Tech Time! Video Games and Young Children with Special Needs

Be aware of health and safety concerns

Little girl playing with a digital tablet on the countertop

Don’t start too young. Time spent on video games may be lost active play time and lost opportunities for interactions with parents, siblings, and other people important in your child’s life.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents who want to use digital media with their child to select only high-quality programming and apps to watch and play along with their young children.

Set a limit on time played. The limit ensures that your child does not strain eyes or hurt hands and wrist. Less than 20 minutes is recommended. Consider setting a timer that rings so that you and your child both know that time is up.

Your child’s therapist may suggest specific games to help with a particular need, such as manual dexterity or social skills. Playing games can be a way for children to interact with parents or other children.

Make sure that your child cannot take apart the hand-held device.

Know what’s in the games your child wants to play

Remember to choose age-appropriate games. Games for older children often display inappropriate behavior (fighting), and some have disturbing images. These can confuse and upset young children.

Check out the game before sharing it with your child. A guideline for choosing games is to compare the images and topics in the game to the picture and story books that your child enjoys. Do they contain the same messages? If not, don’t introduce the game.

Monitor game use

If your child has older siblings, ask them to play video games that are not appropriate for preschoolers only when your child is napping or involved elsewhere in the home. Children often imitate older siblings and want to do what they do.

Consider ways you can be part of the game time by choosing ones you can play with the child. While she is playing, describe what is happening, help her label items, and discuss simple or emerging concepts such as here and gone, none and some.

Related IEL Resources

Web Resources

Susan Fowler Susan Fowler

Dr. Susan Fowler, professor of special education at the University of Illinois, will take one of our popular Tip Sheets and provide specific suggestions that benefit children with developmental delays or disabilities. Most of our Tip Sheets work for all families, but some can use “tweaking” or additional tips to support children with disabilities.

(Biography current as of 2017)

About this resource

Setting(s) for which the article is intended:
  • Family Child Care
  • Home

Intended audience(s):
  • Parents / Family

Age Levels (the age of the children to whom the article applies):
Reviewed: 2017