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How Much Gaming Time For Kids?
Most parents worry about how much TV their children watch. But
how much TV time is ok? How long should you let your kids play
video games for? And how late at night do most teens surf the internet?
Parents are always looking for the definitive answers to questions like these. Most of us want to make sure we have reasonable boundaries set in place for our children especially when they are bombarded with the power of the media and the challenges that can bring. Sadly, there are no better answers to these questions than there are to all the other parenting puzzles: you simply have to learn to parent as you go along.
No two children are the same. They behave in different ways, like different things, and this applies just the same to their use of the media. While some would happily glue themselves to the TV screen, others prefer to be playing a game. Some children will enjoy playing online driving games, others will prefer looking after a virtual pet. There is nothing wrong with any of these activities provided the content is age appropriate and there are reasonable limits on usage times. Your child's personality will define their interests and their strengths, and you can build on these in order to make their media experience both interesting, ecducational and fun.
It's more useful to look at the child's overall experience of with various media rather than simply to wonder how much screen time they should be having.
Think of it like a healthy diet. To much of anything is not generally good for you. But a little of what you desire can do you the world of good. Children who have excessive exposure to the media may suffer adverse effects later in life, not only in terms of their health and well-being but also in their ability to develop social skills and to achieve academically. The best parents are those who both impose limits and also allow scope and freedom for discovery.
If you want to make sure you are getting the balance right for your child, you need to look at three factors. Firstly, what are your children doing? Secondly, how much of their leisure time are they spending on doing it? And thirdly, what exactly are they learning, educationally or morally, from what they are doing?
It's generally believed that very young children, especially those of pre-school age should not be exposed to the media as much as older children. Infants of two and under gain very little from television. It is not that watching TV is harmful to them, but that by spending a lot of time watching TV they might not be participating in many other more social activities or stimulating play which would be more beneficial to their development. A reasonable guideline for children aged between 3 and 5 would be around one hour of media use per day, but this is only a guideline.
For children from three years and up to school age, one hour of media use per day may be a guideline, but this is not clear cut and will depend on the individual circumstances. Children of primary school age, between the ages of 5 and 12, are particularly susceptible to media influences. Parents should be attentive to the type of media that primary school aged children are using, as well as the amount of time that is being spent on it. All children should be encouraged to remain physically active and to spend time playing. Play is a vital part of a child's development and learning. Ideally any media a primary school child uses should be aimed at promoting the child's development.
The media can be a useful tool for developing shared interests with your child, enabling to experience togetherness while sharing time together. This can help your child to feel like they belong and can encourage creativeness and curiosity. Watching TV or playing a game alongside your child is a much more valuable experience than having the child perform the same activity alone.
It's not wise to let your child control their own use of the media without setting limits. Parents are there to help children learn and play, and can do this best by giving clear boundaries. TV should not be watched just before bedtime, as it is likely to overstimulate your child making it more difficult for them to settle into bed and to sleep well. A bedside story is a great alternative and will calm a child down with some quiet time.
As children grow up and become teenagers, we want to help them to make decisions for themselves and we naturally want to be able to give them responsibility for their own choices. Teenagers with a larger than average media consumption will not necessarily become unhealthily or are any less likely to succeed academically. There is no need for concern if your teenager chooses to use a wide variety of media for a prolonged amount of time, provided that there is a healthy balance in their leisure pursuits with time for physical activity, social interactions, academic work and hobbies and interests. It's both natural and healthy for your teen to engage in media consumption, so long as you help them to get the balance right.