Free-Range Kids

Don't Worry About Your Kids Playing Too Many Video Games While Under Quarantine

In fact, maybe the parents should play, too.


Seven days in a row, 19 hours each day, not counting time for meals, Snapchat, or that online math assignment: That's how long your kids could have been playing Fortnite since the quarantine began.

And that's perfectly fine. In fact, maybe you should join them.

Given everything going on in the world (i.e., the global coronavirus pandemic), right now is not the time for parents to worry about exposing their quarantined kids to excessive screen time.

The good news is that vide games don't make kids violent and dumb. They are are a force for social, educational, and emotional good—even when the kids are blowing things up.

"All the claims that have been around for years about the harm of them—I take it as my job as a researcher to see what's the evidence for these claims," says Dr. Peter Gray, professor of psychology at Boston College (and a co-founder, with me, of Let Grow). Upon researching the research, Gray discovered that "the bulk is showing positive effects."

In fact, one study that he found particularly robust asked thousands of parents to estimate the amount of time their kids spent playing video games. The researchers also analyzed the kids' social maturity based on teachers' reports, how well they were doing in school, their emotional stability, and so on. The result?

"The ones who were playing at least five hours a week were significantly higher on every one of those measures," says Gray.

Jeff Gale, a dad in Orinda, California, has seen in his seven-year-old son transformed by a video game he got when he turned six: Fortnite. Before getting the game, the boy was very quiet, somewhat overshadowed by his two older sisters. But learning to play the game "gave him incredible confidence," says Gale, "and his communication skills got better too."

While you may not be totally psyched about listening to your kids explain the finer details of Minecraft every single day for the foreseeable future (let's hurry up with those coronavirus vaccine clinical trials!), one way to make it more tolerable is for you to get in the pixel trenches with them—or at least watch what they're actually doing.

"You're learning what captivates your kid, you're learning how your kid is learning," says Anne Collier, executive director of the Net Safety Collaborative. And once in a while, she added, "without being too annoying, ask them, 'What's going on there?' or, 'Why did you choose that guy?'"

The next step could be asking them to show you how to play. But be forewarned: "I know of one father who whose kid introduced him to House of the Dead 2 on Sega maybe 20 years ago," says Chris Byrne, also known as The Toy Guy. "He got so into it that he kept playing it after his kid went to bed."

That could be you, too. After all, the reason video games are so massively popular is that they give people whole new worlds to explore. The fact that the games may be based on war or some other kind of confrontation even has an upside: Often the kids are playing with a team they have to rely upon to stay (virtually) alive. This creates a feeling of community, which is something all of us—kids and parents—could use more of.

With everything going on in the world right now, it's nice to battle something you can actually beat.

NEXT: Gavin Newsom Orders 40 Million Californians To Stay Home During Coronavirus Crisis. Is He Right To Do It?

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  1. “Seven days in a row, 19 hours each day, not counting time for meals, Snapchat, or that online math assignment: That’s how long your kids could have been playing Fortnite since the quarantine began. And that’s perfectly fine.”

    This one should have stopped when she opined that people should offer parenting tips.

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  2. I recommend a Plague’s Tale or Resident Evil. You know something to get your mind infectious diseases.

    1. mind *off of* infectious diseases.

      Damn the lack of an edit button.

      1. Typos are no big deal. People can red through them. I use voice recognition for work. We get those all the time. We call them “dragon errors” after the most poplar program.

  3. Read your kids The Stand.

    1. And then watch Twelve Monkeys.

      1. And then watch I Am Legend.

        1. 28 Days Later

          1. definitely don’t make them *watch* The Stand though. unless they’re grounded.

            1. Ack! It feels like I’m learning!

            2. definitely don’t make them *watch* The Stand though

              But it was the high-point of Gary Sinise’s career!

              1. Rob Lowe’s too.

                1. “M-O-O-N…that spells ‘Matt Frewer was better in the show'” 🙂

  4. Plague Inc. one of the few games I have played.

    When I am the virus I already figured out how to beat the game. Fungus is more difficult.

    For me ordered up some more kindle books. I like military history.

    Around here power outages are common this time of year so batteries and stuff you can do offline is helpful.

    I have noticed more kids riding around on bicycles. Families out walking. That sort of thing.

    Limited stuff open here. Schools closed, bars, restaurants, almost anything non essential.

    People are mostly amazing. Scrambling to keep services open, doing what they can online, and reaching out.

    1. Parasite is the easiest for me on Plague, Inc. I just make sure to minimize the symptoms while jacking up the transmissibility, then once every nation is infected (Greenland is the toughest…you have to establish it there before they shut down the seaports), I immediately go for the most fatal symptoms that also cause a slowdown in research.

      Boom…all of humanity dead within a year. 🙂

  5. It would have been nice if there had been some links to the studies that back up the contention that screen time is helpful. I’d like to share this with some people that are convinced the opposite, but it’s just hearsay without sources and attribution.

  6. I’m not here to decide or comment on how much Fortnite it healthy… but if you need a few more free browser games to get you through the pandemic, you can’t do better than these:

  7. I often let my kids play games that remove image ads that target the brain using the lucky patcher, how about you?
    Link Download Lucky Patcher:

  8. A prospect that excites me about having kids, is getting to teach them how to play. The physics involved in games, how to coordinate with teammates, getting to recognize patterns and behavioral tendencies so that they’ll be more well equipped, for when they grow up as adults, they will have proper tools to perform better professionally. Issue about games is like everything, if you do it without a purpose it is plain harmful, simply because you become dependent on a source of dopamine to an unhealthy degree. There’s an article that I read about the topic, which you can watch

  9. Absolutely parents should not stop kids from playing video games, even I am playing too, it helps to stay away from stress during the quarantine period, whenever I save my time working at Edumagnate, I jump to my system and start playing. It’s a really good time.

  10. I suggest that parents can participate with their child to play, share games with him. There are a lot free to plays, historics and games with good strategics.

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