What’s the maximum daily allowance of Minecraft?
An hour per day of video game play is my standard reply. There is compelling data to suggest that one hour of video game play per day is actually better for mental health than video game abstinence. This is based upon a large study of more than 4000 children ages 10 to 15 that found that kids who played video games for one hour a day displayed better psychological adjustment than those who did not play at all or who played for more than three hours per day. Children who played two hours a day did not derive the benefits of video gameplay that the more modest players acquired.
That being said, up to two hours per day won’t hurt your child’s psychological health if they are physically, socially, and academically active. Letting a child regularly have more video game play time should consider his performance in school, his level of engagement in other interests, a family’s sensibilities about gameplay, and mental health issues that may make limit setting problematic. On weekends and holidays, I suggest a bit more flexibility, even up to three hours, but again I would insist that the child spend much more of their time engaged in physical, social, creative, and unstructured play than simply sitting in front of a screen all day.
But if they have 12 hours of free time during the day and have engaged in healthy physical play, done some reading, practiced an instrument, and want to play a game that they love for two to three hours, I don’t see too much harm in this. It is when game play is the child’s sole interest and they plan their life around it that it can become problematic. I do encourage parents to help children make game based learning into real world skills by asking questions about their thinking, strategies, and plans in their game play. Our Minecraft playbook identifies the skills kids use while they are playing the game and gives parents tips on gameplay and talking points that help kids build those skills and apply them outside of the game.
In order to make a good decision about much you should allow your child to play Minecraft or other video games, you need to consider many other issues.
- How old is your child? Age and developmental concerns are primary, younger children should be playing less than older kids.
- Is game play solitary or social? In the 21st-century, kids often don’t go outside to play with the neighbors. Instead they hurry home from school to their family room computer or game console to go online with their friends and neighbors to play Minecraft or Call of Duty. This is becoming the norm for 21st-century socialization and play.I strongly encourage more flexible limits for social/digital play.
- Does your child have a balanced and healthy play diet, where they are they involved in a variety of activities, have other interests, and the spend time in face-to-face activities with the peers?
- How are they doing in school? Do they need more time to be working on the schoolwork but choose to play video games instead?
- What is unique about your child? Is your child someone who can become obsessed or addicted to gameplay? Does your child struggle to transition from gameplay to other more important activities? Does your child become overly irritable, angry,or depressed after gameplay?
If you are interested in more detail about how to apply screen time schedules to children of different ages and styles, I have written a series of articles about this topic.
Feature image: Flickr user Eric