We, like most campers’ parents, remember the good old days shooting 8-bit ducks from the sky, helping Mario save Princess Peach, and blowing into cartridges with the hopes of making them work.
Today, over 90% of children play some form of video game. Countless hours every day are spent furiously tapping their phone or tablet, clicking away on the computer, or yelling at the TV screen courtesy of Nintendo, PlayStation or Xbox. In 2016, between phones, computers, tablets and TVs, the average child is exposed to screens for at least 50 hours a week!
How worried should I be?
In extreme cases, endless video game sessions have proved to pose certain health risks. Reports like the 15-year old boy from Columbus who passed out after playing Call of Duty for 4 days straight and the Taiwanese teenager who was found dead after sitting for a 40-hour gaming session in an Internet cafe are concrete proof. These tragic events are rare, but they serve as a reminder that we must control the amount of video game content our kids consume!
More common, less intense risks are carpal tunnel syndrome, eyesight strain, and a combination of inflammation, achiness, soreness, weakness and tingling of the upper extremities. With the constant jamming and clicking, your child’s joints are under a ton of stress!
How do we intervene?
Here are a few steps parents can take to ensure healthy video gaming for their children!
Choosing appropriate content
Many games can contain extreme violence, lewd language and mature themes. When you’re purchasing games for your child, check the ESRB rating on the cover; these ratings are meant to ensure you’re giving your child appropriate content for their age.
Make it a 2-player game!
If you want to know what your child is being exposed to every day (or to control how long they’re playing for), pick up a controller and get into the game! It’s an effective way to reasonably suggest another activity after they’ve played for a while, plus it’s a great way to socialize with your child in a world that they understand and enjoy.
Choosing the right games
There are certain games that are designed to develop cognitive function and get your child moving. Puzzle games like the Legend of Zelda offer great challenges to get your children thinking creatively. The Xbox Kinect and Nintendo Wii U utilize motion tracking technology are designed to motivate your child to stay active while playing. We suggest any of the Wii Sports or Just Dance titles for great fun!
Less screen time
Sometimes this is easier said than done. Once a child gets into a video game, sometimes there’s no end in sight (even on Taco night!). With only 9% of 5- to 17-year-olds in Canada meeting the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Children and Youth target of 60 minutes of daily activity, we need to find fun and engaging screenless activities that interest them just the same! Which leads us to our next point…
Enroll your child in a Toronto summer day camp
During the summer, children are more prone to logging several hours into their video game consoles. One great way to pull them away from the screen is to get them involved in a summer day camp with diverse indoor and outdoor activities!
With Adventure Valley’s Choose Your Own Adventure program, your child can participate in many different activities tailored to their unique interests (sports, art, music, you name it!). We also offer a bevy of specialty camps like golf, horseback riding and watersports for your children to try out!
A little bit of game and screen time each day isn’t harmful, but we can use these tactics to ensure it doesn’t get out of hand for our kids! Show them the benefits of the outdoors that we appreciate so much, and they will surely thank you later. 🙂