Children's access to e-games has increased exponentially in recent years. Diversification of platform; tablets, handheld games consoles, and smartphones give kids opportunity for exposure almost all the time in any setting. In developed countries kids spend a shocking 4-8 hours per day using screen based electronic media. What are the risks attached to such high usage? Are there any benefits? What should parents, health and education professionals and the industry be doing about it? This article in Ergonomics explores the worrying and more positive impacts of e-games on child development. The authors put forward workable guidelines for wise and safe e-games use for kids.
Up to 50% of all children have e-games in their bedroom, for most it is a socially acceptable part of daily life. Links have been found between high e-game usage and increased BMI, depression, vision problems, sleep deprivation, poor academic achievement, musculoskeletal health issues and markers for cardio-metabolic disorders. Kids have become more sedentary and are reporting in with new afflictions such as 'Nintendo-thumb' and 'wii-itis' and they are being exposed to often violent, sexualised games inappropriate for age and stage. This paints a depressing picture for our kids. It is however not all bad news. More active e-games have been proven to enhance motor competence and positively influence learning, confidence and social integration. Used correctly they could be a tool for health education, family cohesion, fun and learning.
In the absence of government health guidelines on use of e-games, the authors recommend a series of sensible guidelines for stakeholders affected by e-games. The hope is that they will become a basis for formal public health standards for practice and use. In the US kids are recommended to have no more than 2 hours daily exposure to electronic media. In Canada they have gone a step further and banned electronic media from kid's bedrooms. This aside there is a global swathe of ignorance. This research provides a seemingly overdue set of simple, pragmatic suggestions tailored for children, parents, professionals and the industry. It is time we took a stand to protect the health and development of children and ensure that the fun and positive aspects of e-games shine through. I myself as a parent will be taking note.
- Leon Straker, Rebecca Abbott, Rachel Collins, Amity Campbell. Evidence-based guidelines for wise use of electronic games by children. Ergonomics, 2014; 57 (4): 471 DOI: 10.1080/00140139.2014.895856
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