ANN ARBOR, Mich. — While plenty of people can still remember a time before video games, home consoles aren’t exactly a new concept anymore. These devices have been around for decades at this point, and an entire generation who once spent countless hours with their Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis are adults. So, now that millions of once-upon-a-time teenage gamers are raising children themselves, it’s plausible to assume they’ll be more accepting of their kids playing video games than their parents may have been ten or twenty years ago.
Interestingly, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, that isn’t the case. Roughly nine in 10 (86%) of surveyed parents say they believe teens today are spending too much time playing video games. The research consisted of 963 parents with at least one child between the ages of 13-18.
However, that’s not to say modern parents aren’t completely down on video games; 71% believe that video games can actually have a positive influence on their own children.
Among the poll’s other results, one finding that sticks out is the revelation that many parents with children who spend excessive time gaming seem to have convinced themselves that their kids’ habits aren’t any worse than their peers. Among parents who reported their teen plays video games every day, 54% say their teen does so for over three hours on a daily basis. Of that group, only 13% believe their teen spends more time gaming than their friends or classmates, and 78% think their child games less than their peers.
“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,” comments Poll co-director and Mott pediatrician Gary Freed, MD, MPH, in a release.
It’s also clear from the poll’s results that teenage boys tend to play more video games than girls. Twice as many polled parents say their teenage son plays video games every day than polled parents of a teenage daughter. Teen boys were also found to much more likely to spend over three hours each day on video games.
Most polled parents believe their teens’ video game habits get in the way of more important aspects of their life. In all, 46% say video games get in the way of family time / commitments, 44% say gaming stops their teen from finishing homework, 33% have seen their children stop socializing with non-gaming friends, and 31% say their teen has stopped participating in extracurricular activities because of video games.
“Although many parents believe video games can be good for teens, they also report a number of negative impacts of prolonged gaming,” Dr. Freed explains. “Parents should take a close look at their teen’s gaming behavior and set reasonable limits to reduce harmful impacts on sleep, family and peer relationships and school performance.”
Nearly half (44%) of polled parents actively try and set limits on their teen’s gaming. Parents of teens aged 13-15 were found to be especially likely to utilize the content ratings placed on video game packaging to help them decide if a particular game is appropriate for their teen. These parents are also more likely to encourage their teen to play with friends in person instead of online, and to prohibit video gaming in the teen’s room.
Other common strategies used by parents to limit their teen from gaming too much include encouraging different activities (75%), setting gaming time limits (54%), creating incentives to stop gaming (23%) and hiding gaming equipment / consoles (14%).
Dr. Freed notes that video games are rarely going to harm or have an adverse effect on a teen in moderation. However, some adolescents with attention issues can become easily distracted by the stimulus provided by the games, making it very easy for them to become accustomed to long periods of playing.
In conclusion, he believes parents should be open to their kids playing video games, and even join in from time to time. That being said it’s also important to set time limits and ensure that gaming doesn’t become a teen’s only hobby.
“Parents can play an important role by setting clear rules about appropriate content and how much time is too much time spent on video games,” he says. “While many parents see benefits in gaming, the activity should not be at the expense of face-to-face time with family, friends, and teachers who play a pivotal role in promoting a teen’s learning and healthy development.”
More information on the poll can be found here.