So, my kid brother, who’s 17, has been visiting me, my wife and kids. My son, Blake, loves Uncle Zach and loves spending time with him, which is great. Zach has brought some video games for him and Blake to play while he’s here. The games are appropriate and fun for him, and I enjoy playing with them sometimes. But, I want to make sure he is outside and does physical activities so that he’s healthy. My question to all you is: What is a reasonable amount of time for my son to play video games, daily?
The American Academy of Pediatrics updated recommendation is one hour per day for children over 2 years old. (Yes, it’s the same for a three year old and an eight year old.). Lurie Children’s Hospital has a blog post that discusses the new recommendations and shows some additional resources you can use. Screen time includes video games, television, and any other time spent in front of a screen.
In my personal opinion this is appropriate for general screen time; a child who has a particular hobby or skill that involves a computer or tablet may reasonably exceed this when doing productive activities (I.e. programming, drawing on a tablet, writing stories, etc.), but gaming should still be limited at least until teenage years if not further.
The National Institutes of Health recommends that screen time in total be limited to about 2 hours every day. In a part of their effort to increase awareness of potential health issues in children related to too much screen time, they have started the We Can program. Among other tools they have available, they offer a downloadable/printable chart that helps you begin an initial assessment of how much screen time your child gets over the course of the week.
I recommend starting with that chart, figuring out the average time spent on playing games or watching TV and then figure out from there how to reduce it down to an acceptable time for both you and your child.
I'd also like to mention that when approaching this topic with your son, if you believe it is an issue, that you should also be mindful of your screen time with your devices if you have some. My wife and I have been asked more than once why it's OK for us to check our phones continually despite setting restrictions on our son for his limited screen time. Granted we may be doing work or other non-recreational business on our phones but remember that perception is everything.
Another option would be that your son has to associate the amount of time playing the video game to an equal (or multiple of an) amount of some other constructive activity, e.g. for every hour of video games, they have to spend an hour reading and/or playing outside and/or doing extra chores (in addition to their daily duties; children shouldn't expect an reward for things that they're expected to do).