Do you remember how old you were when you first started playing video games? And how do you think that introduction affected your growth? In this post, we discuss if there is an adequate age to introduce kids to friendly video games. Read through to learn more about this important topic!
Opinions on this matter are quite controversial. While some parents will tell you to introduce video games to kids as late as possible, others will advise you that the earlier, the better. To get significant insight into such a crucial question, we searched for specialist opinions and concrete data.
What Happens to a Child’s Brain When Playing Video Games?
Firstly, what exactly happens in a child’s brain when playing, and why can this activity be bad? While some kids stay perfectly quietly in front of the screen, others can instantly become over excited and aggressive. Why does this happen?
Dr Victoria Dunkley is an Integrative Child, Adolescent & Adult Psychiatrist in Los Angeles who studies these matters. According to her, what happens is that playing video games mimics the sensory reactions that our brain is programmed to associate to danger. Thus, it triggers the primitive survival mechanisms intended to protect us from harm.
When this instinct gets triggered, our nervous system and hormones influence our state of arousal, jumping instantly to a state of hyperarousal — the fight-or-flight response. These feelings can be hard to shake off even after the provoking incident is over and the threat — real or perceived — is gone.
Victoria L. Dunckley M.D on This is Your Child’s Brain on Video Games
If this happens too often, our body finds it hard to return to a calm state, and it might lead to a chronic stress situation. This is why parents should understand how the brain works during screen-time, the symptoms it may cause and how they manifest in their child, continues Dr Dunckley.
This happens irrespective of content, contrarily to popular belief, reveals the psychiatrist. Hence, more important than the age at which kids are introduced to video games, is perhaps the establishment of rules for the screen exposure time.
The Importance of Limiting Kids’ Screen Time
It is estimated that kids aged 2 to 5 spend around 32 weekly hours with screens (Common Sense Media survey, 2016). Children from 8-12 spend 6 daily hours interacting with media while teens spend 9 hours per day. However, adults spend over 11 hours per day on their screens. Is this too much screen time?
Dr Miles Brooks says that it depends. It depends on how each person experiences effects from that screen time. Most of us lose well-being and productivity because of screens, but this doesn’t mean there are no positive effects as well.
With a huge qualifier—it depends—when it comes to recreational screen time for kids and teens, I would say 1-2 hours on school days is a reasonable amount. On weekends and holidays, perhaps 3-4 hours of recreational screen time is a reasonable amount. These are more like guidelines than limits, and there would be many exceptions.Dr. Miles Brooks on How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?
When it comes to these matters, it is very important to guide by example. If a parent spends all their home time looking at a screen, it’s unreal to try and limit the child’s screen-time to one daily hour. Investing in outdoor activities, board games and creative hobbies together is a promising strategy to balance habits healthily.
What Are the Best Games to Introduce Your Kids?
Even if screen-time may be more important, it doesn’t mean we should completely ignore content. There are good reasons why kids should be introduced to video games – in a healthy way, with the right games. Video games help with the development of memory, decision-making and the cognitive areas of the brain. However, not all games are appropriate for all ages. Parents should always have the recommended age in mind. Here are some child-friendly and fun suggestions.
Educational games are always a great option to start. Whether for learning maths or reading, they are fun, stimulating and proven to help kids develop their skills and get better results at school.
Some cool titles out there are Spelunky, Minecraft, Lego (they have several games), Splatoon, Legend of Zelda, Pokemon Sun/Moon or Super Smash Bros. These games promote strategy, team-building and proper values, and they are funny and interactive while not too violent.
Nintendo may be one of the best platform choices, as it is a family oriented company. Wii U, Nintendo Switch or the 3DS are fun options that you and your kids can enjoy together.
So, When Is The Right Time?
We know this will sound a bit cliche but, in the end, we found that there is no right time. Different kids have diverse behaviours, relate differently to gaming and develop at their specific rhythm.
Too many restrictions can result in a backlash. Pay careful attention to your kid’s needs and responses and base your rules in an open and logical way. As a parent, it’s up to you to do your research, talk to your family’s doctors and observe how your kid functions, so you can make the best decision.
It is also very important to become a partner instead of a ruler. Instead of leaving them alone with a screen, wouldn’t it be better to make gaming a fun bonding activity? Video games have a great relationship developer potential, as they work as team builders. Don’t miss out on the chance to share this activity and turn it into a positive experience for both!
If your kids are already into gaming, conventions may be a great opportunity for you to bond! Why not take a look at our list with 6 of the best International Gaming Events this year or search for something in your city? You’ll certainly find something and create great new moments with your beloved ones.