(In case you missed part 1 about videos affecting your child’s sleep, click here)
In our first installment on video games, we talked about how your child is being psychologically affected by video games. We touched on both the good and the bad and while there is so much more out there to talk about, we want to talk about the other side effects of video gaming.
How are they affecting your child physically?
As parents, we long for healthy, happy, and active children and it often seems that video games combat us on every one of those goals. Let’s dive right into the main ways that video games affect our children physically. I will be spending time looking at eyesight, posture, and hand/eye coordination.
Let’s start with the bad. Eyesight. There is strong evidence that playing video games for an extended amount of time can cause a variety of problems ranging from blurry vision to headaches and increased eye irritation. Computer Vision Syndrome or CVS (sometimes called digital eye strain) can occur after an extended amount of time spent behind a screen, whether on your phone or your computer. The most common CVS symptoms include eyestrain, headaches, dry eyes, and in some cases shoulder and neck pain. The best way to combat these is to simply stop using your device and change your posture and your focus onto something further away.
It should be noted that these symptoms only really manifest after excessive time playing video games. A half hour or so every few days isn’t going to have the same effect as three hours daily.
The next negative side effect of over-gaming deals with posture. Perhaps the most predictable side effect of all, poor posture while gaming can lead to real issues with back and neck pain. A California-based physical therapy clinic found that after even just five minutes of video-gaming, children’s posture slouched into a rolled, rounded curve with shoulders slumped and in with a forward lean. The study, which tested the posture of forty-five children, found that kids in chairs had slightly better posture than children gaming from the floor; the result of a more direct, head-on position.
Over time, this habit of poor gaming posture can become the position of least resistance. It starts to feel more natural to be in that posture than an upright one. While still young, your child’s posture is extremely easy to correct but as they get older, poor posture can lead to chiropractor visits and lower back and neck pain.
The last topic that I want to spend time discussing is hand/eye coordination. For all the negatives that are associated with gaming and video games, hand/eye coordination rises to the top as perhaps the best argument in support of video gaming (if such an argument can be made).
An experiment conducted by University of Toronto graduate students matched eighteen regular gamers up against eighteen non-gamers in a test of fine motor skills that required advanced hand/eye coordination. While both groups started at about the same level of performance, the group of gamers quickly drew ahead as being significantly better at hand/eye coordination.
Another study conducted in 2007 by Dr. James Rosser Jr. and his colleagues found extraordinary results as it relates to surgeons performing laparoscopic surgeries. He found that surgeons who played more than three hours of video games weekly made 37% fewer errors and were 27% faster at completing their laparoscopic surgeries. It is undeniable that video games can in some instances have drastic beneficial results regarding hand/eye coordination.
So what are we supposed to make of all this information? Are video games good or bad for my kid. The answer is- yes. They are good and bad. Like with all things you have to weigh the benefits against the drawbacks. In our final installment in this series on video games, we will be looking at all the information and answering some common questions that parents have about video games.
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