It’s a common stance that parents should limit the number of hours per day, or per week, that their children are allowed to stay sedentary and “zoned out” playing electronic games.

However, after reading this very fascinating blog post written by a teenager himself, I must admit I’m reconsidering the whole issue (the response from the boy’s mother is also a good one):

This second take on it, also brings in another angle I had also not previously considered: Why is it okay (and even encouraged) for children to lose themselves for hours in the fantasy world of a book, but not a video game? Of course, she addresses other important aspects too:

Fortunately, we don’t have a problem with this (yet!)- whether it’s because my kids aren’t teenagers, or because they’re very active, I guess time will tell! – but still, it’s good to be aware of the different viewpoints if the problem ever does arise.

I do think it’s also important to consider the radiation load of computer and especially High Definition TV viewing (HDTV is in the Super High Frequency Range according to NASA’s website – higher even than a cell phone) though.

So make sure kids are at least 2 feet away from any computer and as far away from the TV as you can get them. Also, don’t use wireless components, like a wireless mouse, keyboard or WII device. Again, these carry a similar electromagnetic radiation load to a cell phone.

And if you want to know what’s wrong with cell phones and cordless phones, and why children should never use them, see my other post:

I find with my kids it also helps to tune them into what their bodies are feeling. Asking things like, “How does your head feel?” or “How are your eyes?” after a gaming session. And then sharing common experiences like ‘fuzzy head’, reduced long-range vision, etc. can help tune them in to looking out for the welfare of their physical body as well – not just their mind and emotional needs.


Should Parents Limit Video or Computer Games?
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12 thoughts on “Should Parents Limit Video or Computer Games?

  • I completely agree. My position on video games changed dramatically, mainly since I started playing myself. Instead it framing as a guilty pleasure, like candy or ice cream (or worse!) we try to make it a part of normal activities we enjoy as a family. The digital age has arrived and I really don’t see the point for making video games out to be bad, when all thing electronic will form a fundamental part of the future.

    Which is not to say there shouldn’t be limits. You can of course talk all day about how to set limits, but one of the most effective ways we’ve found is renting video games instead of buying them. Once you’ve spent $60 on a game, you’re stuck with it, no matter how addicting it is or inappropriate the content.

    We started renting online from (similar to but for games), last year, and don’t plan to go back to buying any time soon.

    1. It’s much more economical. For the price of 3 or 4 games we can rent for the whole year.

    2. We have a steady supply of games to play but only have one or two in the house at a time. We know exactly what the kids are playing.

    3. Gamefly has game reviews, ESRB ratings and parental controls on their site.

    4. If a game’s content is inappropriate or the kids abuse their ‘gaming rights’, games go back into the mail. It’s amazing what that 2 – 3 day shipping period does to their gaming outlook.

    5. Since we can rent as many games as we want, my husband and I chose games we will enjoy as well. Instead of buying games just to satisfy the kids, we rent games for the whole family.

    Renting has really had a big positive impact on our family’s video game playing. There a other companies that rent video games, but we’ve stuck with GameFly, since they seem to have the best selection and a system that is family friendly. I feel gaming is much more of a positive experience over all since we stopped buying and started renting.

  • I think video games are OK in moderation, just like other forms of entertainment. But I think the simple fact is that many kids can’t limit the amount of time they spend. My own boys – ages 8 and 10 – would play for many hours at a stretch. I think many of the games are inherently addictive. They teach kids to expect/want instant gratification. A very good book on the topic, by a researcher in the field, is “Video Games & Your Kids: How Parents Stay in Control” by Hilarie Cash. Apparently in Asia some countries have declared video game addiction to be one of the most serious public health issues. The other problem is that parents often aren’t disciplined enough to enforce limits because when kids are playing they get a break.

    I built a simple and effective timer program for Windows XP/Vista that lets parents set limits (like 1 hour per day but not after 8pm) and the software enforces them, periodically giving the child audible reminders like “5 minutes left”. It has ended the fighting over computer time in our home. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

  • Justin, thank you so much for posting the name of that software: that sounds like the perfect thing for my own kids!

    I, too, think games can be great in moderation. There’s a game my kids and I have been doing together called Zoo Tycoon; we collaborate on making profitable zoos and it’s really interesting. You have to learn about animals’ habitats, you lose points if your “animals” or your “guests” are unhappy, you have to budget to make zoo improvements (your zoo eventually fails if you do too much too soon and end up in too much debt), you’re rewarded for successful “breeding” programs of endangered animals. It’s actually a really, really fun way to learn both about animals/the environment and to some extent, how to run a successful business. I love doing it with them.

    But like Justin’s kids, my own would spend hours upon hours at a time at the computer if given no limits – to the exclusion of other things that are also very beneficial, like getting some sunshine, fresh air and physically active play.

  • It seems to me that older people have created video games and other addictive things too in such a way that they can be as addictive as possible in order to bring them profit. Internet addiction is becoming a serious problem nowadays. If you have kids you know that getting children to log off from computer and/or Internet can be quite a chore. That’s why many parents turn to Internet filters to protect their children. As Justin, I also use one called Ez Internet Timer. It did the same trick as TimesUpKidz , but Ez Internet Timer has one more good feature. It can block Internet browsers, chat programs, e-mails separately. I often set the program to turn off Skype and ISQ while my kid does his homework. Here you can find it at But the most important I think is to prevent addictive Internet use through effective cultivation of sound principles about life.

  • To the Teenage writer of the first blog post quoted:

    When I first married what I suspect most would call a “gamer”, I realized early on that this pasttime would become a favorite for my boys. Having a dad who is great at games and also tends to marathon whenever he has a new one, I knew what I was in for.

    I definitely have restrictions as to time frames. I love though how you wrote about your mother’s responses and the shame that that would bring. I have to admit, you articulate yourself so well I find it difficult to believe this post is in fact a teenager’s words, but please consider that a compliment if this is a teenager. Many points intrigued me and have resonated with some of my own thinking. Yes indeed, many a mom sits on a soccer field, hockey bleachers, etc for every performance/game and yet the investment in this pasttime is so minimal. Made me want to play with the kids. Also made me want to be more careful as to the messages I give the boys about their favorite pasttime.

    I agree also with the concept of letting the child set their own limits for how much time on it is appropriate. But as in all child development, freedom to make choices and to self-regulate is a maturing process and therefore the age and maturity of the child must be considered. Much like letting a child cross the street, or decide when bed time is, or how much dessert they should consume in one day. We as adults face all kinds of over-indulgences. And many of them hurt us, over-eating, over-drinking, over-working, etc. Perhaps one might argue that these “overs” are a result of our parents not allowing us to have more control and in some cases they may be correct but there are laws of nature that just make sense. A bird does not fly initially, but the mother brings food to it, a child does not care for itself because of lack of ability, and too much freedom does not feel safe for a child. In fact I know many children who faced the opposite problem. Where left to their own “experimentation” and natural bent they were given freedoms, and later in their knowledgeable years were saddened and ashamed for behaviours that were simply natural, but were not met with guidance and tender redirection or teaching. In the end that freedom feels like neglect.

    Now if you would so kindly offer me a handbook describing just the right age and maturity for each new freedom then, I would be set. But as a friend’s mother used to say, in the meantime, I’ll just have to “let the spirit lead.” 😉

  • Has anyone here ever tried Evony? I suggest checking it out for anyone who wants to play something different, it’s free and should keep you happy for quite a long time. I found a link that gives you some extra start up gold when you sign up which helps greatly for beginners so go through that if you want to try it out. Hope you all like it.

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