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Mayo Clinic Q and A: Children and video games

Cynthia Weiss, Mayo Clinic News Network on

Published in Health & Fitness

• Less time for play.

• Eye strain.

• Neck and back problems.

• Anxiety.

• Depression.

• Difficulties with work or school.

 

Many people have cried, laughed or been startled while watching a movie. This is because their brains process and react to the sensory input as if it were happening to them. This same type of engagement is possible when a person plays a video game.

While gaming, a gamer's brain is processing the scenario as if it were real. If the game depicts a dangerous or violent situation, the gamers' bodies react accordingly. Their fight-or-flight response to that perceived danger is triggered by exposure to intense stimulation and violence in the game. Excessive video game use can lead to the brain being revved up in a constant state of hyperarousal.

Hyperarousal looks different for each person, and it can include difficulties with paying attention, managing emotions, controlling impulses, following directions and tolerating frustration. Some adults or children struggle with expressing compassion and creativity, and they have a decreased interest in learning. This can lead to a lack of empathy for others, which can lead to violence. Also, kids who rely on screens and social media to interact with others typically feel lonelier than kids who interact in person.

Chronic hyperarousal can have physical symptoms, as well, such as decreased immune function, irritability, jittery feelings, depression, and unstable blood sugar levels. In children, some can develop cravings for sweets while playing video games. Combined with the sedentary nature of gaming, children's diet and weight can be negatively affected, as well. Sometimes children will even avoid stopping the game to go to the restroom, which can lead to hygiene issues.

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