Five Things About Video Games and Your Child’s Health

Video Games and Health Series

Before starting the discussion on this topic, it is important to note that this is a vast subject. Ultimately, I will present this subject as a series that will evolve based on your questions and feedback. Video games are a significant issue involving both adults and children.

The issue of video games is comprehensive and attempting to label the entire system as either all bad or good is equivalent to seeking to label “food” as bad or good. There are many various genres, maturity ratings, and user behaviors that go into understanding video games as a whole and how our children use them. [1]

While on clinical rotations at various centers I have been able to be a part of visits involving several children from childhood to adolescence (i.e., ages 6-19) who played different genres of video games. Listed below are some of the most common complaints I have been able to observe with video game use in the above age ranges. 

1. Musculoskeletal pain (muscle and joint pain) 

One of the most common complaints that children present with clinically is a musculoskeletal complaint. Some examples that I have seen are hand-arm vibration syndrome, wrist pain, neck pain, and auditory hallucinations. Hand-arm vibration syndrome, although uncommon, may occur in individuals who use hand-held vibrating tools. [2] You may be wondering, “what does this have to do with my child”? This condition is relevant in children who play for extended periods of time on console systems (i.e., Xbox and PlayStation). 

In consoles, the controllers that run the systems have a rumbler (aka “vibrator”) embedded in them. As a result, in-game actions often activate vibrations and can occur more or less depending on the genera of the video game. Neck, wrist, and back pain have an association with the posture of the child while playing. Keeping the neck in extension (i.e., looking up) or flexion (i.e., looking down) at extreme angles may result in neck and back pain. These angles place a significant amount of stress on the joints of the cervical spine and the muscles of the neck. [3] 

Five Things About Video Games and Your Child’s Health

2. Depression

In one study pre-adolescent children that spent more than two hours per day playing violent video games had a statistically significant higher rate of depression than children who played low violence video games for less than 2 hours per day. [4]

“Extensive research evidence indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed” – The American Academy of Pediatrics [5]

A notable amount of children who experience mood disorders and psychiatric illness (i.e., depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety spectrum disorders) also tend to have high rates of addiction to online game playing. It is currently unknown if the video games cause the psychiatric illness or if the mental illness leads to the excessive online play. [1]

3. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Behaviors

Especially relevant, fast-paced action games have been argued to have an association with the development of disinterest in the slower paced work, school, and social environments. Many individuals who play a considerable amount of video games find the work of activities of daily living dull and uninteresting. To be entertaining all other events need to be fast paced and if it is not children tend not to be able to focus on them for extended periods of time. [1]

4. Addictive Behavior

In addition, addiction to video games may have a massive impact on a child’s life. Adolescents who experience problems with addiction to video games may develop problems in other areas of life. There have also been several instances where addiction to video games has had adverse outcomes on behavior. It is also worth noting that the family structure is often strained/dysfunctional as a result. In summary, video game addiction has an association with higher levels of depression, lower academic achievement, and increased conduct problems. [1, 6]    

5. Decreased Social Skills

Another thing that I have been able to see first-hand in many children who play large amounts of video games is a reduction or absence in “real” friends. This decrease of human interaction often leads to a substitution for friends that play the same games online or “virtual friends.” Adolescent age students who play a lot of video games (i.e., more than 5 hours a week) tend to have less social skills than their peers who do not play as much video games. These students also have poor social relationships/problems and social deficits. [7, 8]   

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Finally, stay tuned! We will continue to the conversation and talk a little more about maturity ratings, first-person shooter games, and much more!

Extra Information:

There are settings available on most consoles to turn off the rumble feature on your child’s console. For Xbox console visit here for more information on how to disable this feature. For PlayStation consoles visit here for more information on how to turn off this feature.   

Important Disclaimer: The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only; it is NOT meant to substitute professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should NOT use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem/disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please see your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

References:

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