Kids Health Watch is brought to you by our friends and Children’s Medical Group
With summer quickly approaching, many parents are trying to decide how best to entertain their children, and specifically their teenagers. Summer camps abound in our area, but if your kids are the “homebody” type, video games seem to be preferable to leaving the teens to entertain themselves. So what are the health benefits or detriments to video game exposure?
An obvious starting point is physical health. A few studies have shown that some games increase heart rate, blood pressure, and calories burned when compared to passive screen time (i.e. watching TV), but overall, most video games lead to an increased weight gain when not balanced with regular physical activity. Video games have also been linked to disrupted sleep. Limiting high intensity game play prior to bed, keeping game play at less than 2.5 hours a day, and restricting usage in the child’s bedroom can all help mitigate these risks and keep your child healthier and in a better mood through the summer.
Viable alternatives are so-called ‘exergames’ – exercise games, or virtual reality games. A popular example of this type of game play is Pokeman Go.
Some video games can lead to improved cognition. Games centered around puzzles, memory, and logic can all have a beneficial improvement on working memory, increased attention span, and problem solving. Action games centered around quick decision making may help improve visual processing and flexibility.
There can be some socialization benefits to video games as well. Studies have shown not only increased happiness from socializing, but also improved social skills from video games centered on team building, cooperative play, and working towards a common goal. Competitive games can also help with learning fair play and good sportsmanship – much like competitive sports.
Overall, video games can have benefits for a teenager’s development, but they can also cause a lot of harm if not properly monitored. Limiting the amount of daily game play, as well as encouraging physical activity and in-person social interaction can all help mitigate risks video games may have on a developing teenager. In all things, moderation.