How Many Hours of Video Games Is too Much?
When concerned about gaming disorder or gaming addiction, most people wonder: “How many hours of video games is too much?” After all, people who enjoy gaming can spend a lot of time in front of a screen, passing hours upon hours engaged in virtual worlds. Is there a threshold for addiction, a time limit for harmless playing beyond which gaming is excessive? The answer to the question about how many hours of video games is too much might surprise you.
How Many Hours of Video Games is Too Much? It’s Debatable
Experts in the fields of physical health, mental health, child development, and psychology conduct ongoing studies of the impact of screen time (time spent using electronic devices, including video game devices). The results? Disagreement and debate. The most definitive answer is that there isn’t yet a clear recommendation for the maximum number of hours kids should spend playing video games and generally using “screens”.
The uncertainty is obvious in study results:
- San Diego State University psychology professor and researcher, Jean Twenge, maintains the safe limit for teens is one to two hours daily (Rossman, 2017)
- The American Academy of Pediatrics says the one- to two-hour limit is for young children age two to five and that older kids and teens have “consistent limits” but don’t define that numerically (Marachi, 2016)
- A study authored by Twenge and conducted by San Diego State University and Florida State University found that, in teens, more than five hours of video games is too much (Rossman, 2017)
- A 2010 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that many youths are playing for more than 50 hours a week, which far exceeds the five hours daily mark (Oskin, 2012)
- “Problem gamers” play video games between 80 and 100 hours per week; at more than double full-time employment or school, this is indisputably too much (King, 2010)
While there isn’t a consensus on how many hours of video games (and general screen time) is too much, the finding by Twenge and her colleagues that more than five hours per day is excessive seems reasonable. More than that interferes in the amount of sleep a child or teen gets per night, the amount of time spent doing homework, and the time available for activities involving movement (How to Help Your Child Addicted to Video Games).
No one can say definitively how much gaming is acceptable. Not only that, some researchers and psychologists argue that the amount of time spent on gaming is irrelevant, that “too much” isn’t a real issue.
How Many Hours of Video Games is Too Much? Does it Matter?
The amount of time spent gaming may not matter as much as whether video games are interfering in life. It’s not simply a matter of hours spent playing video games. The issue may be “when” rather than “how much.” When are kids playing games, and when does it become a problem? Once again, the answer isn’t set in stone.
Dr. Peter Gray (2012), a research professor at Boston College, explains that many people spend a lot of time pursuing hobbies and passions, but they’re not addicted to those passions. It’s the same for gaming. Someone can love video games, get much joy from them, play them for many hours every day, and not have a gaming disorder or video game addiction.
Researchers at Oxford University have taken this notion a step farther. After studying the issue of limiting video game time and general screen time, they concluded that there is no correlation, positive or negative, between digital or online activity and wellbeing. Limiting time spent playing games, therefore, might not be all that beneficial. In fact, they assert, “moderate screen-use above the recommended limits [undefined in the report] might actually be linked to slightly higher levels of children’s wellbeing.”
The true issue might not be the hours spent playing video games but how the play interferes in someone’s life. Gaming can have a negative impact on those engaged in the activity. Some negative effects of video gaming include:
- Poor school/work performance
- Relationship difficulties
- Social isolation
- Sleep deprivation
- Suicidal thoughts
- Poor health (dehydration, lack of nutrition)
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) from prolonged sitting
These problems may indeed be caused by too much time playing video games, but the jury is still out on how many hours of video games is too much. One way to answer that question for yourself is to reflect on your own life and your own gaming.
Do you want to spend less time playing but find it hard to do? Do you notice problems in your life that are associated with gaming (Gaming Addiction Symptoms: How You Know You’re Addicted)? When you play, do you feel relaxed and happy, or do you feel tense and stressed?
Your answers will help you decide how much time playing video games is too much for you.
Peterson, T. (2021, December 15). How Many Hours of Video Games Is too Much?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, June 5 from https://www.healthyplace.com/addictions/gaming-disorder/how-many-hours-of-video-games-is-too-much