Some Thoughts on Video Game Use By Children

Janine Schaub, Literacy Coach for NW5 and NW6, Toronto District School Board

Despite video gaming’s ascent as the fastest growing entertainment industry, there is remarkably little academic study of the development and acceptance of video game playing and even less of its impact on children. Two recent studies have investigated the question of how many hours per week girls and boys are plying video games. Both studies found that on average boys are playing 13 hours or more per week and girls are playing at least 5 hours per week. *  Statistics Canada does not have data on the number of hours per week that children in Ontario spend playing video games. Statscan only collects data on television viewing. According to Statscan, in 2007, children aged 2 to 11 years of age watched 13.5 hours of television per week. Children 12-17 years watched slightly less at 13.2 hours per week.

Parents as well as teachers are concerned about the amount of time that children spend playing video games and wonder about the effect it is having on their education and lives in general. Both the teachers and parents with whom I speak to, worry about how to best manage video game playing in their homes. In response, I have provided three sets of guidelines–two from experts and one from a young and wise non-expert. Please find them below.

Brady’s Bothwell Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Video Games

(Brady Bothwell is a 24-year-old Toronto music production artist who spent his childhood playing video games.)

  1. Read the video game ratings on the back of the game and decide whether the game is appropriate for your child.
  2. Sit with your child for the first few times the game is played and see for yourself and your child whether the game is appropriate for your family.
  3. If you as a parent do not think that a game is appropriate do not have it in your home.
  4. Confer with the parents of your child’s closest friends to make sure that they know what content you find appropriate and inappropriate in video games.
  5. Have discussions with your child about what he or she thinks about the game in relation to the real world. (The child should be able to clearly understand the difference between the online world and the real world.)

Dr. Leonard Sax’s Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Video Games

(Leonard Sax, M.D, Ph.D, Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men, 2007.)

  1.   Do not allow your child to play video games in which the player is rewarded for killing police officers or noncombatant civilians.
  2.   No more than 40 minutes per day on school days, one hour per day on other days and that’s only after homework and chores have been completed.
  3.  Family comes first, schoolwork second, friends come third and video games last.

Professor Dr. Craig Anderson’s Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Video Games

1.  Don’t buy potentially harmful video games.

2.  Know what video games your children are playing.

3.  Don’t allow access to violent video games.

4.  Restrict time spent on video games.

5.  Teach nonviolent problem solving at every opportunity

*For more information:

Craig Anderson, Douglas Gentile, and Katherine Buckley, “Study 3: Longitudinal study with elementary school student,” in Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents, New York: Oxford University Press, 2007, pp. 95-119.

Douglas Gentile, Paul Lynch, Jennifer Ruh Linder, and David Walsh, “The Effects of Violent Video Game Habits on Adolescent Hostility, Aggressive Behaviors, and School Performance,” Journal of Adolescence, volume 27, pp. 5-22, 2004.