Updated: Apr 8
How long should your tween play video games per day?
Parents are worried about their kids video game real life balance!
Are video games bad for my kid?
When parents of tweens talk to me, they're asking, "Is it okay if my 12 year old plays video games? How long should my 13 year old play games? Are video games bad for 12 year olds?"
How many parents worry about their kids? The answer? All of them. Parents wonder how they can help their kids balance games and real life. How they can help their kids see the impact video games have on their life. They want to encourage their kids to get the benefits of play, but still worry when they don't know what the long term effects of video games might have on their teens and tweens.
Setting limits on video games
To manage this parenting fear, they try setting limits on video games. But even that comes with parenting stress. Is two hours of video game play a day too much? What if my teen plays one hour a day? What if they play for four? How much video game play is too much?
Parents try to help their kids find balance between video game play and real life. They do this by setting limits on the type of game their kids are allowed to play, or the amount of time they can spend in their games.
This parenting therapist needs to tell you something, though.
Setting those kinds of video game limits backfires, and here's why:
Balance is an overrated idea
Balance is an overrated idea, that leads to parents getting between kids and their passions.
Think about what it feels like when you're really in the zone, or experiencing a state of Flow. One of the trademark characteristics of this optimal experience is losing track of time. If you're knee-deep in satisfying work, game, or project - the last thing in the world you want is for someone to come along and tell you that you need to stop, for the sake of balance. If another adult did that to you, you'd find it disrespectful or insulting.
But we do this to our kids all the time.
If you are trying to break past unhealthy parenting patterns, you are probably following some aspect of gentle parenting technique. You are trying to collaborate with your teenager and be a more connected parent.
If you're worried about balance, try broadening your view. Look for balance over a week, not a day. Better yet, over a month, not a week. If you are up to it, look for balance over a year. Or a lifetime. You will be more respectful of those humans you are raising, and they will get to experience interests deeply.
The answer to the question how long should my kids play video games?
As long as it is serving them. I can say confidently that if you don't think it's serving them - you're not paying good enough attention. So stop worrying about how much balance your children have and start paying attention to the benefits those games are bringing your kids.
If this is hard for you, I have resources. Start with my book Connect with Courage. It will help walk you through more than a dozen barriers that stand in the way between you and your kid connecting. It will help you see the learning opportunities in their choices. It will help you be a more respectful parent. It will help you release fear and find joy in the places your kids take you.