No one-size-fits-all solution to limiting video game time, Utah doctor says

Posted at 11:03 AM, Sep 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-05 13:03:32-04

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Video games have become a stable source of entertainment for kids since their popularization in the 1980s and 1990s.

These days, a lot of video games are going mobile, meaning they can be played almost anywhere and at any time, but when does it become too much?

This week, China announced plans to limit kids to three hours of video games per week as part of a crackdown on gaming addiction.

Dr. Merrill Kingston, a Psychologist at Primary Children's Hospital said recent research suggests higher amounts of screen time can lead to bigger problems.

"As screen time begins to climb above two hours, and then even more significantly above 4 to 5 hours a day, there are increased incidences of depression and what we refer to as suicide-related events so like self-harm and suicidal gestures," said Dr. Kingston.

But the Psychologist added that this isn't the case for every child.

He said kids who are anxious, victims of bullying, or aren't as socially sophisticated tend to isolate themselves and cope with their issues using screen time, which can mean video games.

Dr. Kingston said, "They’re trying to meet their affiliative needs and develop a sense of competence over something that they can control."

The clinical psychologist also said kids who are having success in life, who are socially involved more, and are getting out with their friends, tend to be just fine, even if they do spend several hours playing video games.

"In some ways, it’s an escape or an avoidance of other things that have been unsuccessful, or painful, or anxiety-provoking," said Kingston.

Video games can have some benefits too.

Kingston said they help some kids learn visual-motor skills and exercise that area of the brain.

Most importantly, the Primary Children's Hospital doctor said it's important for parents and guardians to have conversations with their kids about setting limits, rather than taking extreme measures that don't fit every child.

"Even if our kids need some limits, ideally as parents we engage them in a problem-solving conversation where we look at the issues together and talk about it and then together come up with some limits," said Dr. Kingston.

You can find more recommendations on how to limit screen time from Intermountain Healthcare here.