Video games are fun. Just ask the millions of kids who play them. They also have some positive benefits. Educational games help kids learn, and newer gaming systems make kids stand up and move.
But before you grant your kids unlimited access to their favorite video heroes and villains, weigh the downside many doctors cite. Video games can take up too much of your kids' time. They may keep your kids from schoolwork and isolate them from family and friends. They can fuel obesity by limiting physical activity. They can hurt kids' wrists and hands. And violent video games may erode your kids' self-control.
The problems that go with excessive video gaming seem so pervasive that the American Medical Association has called for more research on the impact of video games and Web use on kids' social and mental development. In the meantime, a lot of experts and researchers warn parents to take care.
"The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is concerned about the amount of time many kids spend playing video games," says Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, M.D., a member of the AAP's Council on Media. "Video games can preoccupy their lives and make them miss out on many other positive opportunities."
Recent studies echo doctors' concerns. For example, research found kids who played video games spent 30 percent less time reading and 40 percent less time on homework. Teen boys who played video games alone spent less time doing things with their parents and friends.
Other studies looking at violent video games found teens who play them had more brain activity in an area linked with emotional response. They also had less activity in the part of the brain that handles planning, control, and other high-level jobs.
Experts say you don't have to ban video games to keep kids healthy and safe. The key is moderation.
"Many kids spend more time in front of 'screens' than they do any other activity but sleeping," Dr. Clarke-Pearson says. "The AAP recommends that kids have no more than one to two hours of screen time a day."
© 2013 Main Line Health