Optimum Gaming Time
We had a trip down to a camping holiday in Cornwall this week, and on the way my children started playing a game where they tried to work out what the different road signs meant. Along the way we passed a number of “Tiredness can kill, take a break” motorway notices. The children were intrigued what this meant.
They were a little alarmed at first about the implications of these slightly scary signs. Once I explained that this was just a warning to stop people from driving for too long without stretching their legs and waking up they seemed to understand. “It’s like when you tell us not to play on the Wii for too long” was there initial response.
This reminded me of my childhood, when I was often warned of watching too much TV because it would make my eyes go square. Of course that wasn’t actually the case, but there was good sense behind the slightly severe warning.
How long, often and when you family plays games is down to personal choice. While there is no more danger in playing a game for long periods than driving the length of the M4 or sitting at your desk all day without a break, it makes sense to take breaks and play within sensible limits.
We keep our gaming to the weekends, not least because the children are too tired after school to really enjoy it. We also aim to keep play time to around an hour — although sometimes it goes a little longer.
By focusing on multi-player and turn-taking games we have found that the kids naturally take breaks from the action when it’s not their turn. Also, games like Just Dance 3 have been great to keeping them active.
Using the parental controls on our consoles has also been a good way to manage how long they play for — in particular the Family Timer feature on the 360 has been invaluable. This enables you to set a maximum daily play time, after which the console pauses the game. Here’s a guide I recently recorded on setting this up on the 360, similar features are available on other consoles.
I’m sure that how and when we play will change as our children get older, but regular breaks and a variety of activities and interactions will continue to be good ways of staying healthy while playing games.