Parents Believe Teens are Gaming Too Much, But Many Think It's Typical Adolescent Behavior
Fri, December 3, 2021

Parents Believe Teens are Gaming Too Much, But Many Think It's Typical Adolescent Behavior

Nearly all parents think their teens are spending too much time playing video games, but they also report different gaming patterns between adolescent boys and girls / Photo by: dotshock via 123RF


Nearly all parents think their teens are spending too much time playing video games, but they also report different gaming patterns between adolescent boys and girls, according to a poll from C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National in Michigan.

The poll on children's health also found that many American parents believe their child's gaming habits are typical for their age. Findings also indicate parents' concerns about the possible positive and negative impact of gaming on teens.

Teens’ Gaming Habits

The researchers surveyed nearly 1,000 parents with children between 13 and 18 to understand the impact of gaming on their teen's lives. Most of the parents believe their children play video games too much (86%), but there is a difference in the gaming habits of teen boys and girls.

There are twice as many parents who said their young lads play video games every day (41%) as there are parents who said the same for their teen girls (20%). Boys are also more likely to spend three hours or more on gaming than girls (37% vs 19%) and play against other people online (65% vs 31%).

Most parents surveyed reported extended gaming for their teens every day (54%), but many believe the time their children spend on gaming is less than or about the same as those other kids their age (78%).

"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," Gary Freed, co-director and pediatrician at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National, said in a statement.

Parents also believe gaming is not bad for their teens (71%) and may even have a positive impact on young gamers. Still, many report negative impacts of prolonged gaming.

The survey found that parents believe spending too much time playing video games can get in the way of other aspects of their teen's life such as family interactions (46%), sleep (44%), homework (34%), friendship with non-gaming peers (33%) and extracurricular activities (31%).

"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," Freed said.

The Point of Video Games

Video games are specifically developed to encourage longer playing time, especially among teens, with reassuring features like rewards and feedback tied to how long a gamer plays to maintain their engagement. 

The researchers also pointed out that some teens may be more susceptible to the constant positive feedback and stimulus from the games, Reuters reports.

Aside from sleep deprivation, lack of physical interaction, and less time for homework, prolonged gaming can negatively affect teens' moods compared to their peers who play less or don't play at all (28% vs 14%).

These results led parents to take measures in limiting game time. The strategies parents use include encouraging other activities (75%), setting time limits (54%), providing incentives to limit gaming (23%) and, hiding gaming equipment (14%).

The researchers, however, advised against telling teens that gaming is merely "mindless entertainment."

"Teens believe many of the games they play are not mindless," they said. "Many are complex and challenging, and that’s often a big part of their appeal. Some kids believe the mental workout and knowledge they gain from their games justify all the time they’ve invested."

Video games have become a normal part of a teenager’s life today. But that doesn’t mean this leisure should come at the expense of valuable time with family and friends who have an important role in promoting teens’ learning and healthy development.

Making Things Private

The survey also found that some parents (44%) restrict the content of the games they play, with those whose children are 13 to 15 years old are more likely to use a rating system to ensure the games' appropriateness than parents of teens aged 16 to 18 years (43% vs 18%).

However, not all teens like video games that are bought from stores. Some find online gaming more appealing, with how it allows easier access to play with other people as well as the opportunity to watch other players provide tips on how to improve their gaming skills.

But such circumstances come with danger, like strangers knowing the players' private information entered in the game. The researchers noted that parents should remind their teens that a game's privacy setting doesn't actually make things "private."

"As a result, images, thoughts, and behaviors teens share online will instantly become a part of their digital footprint," the researchers warned.

"Adults can pose as teens in shared gaming environments and try to establish relationships that can lead to exploitation. Parents should work to keep lines of communication open with their teens about this aspect of online activity and let them know they can be a resource if they have questions or concerns."

Gaming Addiction

Setting limits on teen gaming and helping them understand why these restrictions are put into place are some of the strategies parents can take to curb the possibility of gaming addiction.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognized video game addiction as an official mental disorder last year, one that affects up to 10% of the two billion gamers worldwide. This addiction comes as the time spent playing grows over time—especially with the increasing accessibility to games due to technological advancements.

According to the health organization, gaming disorder is defined as "a pattern of gaming behavior characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences."

Effects of video game addiction go beyond sleep deprivation and isolation. Others may feel fatigued or develop insomnia with increased playing time while others may also increase their risk of seizures due to flashing and fast-paced images in the games, rehabilitation facility network The Recovery Village said.

While only a small portion who engage in video gaming become addicted to them, the WHO warns gamers to be mindful of the amount of time they spend on gaming activities, changes in their physical or psychological health, and shifts in social functioning.