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Kids and Video Gaming: What Are the Risks?

Kids and Video Gaming: What Are the Risks?

Research reveals surprising health risks associated video gaming.

Did the Boston Red Sox ace pitcher David Price miss a start against the NY Yankees last year because of a video game? That idea was mentioned by a news station in Boston that reported on the addictive properties of one of the world’s most popular video games.

It’s not a secret that too much screen time for children can arrest cognitive and emotional development. Now there’s evidence that video gaming presents additional health hazards.

Many children who overdo video gaming start displaying addictive behavior. Psychologists point out that for many kids, gaming stimulates secretion of the neurotransmitter dopamine. And for those kids, once gaming stops the brain craves more dopamine. This can trigger negativity and anger and send a kid into withdrawal mode.

There are physical repercussions, too. One pediatrician at Tufts Medical Center says children these days are being treated for carpal tunnel syndrome and sedentary obesity. It’s estimated that almost 14 percent of two- to five-year-olds and 18 percent of six- to 11-year-olds are obese. One gaming website even has a forum that addresses game-playing-related anxiety and hypertension—something children are not immune to.

So, what should parents do? There’s nothing inherently wrong with video gaming. The right dose at the right age can be educational and entertaining—and even build hand-eye coordination. However, it’s smart to limit your children’s total screen time to two hours or less a day (and no gaming for kids under 12). Also, make sure your kids (and you) play by your rules.

Medically reviewed in November 2019.

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