“You need to be doing other things besides sitting in front of a video game,” Dr. Aiken says.
Limiting children’s gaming time can also be important for their brain development. Many video games are designed to trigger the reward center of the brain, giving users hits of the neurotransmitter dopamine when they win.
“The games are designed to frequently reward you to keep you coming back,” Dr. Aiken says.
That can lead to a kind of addiction to video games. The World Health Organization has labeled the condition “gaming disorder.” And, like other addictions, video games can provoke angry or violent outbursts from children when they can’t play them, research has shown.
“People with certain conditions may be more susceptible to getting into that dopamine cycle,” Dr. Aiken says. “For example, people with ADHD may be more inclined than other kids to become overly focused on video games.”
To moderate the impact games can have on kids’ developing brains, experts recommend school-age children play no more than one hour per day on school days and two hours a day on the weekend. Children ages 2 to 5 should play for less than an hour and completely avoid violent games.
Toddlers under two should have no screen time at all, Dr. Aiken says.