Despite guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advising that media use should be limited for all children,1 parents admit their adolescent children still are spending far too much time playing video games, according to a new C.S. Mott Children's Hospital national poll from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.2 The survey was taken by 2004 parents of children who were aged 18 years or younger in August 2019, and the report includes data from 963 parents with teenagers.
Overall, 86% of the parents said their teenagers did spend too much time playing video games. Forty-one percent of adolescent boys were said to play video games every day, whereas only 20% of teenaged girls were reported to play these games daily. Boys also were more likely than girls to spend more than 3 hours playing video games (37% vs 19%, respectively) and also more likely than girls to play an online game against other players (65% vs 31%).
Among parents who stated that their child played every day, 54% also said their child played at least 3 hours every day. For adolescents who didn’t play every day, these gaming marathons occurred in just 13% of teenagers. When asked whether parents believed their teenager spent more time playing games than their peers, only 13% believed that their child did. Meanwhile, 78% of parents thought that their child’s video game habits were either the same or less than their peers. Roughly 20% of the parents said their child didn’t play any form of video games.
Excessive gaming affects family life
When parents were asked what they did to limit the amount of time their children spent on gaming, they reported various techniques, including:
· Encouraging other activities—75%.
· Setting time limits—54%.
· Providing incentives to limit gaming—23%.
· Hiding gaming equipment—14%.
The parents also were asked whether gaming had an impact on other aspects of their child’s life. The most common ways parents suggested that gaming could have a negative role included family activities/interactions (46%), sleep habits (44%), homework (34%), friendships with peers who do not game (33%), and extracurricular activities (31%). Additionally, gaming was more likely to have a negative effect on mood for those who played than for those who didn’t (42% vs 23%, respectively).
Parents of younger adolescents, those aged 13 to 15 years, were more likely than those of older teenagers, aged 16 to 18 years, to use the rating system to ensure that the video games were age appropriate (43% vs 18%, respectively); encourage their child to play with friends in person (25% vs 18%); and forbid gaming in the child’s bedroom (28% vs 14%).
One of the most important implications of the poll results, according to the researchers, was that parents may not have a strong idea of how much their teenager is playing video games and may believe that their child is playing less than the child’s peers. The need for reasonable limits also was highlighted, and those limits should be linked to promoting positive activities and not be arbitrary. One way parents can become more involved, the researchers said, is playing the video games with their teenager, which can help set limits and create a family activity.
1. Council on Communications and Media. Media use in school-aged children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5):e20162592. Available at: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/5/e20162592. Published November 2016. Accessed January 21, 2020.
2. C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. National Poll on Children's Health: Game on: Teens and video games. 2020;35(4). Available at: https://mottpoll.org/sites/default/files/documents/012020_VideoGames.pdf. Published January 20, 2020. Accessed January 21, 2020.