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Are Video Games Good for Your Health?

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Short Attention Span

Could playing video games be giving your child attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD)? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen viewing time to two hours per day. Researchers from Iowa State University found that children who exceeded this recommended limit were 1.5 to 2 times more likely to have attention problems than those who did not. Two of the study's authors concluded that, based on the findings, TV and video games may be a contributing factor to ADHD in children.

Academic Performance

Limiting Xbox time may help your kids bring home more A's. Researchers at Denison University in Ohio conducted a study showing that young boys whose families owned game consoles scored significantly lower on intelligence, reading and writing tests. The study's authors concluded, "Altogether, our findings suggest that video-game ownership may impair academic achievement for some boys in a manner that has real-world significance."

 


Loss of Sleep

If you've ever played a hardcore action video game, you've likely felt the rush of adrenaline that comes with a challenging mission, or a spectacularly executed kill. Does all this excitement before bed keep you up at night? Not really. A study by Flinders University Sleep Laboratory done on 14-18 year-old boys found that there was only about a four minute increase in the time it took to fall asleep after playing an action video game versus watching a slow-paced documentary.


Violence and Aggression

Stealing cars and beating people up in a game won't make you want to do it in real life, will it?
Research published by the American Psychological Association looked at the findings of 381 different studies involving 130,294 participants and reported that evidence suggests exposure to violent video games causes a high risk for increased aggression and for decreased empathy and prosocial behavior.

On the other hand, a study published in Computers in Human Behavior, a scholarly journal, looked at young adults from different cultures - 232 Mexican-Americans, 150 English and 455 Croatian - and tested them on openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, trait aggression, media violence exposure, tendency towards violent crime and depression. At first, exposure to violence in video games and television seemed to point to increased tendency towards violent crime in Mexican-Americans, but once personality traits were taken into account, the correlation disappeared. Highlights from the research state, "Theories linking violent media with violent acts are likely mistaken."

For now, studies on the link between gaming and health tend to contradict each other, so until more conclusive research comes out, there's not much use either exalting or demonizing video games. Dr. Green gives good advice: "...like everything else in life, they should be played in moderation, with plenty of time for other good things!"

 

 

Harking from the Philippines, Eirish is a health writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area

 

Published on April 12, 2011

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