How to keep video gaming healthy

Video Game Controller

Dr. Clem Bottino from Children’s Hospital Boston shares tips about how his family stays healthy while playing video games.

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy playing video games. Video games challenge our brain’s ability to solve problems and think quickly. They also involve overcoming obstacles, like completing a quest or winning a match which make us feel good.

1. Set limits:

  • Set a family policy for how many hours are allowed on school days and weekends for video games. In our house, the policy is max 1 hour on school nights (Sunday through Thursday) and 2 hours on weekends and holidays. Video games are fun, but school and getting a good night sleep are top priority.

2. Be consistent:

  • Everyone needs to agree to the rules and stick to the limits you’ve set.

3. Don’t eat while playing:

  • When you’re playing video games, your mind is working fast but your body slows down. Wait until mealtime to eat.

4. Drink water:

  • Again, your mind is moving fast but your body isn’t. Avoid the extra calories from sugary drinks and don’t drink juice, soda, or sports drinks while gaming.

5. Stop playing at least 1 hour before going to bed:

  • Video games can be very intense for your brain, and your mind should be calm and peaceful before going to sleep. Turning off your game at least 1 hour before bedtime can help maximize restful sleep.

6. Balance your gaming with physical activity:

  • I recommend 1 hour of physical activity – playing outside, basketball, walking, swimming; any moving activity – for each hour spent playing video games.

7. Consider active gaming:

  • Research shows that active video games (video games where you move your arms or legs, as opposed to traditional thumb-stick controller games) can help increase physical activity levels in children and adults. Xbox Kinect, Nintendo Wii, and Playstation Move offer these kinds of games, and games that get your lower body moving will burn the most calories.

8. Game in a central location:

  • In our home, the video game console is in the main family room. This keeps everyone honest about how much time is spent playing, as well as the appropriateness of the video game content being played.

9. Set rules about appropriate content:

  • Many video games contain mature or graphic content, which may not be appropriate for young children. Many video games also have a rating system which will indicate if the game has mature or age-appropriate content.

10. Relax:

  • Losing a video game can be really frustrating, but it’s not ok to throw the controller or curse.  If you find yourself yelling or cursing at the game, this is a sign that you should take a break.

11. Watch your posture:

  • Remember to sit up straight, relax your shoulders and not slump forward. Sitting slouched over for a long period of time can cause neck and back discomfort and may contribute to headaches.

12. Appropriate conversation:

  • Many multi-player games allow players to talk over the microphone system. Parents and players, you should be aware that for most games you have the option to mute other players if they are saying things that are inappropriate.

What are your family’s favorite active video games?

How do you place limits and keep your family healthy while gaming? Leave your comments below!

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