8 Ways Video Games Are Bad For Your Health

Chris Regal | Sept 19, 2012

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Muscle pain

Though the activity level needed to play Wii or Xbox Kinect are a step in the right direction, a majority of video games still involve sitting in front of a screen, often with poor posture.  A study published in Pediatrics International found that “excessive television-game playing” led to increased levels of muscle stiffness, especially in the shoulders.

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Here’s a study that provides some scientific evidence about video games causing seizures: according to an article in the Journal of Neurology, Neuropsychology and Psychiatry, 29 percent of patients with epilepsy suffered video-game-induced seizures.  There is no scientific evidence that video games can cause epilepsy, but stress, fatigue and hyperventilation during video games can trigger seizures in children with epilepsy.

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Measured on the Body Mass Index scale, it’s estimated that roughly one-third of Americans are obese, and this is largely blamed on bad diets and sedentary lifestyles.  A report in Journal of Adolescence  also directly linked childhood obesity and inadequate activity levels to video games.  In children, ages one to 12, “results indicated that while television use was not related to children’s weight status, video game use was.”

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Aggressive behavior

Experts have long debated whether violent video games desensitize young people to violence. Some studies have disputed this while others, indicate that young people who show more rapid desensitization to violent pictures are going to be more accepting of violence, which is dangerous to the community at large.

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Poor grades in school

Many parents suspect that kids who spend significant amounts of time playing video games may not be devoting enough time to school work.  A report in Issues in Mental Health Nursing confirmed just this: “Results revealed that time spent playing games was related … to aggression and … to school competence.”  In particular, violent games were directly related to attention problems and generally led to a greater decline in academic performance.

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Lack of vitamin D

According to a report in Pediatrics, seven out of 10 children are vitamin D deficient.  Vitamin D, of course, is commonly absorbed from exposure to sunlight.  Unfortunately, being holed up in front of video games system does not afford the same exposure to sunlight as, say, being outside.  Word to the wise: Leave your mom’s basement and go outside from time to time.

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Changes in physical appearance

Yes, video games have been associated with changes in physical appearance.  According to Pediatrics International, school children who played “excessive” amounts of video games were much more likely to develop black rings in the skin under the eyes and to suffer from a displacement of the shoulder blade, which can be caused by poor posture and muscle stiffness.

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Sleep deprivation

A report in Pediatrics International recommends that video games should be limited to less than one hour per day. But some hardcore gamers are spending three times that amount of time playing.  Along with increased gaming can come sleep deprivation, especially among young people.  Rather than reducing the amount of time spent playing, gamers often opt to lose sleep instead.

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Attention problems

A 2010 study found that kids who spend too much time watching TV or playing video games may have more trouble paying attention in school. Researchers found that children who had more than two hours of screen time per day were twice as likely to have trouble paying attention. The study, published in Pediatrics, analyzed both elementary school students and college students.

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It’s not all bad

Of course, a number of positive effects have also been linked to video games.  Some games are educational, some games dramatically improve hand-eye coordination and gaming has even been linked to improved eyesight.  For more benefits of video gaming, see Video Games: Myths vs. Facts.

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