Anyone raising children in 21st century America has likely engaged in a running battle to limit the amount of time spent playing video games.
Many times the video game overlords, it would seem, prevent our children from even registering our existence as they blankly stare at the monitor or television like mini-zombies hot on the trail of fresh brains. Does the classic, and all too common, rendition of “back in my day we played outside from sun-up to sun-down” seem to go in one ear and out the other when addressing your child?
And, while the time our kids spend playing video games is a legitimate concern, did you know that fifty-nine percent of all Americans play video games? According to the Entertainment Software Association, forty-eight percent of those who play video games are women while the average gamer is thirty-one years old. In fact, the global video game industry reportedly earned approximately sixty-seven billion dollars in 2013 and is projected to earn up to eighty-two billion by 2017. So, it appears that our children aren’t the only ones we need to worry about when it comes to the potential health consequences of playing video games.
While becoming a video game junky surely doesn’t make for a healthy lifestyle or replace the need to get up and be active – playing video games CAN help maintain overall health for both children and adults if you understand which games to play and when to play them.
Professor Isabela Granic, of Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands, has written extensively about research into possible benefits of playing video games to better understand the impact these games may have on child and adolescent development. Professor Granic believes research demonstrates that video game play may actually strengthen a range of cognitive skills including spatial navigation, reasoning, memory and perception.
In addition to improving cognitive skills and providing other mental health benefits, gaming systems such as the Nintendo Wii may actually provide physical health benefits. Wii Fit, for example, is designed to promote physical activity by playing interactive exercise games. The game has over 40 different exercise activities that incorporate strength training, balance training, aerobics, and yoga. These types of exercise training games may help reduce fatigue and improve overall physical fitness. It’s important to remember, though, you may want to avoid having your child participate in physically active games right before bedtime.
In an educational setting, video games may provide the visual patterns, speed and storyline that can better assist in a child’s basic skills development. Some of the therapeutic benefits outlined by researchers include improved language skills, mathematics and reading skills, and social skills. Research appears to show that language skills in children facilitated by video game play include discussing and sharing, following directions and giving directions, answering questions, and having a discussion topic with visual aides to share with others. Also, gaming may help improve basic math skills in children as they learn to interact with score counters and other point generating schemes within the games. Basic reading skills may also be enhanced through character dialogue printed on the screen as game play ensues.
While evidence suggests that you can play video games and also maintain a healthy lifestyle, remember, even playing the right types of video games in moderation cannot alone ensure your family’s overall health. So, be sure to actually apply that old adage and try exploring the great outdoors – even if not from sun-up to sun-down.
In addition to monitoring your video game play, you may wish to seek additional information about maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle by consulting your doctor. Don’t have time to schedule an appointment? That’s no problem when you rely on the convenience of MeMD for your care!