In a relatively short period, the amount of time that we spend looking at screens has increased drastically. Just 20 years ago, our screen time consisted of watching TV and playing video games. Smartphones hadn’t even been thought of, and only a small fraction of us would have been working on computers back then.
These days, we have all of the above plus phones, and pretty much everyone works with a computer. Today, young people spend an average of seven hours each day interacting with digital media, which is quite a scary statistic.
So how long should you play games in a single day? We will take a look at the answer to that and some other important questions below, so just keep reading!
How Much is Too Much?
There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to answering this question. You might assume that because video games have faced a lot of scrutiny, pretty much since their invention, someone would have put in place some pretty strict parameters. But, instead, there are a number of schools of thought, none of which seem to agree.
What's is clear though is that more people are spending time on screens. From the Statista survey from July-August 2021 shown below, you can see that 50% of people in United States are on screens for half the day or more. (42% in UK and 36% in Germany). That's a massive amount of time each day that individuals are on their screens!
Most people will recommend that one to two hours a day is more than enough gaming time for teens. If you’d told us that during a solid gaming weekend when we were 15, we’d have laughed you out of our rooms. In fact, if you tell that to gamers of pretty much any age, they’d laugh at you too.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that two hours a day is the right amount, but only for children between the ages of two and five and not for teens. In addition, the Academy believes that there should not be a numerical value set to determine how many hours a day older children should be gaming.
However, some studies believe that five hours should be the maximum per day and that the worrying should start when people play games for more than 50 hours a week. However, before you start selling all of your consoles or giving them away, keep in mind that extended periods of gaming are not all that bad.
Some studies have discovered a plethora of ways that gaming can be good for your health. For example, while most people believe that staring at a screen will ruin your eyes, the truth is that action games like first-person shooters can improve your eyesight and coordination. It makes sense since those games require you to look at the finer details on the screen and require more focus.
Overall, there is no definitive answer to how much time you should spend gaming each day. For the most part, you should leave it up to your intuition, but a good rule of thumb could be a maximum of five to six hours a day. Of course, if your gaming is getting in the way of your other commitments, then you should probably cut back on the amount of time you spend in front of the screen.
But, as we said, gaming can have some benefits. So let’s take a look at them.
The Benefits of Gaming
Video games are generally reduced to the unsophisticated domain of the lazy, but many of the common elements found in these virtual worlds can provide tangible, real-life benefits. These benefits include things like the development of problem-solving skills, healthy brain stimulation, and stress relief.
Mission-based, open-world, and multi-level games are designed as complex puzzles that can take a number of hours to solve. Every now and then, the solution is based on your actions in the game. Learning to strategize and think on your feet in a fast-paced virtual environment is a skill that can translate into the real world.
Increased Gray Matter
Gaming can be thought of as a brain workout disguised as an enjoyable activity. A number of studies have found that regular gaming can increase the brain’s gray matter and boost its connectivity. Gray matter is linked with memories, muscle control, spatial navigation, and perception.
Improved Manual Dexterity
Video games that are controller-based can be good for the hands. A study that involved a number of surgeons concluded that those that were gamers performed advanced procedures quicker and even made 37% fewer errors than those that did not play video games. There are also special video games that are designed to be used as physical therapy in order to help stroke victims better control their wrists and hands.
The Drawbacks of Gaming
Of course, gaming is not purely beneficial, and spending too much time in front of the screen can have its side effects. It would be criminal of us to discuss the pros of gaming without touching on some of the cons, so let’s look at them.
Gaming has been linked to a number of psychological issues. It remains up for debate whether gaming addiction is a unique condition, and the American Psychological Association defines it as experiencing a minimum of five of these nine symptoms over a period of one year:
- Withdrawal from social settings
- Gaming preoccupation
- Loss of interest in non-gaming activities
- Loss of career, relationship, or educational opportunities
- Downplaying use
- Failure to control
- Gaming to relieve or escape guilt, anxiety, and other negative moods
- Persistent gaming despite psychological problems
Insomnia, disorders in one’s circadian rhythm, sleep deprivation, aggression, depression, and anxiety have also been associated with a gaming addiction, but more studies are required to establish the strength and validity of these connections.
Overuse injuries, or repetitive stress injuries, are those that develop due to activities involving the repetitive use of tendons and muscles, so much so that inflammation and pain develop. If these injuries are not treated in time, weakness and numbness can develop, which could result in permanent damage. Overuse injuries in the arms and hands are most common amongst gamers.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a typical example of an overuse injury and is one that gamers can develop. It is often seen in those that work in an office and involves the inflammation of one of the nerves in the wrist, which can cause numbness and pain.