In 2011, a 20-year-old man from the U.K. died from a blood clot after spending 12-hour sessions on his Xbox. His father told “The Sun” newspaper, “He lived for his Xbox. I never dreamed he was in any danger.” The gamer community in America had a near-miss in Ohio in 2012, when a 15-year-old boy collapsed after playing “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” for up to five days straight. He recovered after suffering major dehydration, but it was a close run thing. Players who delve too deeply into their electronic worlds can face various health risks, ranging from deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots, to severe dehydration. While these are extreme cases, they are a reminder that sitting at a computer or console for days, whether it’s for “World of Warcraft” or for work, isn’t healthy for anyone. But psychologists who study video games and kids say parents needn’t worry about the amount of time spent gaming, unless screen time starts to affect school, health or social life. That said, researchers remain concerned about the effects of violent content in video games, which have been linked by many studies to aggressive behaviour. Too much screen time? These days, screens of one kind or another occupy youth for 50 hours a week. That’s a full-time job plus 10 hours of overtime, and that’s just the average! While some kids can shoot ’em up for hours, for others, too much time gaming leads to poor school performance. Recent studies have finally linked the cause and effect, showing that gaming displaces after-school academic activities such as homework and reading. Problems in school are relatively easy for parents to fix: Limit screen time — of course, if you can get the controller out of his or her hands. The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours per day in front of any electronics. Violent games and aggression What’s harder to control is violent content in video games. More than 90 percent of games rated as appropriate for children 10 years or older contained violence, including games rated “E” for everyone Now most researchers will agree that video games can help as well as harm. For example, educational games boost learning, and action games can improve vision and spatial skills. Video games have also been used successfully to teach children self-care skills for asthma and diabetes. And then there’s the primary reason people play video games: They’re relaxing. The flickering screen and varying sound levels trigger a primitive brain response. “One of the reasons I think we find television and video games so relaxing is they provide the attention for you. It forces you to orient to the media. You don’t have to work to pay attention like you do in [a] classroom lecture,” said Gentile. But a preponderance of evidence links violent video games to an increase in aggressive behaviour in teens. The behaviour wasn’t violent crime, like school shootings, but small yet hurtful offenses like teasing, name-calling, rumour-spreading and fist fights The most interesting part of computer games is the fact that no research suggests video games have a different effect than TV or movies. It has empirically never been shown that any media is supposed to engage us emotionally, and video games are a form of media, a form of art even. The trick is to enjoy the gaming experience, but to limit your time. There’s a vast world outside your front door, go out and play in reality.
Video Games: How Much Is Too Much?