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