Setting Ground Rules For Your Kids’ Video Gaming

Last Monday we shared some tips on the role video games could play in your family. This week, we’d like to follow up with some ground rules suggestions for your children.

It’s difficult to find consensus about the appropriate amount of time for children’s video gaming activities.  While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than an hour a day for children between the ages of 18 months and 5 years, it has no firm time recommendations for kids over the age of 5 .

Age, types of games and maturity level of the child are all factors that come in to play. So does common sense.  If video gaming begins to take the place of physical activities, socialization, study time, or proper sleep amounts, it’s time to devise a plan to reduce play time.

A good first step is to establish some “game-free zones.”  This can be set times of day, during specific occasions such as mealtimes or riding in the car, or even certain physical locations like bedrooms.  By reducing the number of opportunities for gaming in a typical day, you can begin to make headway in their overall impact. Many pediatricians encourage turning off video games an hour before bedtime, so that it will be easier to get to sleep.

Kids should also understand that video gaming is a privilege. Be willing to allow your children to get additional gaming time (within limits) by completing all of their household chores, getting exceptional grades, or accomplishing agreed upon goals. Look for ways to encourage socialization here as well, by allowing friends to come over for gaming playtime when behavior criteria is met.

It’s generally a good idea to prevent online gaming for pre-teens and limit who they are playing with for a few more years, to only people they know.  Establish firm ground rules for kids of all ages to make sure they never reveal anything about their personal identity to people they don’t know. Consider activating parental controls to eliminate video and chat options.

It’s also important to have ongoing conversations with your children about the games they’re playing.  Find out what they like, what they’re learning and the emotions they are feeling while in gaming mode. If you sense your older children are delving into games with high levels of violence, misogyny or other inappropriate content, don’t hesitate to apply the breaks.  Consider incorporating mandatory academic games into their rotation, or establishing occasional “game-free days” in order to achieve a proper balance.