Report roundup: Placing limits on frequent teen gamers

Video games are a frequent point of discussion, and sometimes tension, in families with teens, particularly in regards to time spent gaming. Our January Mott Poll report asked parents of teens 13-18 about the impact of gaming on their teens’ lives. Parents and media across the country have been discussing ways to limit teen gaming, as well as encourage healthy gaming habits. Here’s a roundup of the conversation.

Impacts of excessive gaming

Although many parents in the Mott Poll (71%) said video games can be good for teens, nearly 9 in 10 agreed or strongly agreed that teens spend too much time playing video games. In an article from Reuters, reporter Lisa Rapaport notes that frequent and prolonged gaming can get in the way of teens’ schoolwork, family interactions, sleep, and interpersonal relationships. “Although many parents believe video games can be good for teens, they also report a number of negative impacts of prolonged gaming,” said Mott Poll co-director Gary Freed, MD, MPH. “Parents should take a close look at their teen’s gaming behavior and set reasonable limits to reduce harmful impacts.”

Being realistic about teen’s gaming habits

Among parents in the Mott Poll who said they teen plays video games every day, 54% reported extended gaming of 3 or more hours each day. In a report from HealthDay, reporter Robert Preidt noted that these parents may not be realistic about the extent of their teen’s gaming, with 78% saying their teen’s gaming is less than or about the same as other teens. “Many parents of frequent gamers have a misconception that the amount of time their teenager spends playing video games is in line with their peers,” said Freed. Preidt noted the importance of using different strategies to limit teens’ gaming, such as setting time limits and encouraging other activities.

Tips for parents

For parents looking to establish better gaming habits for their teens, U-M Mott developmental behavioral pediatrician Dr. Jenny Radesky offered tips for parents in a Michigan Health Blog post. “With appropriate boundaries and supervision, video games may be a fun way for some children to enjoy time with each other and for parents to connect with their kids,” said Dr. Radesky. She suggests setting time limits with a “media plan” to prevent interference with homework and other responsibilities. Parents can also monitor their kids’ games for content. “I often advise parents to find non-violent alternatives to their favorite games,” said Dr. Radesky. And when possible, parents should try to play games together as a family. Dr. Radesky notes that family gaming can provide opportunities for conversation and interactions, as well as create important bonding moments for parents and teens.

For more coverage of this month’s Mott Poll report, check out these articles from Contemporary Pediatrics, Consumer Affairs, ABC News, and CBS News.