Why Video Games Aren't As Bad For Kids As You Think


New Study Suggests Kids Should Put Down The Remote And Pick Up The Controller

Despite the current trend to fret about the effects of social media on our youth, it seems like age-old television anxiety is still reigning supreme as the foremost technology we should be afraid of. A recent study presented by the American College of Cardiology showed that children who regularly watch TV are faring far worse than their counterparts who prefer video and computer games.

Part of Project Healthy Schools, the study observed 1,003 sixth graders in Southeastern Michigan. Upon collecting information on their weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate recovery after exercise, the children were given questionnaires that inquired about frequency of screen time, snacking habits, and food and beverage preferences. The kids were then sifted into three main categories: low screen time, high TV time, and high computer/video game time.

Unsurprisingly, kids who spent more time in front of screens in general snacked more frequently and chose unhealthier foods. Those whose screen of choice was TV, however, were more likely to prefer foods and beverages with higher fat, sugar, and salt than those who played video and computer games. They also tended to have higher BMIs, elevated systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and slower recovery heart rates out of the three categories.

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Gamers Versus Couch Potatoes

Where do avid TV watchers and video gamers differ? "Our hypothesis is that when kids are watching TV, they're going to be accessing commercials that are more likely to be food related," associate professor of medicine at the University of Michigan Health System, Dr. Elizabeth Jackson, told NPR. Not only are kids' TV shows flooded with advertisements for unhealthy snack choices, they also demand little from their viewers as far as active response is concerned. While video games enlist your full attention in the form of manual engagement, TV watchers have all hands free for mindless eating.

Previous research has shown that the more screen time and media children consume, the more likely they are to be obese. The type of screen time and media, however, was yet to be differentiated—that is, until now. Since the amount of activities without any kind of screen involvement is dwindling, picking apart the different types of media is important to understanding how technology affects our children.

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What Kind Of Screen Time Is Best?

Still, the less time spent on any kind of screen, the better. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns against more than one to two hours of screen time a day. The average American child, however, spends at least seven hours a day in front of a screen. With this in mind, is there even a value in encouraging your kids to play video games over watching TV? Experts suggest more research is needed to make any sound judgments. "Active sedentary entertainment—even if it’s just blowing up zombies—has to be better than passive entertainment just in general mental health terms," said Motherboard editor, Michael Byrne. "But if it can prove to be an advantage physiologically as well, maybe there’s a real point to be made about ditching the cable box for an xBox."

Date of original publication:
Updated on: November 10, 2015

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