How Old Should a Child be to Play Video Games

A kid playing a video game

The year was 1952, and British professor A.S. Douglas created a digital program simply titled OXO. This digitalized version of tic-tac-toe was a part of his doctoral dissertation at the University of Cambridge. That was the birth of the first-ever video game.


Video games have come a long way since 1952. Games went from a few pixels moving on the screen to engaging 8-hours long adventures with Hollywood-level animations and immersive stories.


Nowadays, everyone has at least played one video game in their life. From groundbreaking AAA titles like Mario Odyssey, Red Dead Redemption, and Overwatch to beloved indie games like Undertale, Stardew Valley, and Cuphead, almost everybody is familiar with one or more of these titles. And for many game developers and companies, the biggest market that they target is children.

Super Mario Odyssey - Nintendo Switch

Most parents, like you, might have had experiences with video games. In fact, maybe you, a friend, or a relative have owned one.


But unlike before, video games are easier to find and purchase. And so now it’s no longer a question of why you should give your child a console. It’s all about when it is the right time.


How Old Should a Child be to Play Video Games?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children ages 18 months and younger should avoid any sort of screen time. As a child ages, parents can slowly start introducing digital devices. However, parents should still monitor their kid’s activities.


Most children who are above 18-months are already capable of coordination and motor skills. With simple apps and video games, they can further learn and develop. The older they get, the more complex video games they can play.


There are plenty of things to consider before handing your child their first device, though. You need to first know if your child is careful enough to own their first console. Video game devices are an expensive investment. You should only give your child one if you know they can responsibly take care of it.


You also want to keep an eye on what games your child is going to play. Choose only age-appropriate titles for your kids to play. We’ll talk more about this below.


How Long Should a Child Play Per Day?

Playing video games is a great way to pass the time. However, parents should impose limits to keep their kids healthy and well-adjusted.


The AAP states that kids ages 6 and above should have around 30 to 60 minutes of gaming on weekdays and 2 hours maximum on weekends.


Parents should also put rules on when kids can play video games. For example, your child is only allowed to play video games after doing homework or chores. Parents should also be aware of what games their child is playing and whom they are playing with.


Video games are meant to be fun. But like most things in life, moderation should always be practiced. Your child’s health and well-being matter more than their high scores and virtual achievements.


Are Video Games Beneficial to Children?

Many parents, government officials, and psychologists debate if video games are beneficial or harmful to children. Many argue that video games are, at best, making kids lazy and addicted, and at worst, are making kids violent.


However, the American Psychological Association says that video games can boost a child’s cognitive ability, health, and social skills. Yes, even those violent shooter games can benefit your little one.


Video games are also reported to enhance children’s problem-solving skills. Other positive benefits of video games include community-building and socializing.


Video games can be great outlets for kids’ creativity and resourcefulness. With proper supervision from the parents, children can reap the benefits of video games and become intelligent, social, and imaginative grown-ups.


How Do I Pick the Right Game for My Child?

You might have heard of the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” That principle should also apply to song albums, movie trailers, and, yes, video game box arts. Many parents have made the mistake of buying a video game without double-checking the box. 


Take Conker’s Bad Fur Day. You’d think it’s a silly Nintendo 64 game that features animals. But what if I tell you that Conker’s Bad Fur Day is about a drunk squirrel who needs to save his sexy girlfriend.


Not so child-friendly, huh?


It’s nice to give your child a video game to play together during the weekends. But you don’t want to accidentally purchase a game that will lead to an awkward conversation about the birds and the bees. So how do you avoid inappropriate games?


The best course of action when buying your child a new video game is to research. A simple web search can show you the mature rating, reviews, and even trigger warnings that the game has. You can also find similar titles through this method.


But what if you’re in the store and you don’t have time to go online? The next choice is to study the game in your hand. The box will usually contain the game’s description, rating, warnings, and more. You can also observe the box art itself, since it can give you a hint on what the game is all about. (Although, do know that some artworks can be misleading and won’t reflect the final product.)


While on the topic of content ratings: The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESBR) is responsible for putting the appropriate warning on video game boxes. 


ESBR is an organization established in the 90s. Their job is to regulate video games and properly rate them for consumers. You can learn more about their rating system and what games are safe for your child on their website.



Video games are a part of many kids’ childhood. And as those kids grow into adults, they also want to pass that joy down to their children. But some are unsure of when they can safely introduce their kids to video games.


A golden rule to follow is that older is always better. The older the child is, the more they understand video games and how to play them. They’re also more responsible at taking care of themselves and their game consoles.


Whether you want to introduce video games to your child at 3 or 13, it’s always important to keep an eye on their hobby. At the end of the day, you’re still in control of how much playtime your child can have. And for growing kids, there is more to life than beating a fire-breathing turtle.

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