Whoa! When It Comes to Video Games, an Hour a Day Is OK

Playing video games for an hour per day can actually benefit kids, a new study says, but more than eight hours a week could be harmful.
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Can playing video games make you smarter?

Yes and no.

Spanish researchers studied the video game habits of more than 2,400 boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 11, and found that the "gamers" (who played about four hours a week on average) had faster reaction times than non-gamers, and registered "significantly" higher scores in school.

Whoa! But the researchers also found that those same gamers weren't any more advanced than the non-gamers when it came to memory and attention skills, and any skill enhancements they did glean from gaming began to max out after about eight hours a week.

In addition, the kids who played nine hours or more a week were more likely to have social and behavioral problems—things like conflicts with other kids, problematic conduct, and poor social skills. Plus, the more time kids spent gaming, the less time they spent sleeping.

The bottom line? Our kids should be logging off at right around the hour-a-day mark.

"One to nine hours per week seems to be safe," explained study author Dr. Jesus Pujol. "But playing more than nine hours—one hour on weekdays and two hours on weekend days—may not be recommended for children 7 to 11 years old."

I'll be honest—my son is 10 and definitely spends more than four hours playing video games on the weekends. Which means he's got some big changes in store. Because while Dr. Pujol admits that spending a decent amount of time in front of a screen may be good, and even necessary, for our children, he added that time limits and the combination of gaming with physical/outdoor activity are recommended.

Translation: it's all about finding a balance.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.

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