While going through childhood and adolescence, injuries from sports and physical activity are common. However, with the rising popularity of video games, children are now experiencing aches and pain more commonly associated with their adult counterparts who sit at desks all day. Parents can take an active role in ensuring their children stake steps to prevent pain and long-term damage associated with video gaming.
The primary health issue with video gaming that concerns chiropractors is the sedentary nature of sitting in front of a screen for hours at a time. While there are games that encourage movement (which can create injuries of their own), many games require minimal activity beyond clicking a mouse or button on a controller. Lack of movement can have damaging effects to the musculoskeletal system as joints essentially get much of their nutrition through movement. Gamers will often complain about strains of the eye, wrist, hand, arm, elbow, thumb, neck, back, and carpal tunnel syndrome after long gaming sessions. Poor posture during extended periods of gameplay can also physically alter the curvature of the spine leading to chronic, lifelong problems or pain.
Given that video gaming is only increasing in popularity, parents need to take steps to ensure their child does not suffer any ill effects. Fortunately, there are several options available to parents to combat any health-related issues from gaming. First, is moderation. Like most things in life, gaming in moderation is perfectly healthy and can be a healthy social outlet for children. Parents putting limitations on screen time will help establish good boundaries early on in childhood that will become understood once the child is a teenager. Gaming should be viewed a supplement to other activities, particularly physical, in order to offset the solitary, sedentary nature.
Another option to prevent video gaming related injury is to have the gaming environment as ergonomic as possible. Screens should be adjusted to eye-level so that necks are not strained up or down in order to see the picture. Chairs should be cushioned, have back support, and put the child in a neutral body position that does not place undue stress on muscles; strive to keep the body in alignment.
A third option is to encourage movement during gaming sessions. Simply taking periodic breaks to roll wrists, stretch legs, and rest eyes, are great ways to combat some of the sedentary effects of gaming. By encouraging frequent game breaks where the child takes their eyes off the screen, stands, stretches, moves around the room, etc. parents can help prevent injury. Movement can also be encouraged by incorporating games that require players to stand or actively move in order to play.
The final option for parents is to educate their child about the dangers of overdoing video gaming. Having an honest conversation with kids about the possible long-term effects of gaming can have a tremendous impact on helping them to adopt proper precautions. If possible, have this conversation and adopt these steps prior to introducing the game as it is much less likely that the child will moderate themselves.