Almost nine in 10 parents of teenagers believe their children spend too much time playing video games, according to a new U.S. survey by the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
Those parents also acknowledge that their teen’s video gaming habits interfere with their child’s sleep, schoolwork, friendships and family activities.
Yet, despite these concerns — and concerns about the content of video games — parents often don’t have a realistic idea of how many hours each week their child is sitting in front of a screen playing Fortnite, Apex Legends or some other video game, the survey also found.
“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,” says Dr. Gary Freed, co-director of the survey and a pediatrician at the University of Michigan, in a released statement.
“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,” he adds.
Contrary to some statements by politicians and pundits, video gaming has not been found to promote violence, but one recent study did link gaming, along with TV watching, to poorer grades in school and on tests.
What the survey found
For the survey, which was conducted last August, Freed and his colleagues asked questions of a representative sample of 963 U.S. adults who were parents of at least one child between the ages of 13 and 18.
Forty-one percent of the parents with sons and 20 percent of those with daughters said their child played video games daily. Slightly more than half of these parents also acknowledged that their child’s daily video game sessions sometimes stretched to three hours or longer.
Boys were twice as likely to play for those extended times than girls. They were also twice as likely to play online against other gaming opponents.
Three quarters of the parents of daily gamers believed the time their teens spent playing was less than or about the same as that of other teens. But many teens do not play video games every day.
In fact, one in five (21 percent) of the parents surveyed said their teens played no video games at all. And another 13 percent of the parents said their child played such games, but not every day.
The need for limits
Parents appear to be aware that too much video gaming can be harmful. Those in the survey whose teens played daily were more likely to report that the activity was having a negative effect on their child’s mood compared to parents whose teens played less frequently (42 percent versus 23 percent).
No matter how often their child sat in front of a gaming monitor, however, parents were likely to concede that the activity got in the way of other aspects of their child’s life, such as family activities and interactions (46 percent), sleep (44 percent), homework (34 percent), friendships with non-gaming peers (33 percent) and extracurricular activities (31 percent).
Although most of the parents surveyed (71 percent) said they believe video games can be good for teens, many (44 percent) reported that they try to restrict both the type and content of the games their children play. Some also try to encourage their teen to play with friends in person rather than online, and some ban gaming in their child’s bedroom.
All of those actions are wise, say Freed and his colleagues.
“Gaming, like all other teen activities, should have reasonable limits,” they write in their report on the survey. “Parents should discuss the limits they establish and the reasons for them. Helping teens to understand that rules around gaming are not arbitrary, but are tied to safety, health, school and relationships can be helpful.”
“Video games are a part of our world today,” they add. “However, time spent gaming should not be at the expense of face-to-face time with family, friends, and teachers who play a pivotal and important role in promoting a teen’s learning and healthy development.”
FMI: You’ll find the report on the survey on the University of Michigan’s website. Parents who wish to develop a plan for healthy media use (including video gaming) for their families will find some useful tools at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website.