Are Video Games Bad for You?
Playing the popular game Fortnite© involves a Battle Royale on the screen, but it can also lead to battles at home. Let’s parachute in and consider five ways that video games can hurt, or help, your health.
- Gaming can be addictive. The goal of many video games is to be the last character standing. The adrenaline rush of dominating others and building a horde of goodies can be very rewarding for the brain. Just like drugs and alcohol, gaming can lead to overuse or addiction. How much is too much? The number of hours played per day is less important than the gamer’s ability and willingness to step away when necessary. If gaming interferes with schoolwork, jobs and friendships, it’s probably time to unplug.
- Gaming can lead to relationship problems. On the screen, you might be working with a squad. But what about your off-screen squad? Those who spend too much time among the Tilted Towers or on virtual battlefields wind up neglecting their loved ones, sometimes with devastating consequences. In fact, one of the largest processors of divorce requests in the United Kingdom has reported that Fortnite was mentioned as a cause of up to five percent of divorces there.
- Gaming may reduce time spent on physical activity. Your thumbs may be getting a good workout while playing video games, but the rest of your body needs to be active, too. Growing children are building muscle and bones. Adults need 225 minutes of exercise weekly, according to the American Heart Association. If there’s not enough time to exercise during the week, but always time for video games, it may be time to rethink priorities.
- Gaming can enhance creativity. There is a common image of people who play video games as sitting and staring mindlessly at the screen. They may not be finger-painting or molding clay, but according to a study at Michigan State University, both boys and girls who play video games tend to be more creative.
- Gaming can enhance social skills…but beware. Those who play video games, whether they play together in squads or alone, have the opportunity to socialize in specific ways with fellow players, both on- and off-screen, and video game play is associated with higher functioning in schools and better social skills. However, Fortnite and other games also have live chat features that can expose kids to negative socialization and allow them to be victimized by strangers over the internet.
Bottom line? Moderation is key. If you think you or your child is spending too much time in the virtual world, talk to a professional, says Jeffrey Johnson, DO, Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group board-certified specialist in addiction medicine. Consider starting with a school counselor, or seek a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in adolescents. Review tips on helping your kids unplug.
©2018 Fortnite is a trademark of Epic Games, Inc.