Core Behavior Skills

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Demystifying Which Gaming System Is Best

Cell Phones, Tablets, and Gaming Systems...

Oh my!

With holidays right around the corner, parents are wondering which form of entertainment system is most appropriate to purchase for their child. There is also the probability of the child asking for a specific medium for the holidays. What would be the best choice and most logical purchase to make?

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The answer depends on the child’s age and the purpose of the apparatus.

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Ages 0-5

Within this age group the obvious choice should be none. The focus of this age group should be to increase:

  • Receptive language
  • Expressive language
  • Social skills
  • General elementary education
  • Motor skills
    • Gross motor (e.g., running, jumping, balancing)
    • Fine motor (e.g., open/close zipper, tie shoes, writing)
    • Visual motor coordination (e.g., throwing/catching a ball)

Any form of engagement with an entertainment system typically known as screen time should be highly limited as it can impact the child’s development. The entertainment devices are typically very addictive and can cause developmental delays depending on the parent/device interaction ratio.

Granted, spending short amounts of time on any device for educational purposes will likely cause no known harm.  But when children are left alone unsupervised for long periods of time, this could lead to developmental delays.

To teach simple educational skills (e.g., colors, shapes, concepts)  the Ipad’s app store has a plethora of educational games which can enhance learning. For visual motor coordination a traditional gaming console is best as it targets visual and fine motor skills that are much more complex than swiping on a tablet device. Other factors to consider are discipline and self-control. Specific to very young children, there is no such thing as self-control. A parent might think my child follows rules, but left alone unsupervised there is a very low probability of a child demonstrating self-control with a highly addictive device. Thus, if any device is purchased, time on the entertainment system should be limited and supervised!

Ages 5+

Within this age group, prior to making a choice there are multiple factors to consider such as grades in school, discipline, socialization among peers, how much screen time will they have, self-control, and purpose. Thus, it will be important to keep several factors in mind when making a choice.

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Grades in School

Your child’s grades in school are extremely important to consider. Purchasing an entertainment system could lead to unwanted distractions. Even if the child is an A+ student, it will be important to monitor their grades and screen time to assert it has minimal impact with school performance.


From a financial perspective, when Ipads/Tablets and cellphones are compared to traditional gaming consoles, gaming consoles are the better choice. Children can easily break valuable objects and the probability of breaking a gaming console is a lot lower when compared to phones and tablets. Most likely the remote control will break (~$60.00) before the console as opposed to an ipad/tablet or phone which could be easily damaged when dropped. The price range of Ipads/tablets and phones could range from $60 to approximately $1200 or more depending on the features.

Socialization Among Peers

While importance should be placed on your child succeeding in the academic setting, socialization among peers should not be ignored. Allowing your child to play physical games, and video games might help them with social skills among peers. Sometimes a popular video game might help a child establish a conversation or have a different topic to talk about with peers. This component can help communicative skills which are important.


The first thing a child learns to do is control the behavior of other people before they learn to control themselves. It is easier for another person to establish rules and control our own behavior than it is for us to control ourselves. The concept of self-control has many different forms of emerging such as learning to control bowl movements to walking down the candy isle and not reaching out for that delicious candy bar. It’s very difficult to demonstrate self-control across multiple settings, environments, and situations when left alone unsupervised. For this reason, traditional consoles are better as they have to be connect to the TV. Thus traditional gaming consoles are a lot easier to supervise as the content being displayed is not as easy to hide.

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Screen Time

As mentioned above, supervision is critical and the child should not be left alone for long periods of time with an entertainment system. Thirty minutes to an hour of play time can be safe as long as other daily goals are being accomplished (e.g., homework, chores). If the amount of time the child spends on the device is impacting there overall performance, consider decreasing screen time. During winter/summer break when the child has a lot of time, four to five hours of entertainment might not be harmful but the child should be strongly encouraged to engage in other activities. Play the game for long periods of time (e.g., 5 hours) might be a fun break from academic activities for the child.

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Last but not least, is purpose. What is the overall purpose of purchasing an entertainment system. If it is for educational purposes from ages 0-5 an Ipad is king. But if its for leisure time, then a traditional gaming console may offer a better value. Then, there is a the Steam Deck, that it is both a PC gaming console and a desktop computer that can serve a multiple purposes beyond gaming to edit documents/spreadsheets on the device when connect to a screen. Some Ipads/Tablets offer similar features but, when working on documents screen size is a factor that should be considered.

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