Video Games and Your Kids: A Review

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A review of Video Games & Your Kids – How Parents Stay in Control by Hilarie Cash, PhD and Kim McDaniel, MA

Like many parents, I’m concerned about my kids not spending too much time in front of a screen. Whether that screen is television, computer, or video games matters little. One reason for this is because I have seen how screen time interferes with other, more important activities. Activities like reading, spending time with family, helping around the house, even daydreaming.

It seems that boys in particular have a hard time accepting limits around video gaming and computer time. Since I have two sons, I didn’t want any part of the constant fighting over the video game system between themselves and refusing to accept boundaries and limits that I see in other families. I’ve also observed kids missing a lot of sleep and even social interaction with peers because of spending too much in an artificial world, with detrimental effects both short and long term.

Video Games and Your Kids gathers much of the current research, science and data about why parents should be concerned about their kids spending excessive time playing video (and computer) games. Rather than being the greatest invention since the baby wipe, video games aren’t always just harmless fun.

For one, video games are highly addictive. In fact they are designed to be so – marketers call it the “sticky factor”. The longer the child plays, the better in their estimation. Another reason they are addictive is because of the fast moving images on the screen and the way they stimulate the brain. This sounds like a benefit but it is not. It leads to the child having difficulty with other types of learning – the kind that comes from listening and discussing and solving problems that take more time.

Secondly, video games have negative effects on the body and the brain – not only do video games contribute to a sedentary lifestyle (possibly contributing to childhood obesity) but they also retrain the brain and the way it thinks. This has deleterious effects on how a child learns and their ability to learn outside the game.

Parents sometimes believe that video and computer games are “educational” but the evidence does not support that assessment. In fact, some studies point to the opposite effect and have shown a correlation between computer games and decreased vocabulary.

Video games can also lead to a reduced attention span and reduced ability to deal appropriately in social situations. Video games can also lead to eye and vision problems, headaches, sleeping difficulties, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Kids who spend a lot of time gaming even develop poor posture and shallow breathing.

Interestingly, the authors aren’t totally opposed to video games but remind parents that they must be very careful about their use. This book is helpful to a parent as it gives us research to back up those gut feelings we have. Allowing a child to have unrestricted access to video games is a bad thing. It also gives you some pointers from these experts on how to spot video game addiction and how to get help for your child – and even yourself or a spouse if you are the ones with a problem.

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