News | Published December 4, 2012 | Written by Craig Collison, MD, pediatrics, Mount Nittany Physician Group

Is playing video games affecting your child’s health?

Over the past 30 years, video games have been a popular form of entertainment for both children and adults. But in terms of development, many parents want to know if video games are negatively affecting their child's health as they grow up. Overall, the answer is much more complicated than it seems, as there are many factors you should evaluate.

One of the most common health implications associated with playing video games is poor physical health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is recommended that children get 60 minutes or more of aerobic exercise each day, with intense activities like running at least three times a week. Muscle-strengthening activities and bone-strengthening activities are also recommended three times a week. Certain types of video games can lead to physical inactivity by encouraging hours of sitting around. As a parent, make sure you monitor how long your child plays video games and what types of video games your child plays.

A 2012 study by the University of Chester in England shows that active video games like Dance Central and Kinect Sports Boxing allow children to partake in physical activity and can increase oxygen intake, heart rate and energy expenditure. Although these types of games should not be the only pastime your child participates in, they can provide a way for children to increase their activity level as an alternative to playing video games that promote inactivity.

In addition to physical inactivity, some other negative connotations commonly associated with playing video games include vision impairment (from hours of looking at a screen) and aggression (from playing games with violent content). Studies that evaluate how video games affect a person's mental health have drawn different conclusions, but no matter what the latest thinking, you should still follow these tips to help monitor your child's use of video games:

  • Know the rating of video games your child plays
  • Discuss with your child the games they are playing and the other media they are watching
  • Do not install video game equipment in your child's bedroom
  • Set limits on how often and how long your child is allowed to play video games (if you decide your child can only play video games for a half-hour each day, then stick to your rule).

For more information on your child's health, visit mountnittany.org, or contact our Bellefonte pediatrics office at 814.355.3626 or our Boalsburg pediatrics office at 814.466.7921.

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