How Much Time Should Children Spend on Video Games?

While two hours of video gaming per week are beneficial, playing 9 hours or more can cause conduct problems and reduced social abilities

Photo: Gamesingear

A study performed by researchers from Hospital del Mar and ISGlobal provides insight on the optimal amount of hours per week that children should spend on playing video games. The results have been published in the journal Annals of Neurology.

The study, led by Dr. Jesús Pujol, from the Radiology Service of Hospital del Mar and the Instituto Hospital del Mar de Investigaciones Médicas (IMIM) and coordinated by Dr. Jordi Sunyer, Head of the Child Health Programme at ISGlobal, aimed to investigate the association between weekly video game use and certain cognitive abilities and conduct-related problems among 2,442 children aged 7 to 11 years. The results show that children playing video games have better visuomotor skills and school performance, and that 2 hours per week are enough to achieve these benefits. On the other hand, 9 hours or more of video gaming per week was associated to conduct problems, peer conflicts, and reduced social abilities. 

“The magnetic resonance imaging analysis performed in a group of children showed that the use of video games is associated with increased performance of brain circuits that are important in the acquisition of new skills, in particular connections between basal ganglia and front lobes” explains Dr. Pujol. “Traditionally”, he adds, “children acquire motor skills through action, such as sports and outdoor play. The neuroimaging results obtained in this study suggest that training with virtual environments can also modify the brain circuits that lead to the acquisition of motor skills.” The experts conclude that video games in themselves are neither good nor bad, it is the frequency of use that makes them one or the other.  



Jesus Pujol, Raquel Fenoll, Joan Forns, Ben J. Harrison, Gerard Martinez-Vilavella, Didac Macia, Mar AlvarezPedrerol, Laura Blanco-Hinojo, Sofia Gonzalez-Ortiz, Joan Deus, and Jordi Sunyer. Video gaming in school children- how much is enough? Annals of Neurology, 2016, Jul 27