Screen time and children

Screen time and children (MGN)

Are your kids spending too much time playing video games?

There's not a steadfast rule as to how much is too much but there are ways to gauge that in your child, especially with one of the newest video games on the market: Fortnite. It attracts, at any given moment, 2 million players.

"Fortnite is incredibly compelling for a lot of reasons. A, it's free, so kids can just download it,” said Dr. Justin Schleifer, child psychiatrist at Bradley Hospital in East Providence.

And while this game does feature violence, it's not graphic.

"I think Fortnite's relatively benign compared to some of the other first person shooters classic games that are out there,” said Schleifer.

"I think it's more cartoonish, it's more playful, the colors are bright. There are these dancing emoji's that people put out there that are related to it."

But it can be so compelling, so captivating, that playing this and other video games can be all consuming. And when you consider this:

"Right now, kids are spending anywhere from 4 1/2 to 6 1/2 hours a day on screens,” said Schechter.

Well, it's always a good idea for parents to get involved. Shechter says ask yourself this:

"If it's interfering with their relationships with their family, if it's interfering with their school work, if it's interfering with them having real life encounters with people."

And actually sit down and talk with your child, he says.

"Figure out what they're doing, whether it's a video game like Fortnite, or whatever the next hot video game is going to be in three months. Say, 'hey, you play this Fortnite game, tell me about it.'"

Find out why they like it; maybe even play the game yourself. And if you find out they're over indulging?

"Really emphasizing other things they could be doing rather than just clamping down saying you got five more minutes left because if you’ve five minutes left and you're playing a game that could take 20 minutes, that could be incredibly frustrating. So if parents don't understand the dynamics involved, they're going to end up setting limits that are really hard to enforce and might sort of provoke outrage and animosity from their kid."

Instead, Schechter says, if we better understand the video games our child plays, perhaps instead of five minutes, you tell them to play until the end of the round. There are also ways parents can limit screen time--through apps or even by limiting data and wi-fi access.

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