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Healthier Video Game Habits: 5 Tips for Parents of Teens

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Author Beata Mostafavi January 20, 2020 5:00 AM

“With appropriate boundaries and supervision, video games may be a fun way for some children to enjoy time with each other and for parents to connect with their kids,” says Jenny Radesky, M.D., a developmental behavioral pediatrician and researcher at Mott. “But prolonged gaming has the potential to interfere with other elements of a teen’s life, such as sleep, family and peer relationships and school performance.”

1. Set limits

Parents may not always have the most accurate perception of their teen’s gaming tendencies, the Mott Poll finds. Among parents of daily gamers, 54% report their teen plays three or more hours a day (compared to only 13% of teens that do not play every day.) Just 13% of these parents believe their teen spends more time gaming than others, while 78% believe their teen’s gaming is less than or about the same as their peers.

Twice as many parents also say their teen boy plays video games every day compared to parents of teen girls. Teen boys are also more likely to spend three or more hours gaming.


The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours per day of screen-based entertainment. Parents should create a “media plan” that dictates what hours a child can enjoy video games without affecting behavior and homework, Radesky says.


She advises that gaming systems be kept out of bedrooms, have a digital curfew and be put away while at the dinner table. It’s especially important to set clear expectations and limits about gaming during after school hours, so that time for school work, friends, chores or conversation “don’t get elbowed out when the child’s preferred activity is video games,” Radesky says.

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4. Play together

In some situations, gaming together may offer a chance to bond and potentially open the door to other conversations and interactions. Radesky, who has studied the benefits of engaging in technology with children, makes sure that screen time in her own home is a family affair.


"Prolonged gaming has the potential to interfere with other elements of a teen’s life, such as sleep, family and peer relationships and school performance." -- Jenny Radesky, M.D.


Another way to socialize: Invite a child’s friends over to join in and encourage playing together in person rather than online. “It’s becoming more common that children and teens ‘hang out’ with friends in the virtual space of video games, rather than in person,” Radesky says. Interactions over video game chats can be difficult for some kids to interpret – or children may make more inappropriate comments than they would offline.

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