Video Games: Moderation Is Key

Article excerpt

Concern has been growing among parents and professionals about video game playing among children and adolescents. Is video game playing good or bad for our young patients?

Research suggests the issue is complex, and the answer lies somewhere in between. For example, playing video games offers some benefits, such as improved hand-eye coordination and the potential for improved academic skills (as when "educational" games are played).

In addition, Ralph Maddi-son, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the University of Auckland (New Zealand) showed that some of the newer, more active games (for example, Dance Dance Revolution and the Nintendo Wii gaming system) have demonstrated effectiveness in increasing physical activity among youth (Pediatr. Exerc. Sci. 2007; 19:334-43).

Parents also note that video games can help their children pass the time in cars, planes, lines, and waiting rooms. This might help to decrease disruptive behavior outbursts in potentially frustrating circumstances.

However, many troubling factors have been identified as well. For example, several of the games available today contain mature story lines with objectionable visual content, and promote antisocial features such as an "added range of weapons--including the all-new grenade launcher and sawed-off shotgun" (Grand Theft Auto IV official Web site: www.rockstargames.com/th-elostanddamned/index2.html#info). Exposure to such graphic content not only might be unsuitable for youngsters, but might promote aggression and other externalizing behavior problems (Psychol. Sci. 2001;12:353-9).

In addition, the possibility of developing "video game addiction," which has recently gained increasing attention in the scientific literature, remains a significant concern.

A recent study found that 8.5% of a nationally representative sample of 1,178 youth engaged in pathological video game use.

The study, by Douglas A. Gentile, Ph.D., of Iowa State University, Ames, also found that young people aged 8-18 who engaged in "pathological gaming" were twice as likely to have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (Psychol. Sci. …