Video games: how to control the fun

Video games are very popular. Whether they’re educational, strategic or role-playing games they’re at the top of many kids’ lists! In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll have one under your tree this Christmas and it’s sure to bring a smile to your child’s face when they open it.


Video games are fun, but can they can actually be a danger to your child’s health. As a parent you should know more about those fun-filled black boxes and establish “game rules” with your child.


Children can become dependant on games if they play too much. When a child or teen plays a favorite game their brains secretes dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. In 1998, a study by the Simon Fraser Institute showed that one in four teens who played video games felt dependant on the game and were bothered by feelings of lack of control on their behavior.


Hours of sedentary fun

Someone who is dependant on video games can spend more than eight hours a day playing them. Those “hours of fun” can have negative effects on their health. One of the major problems related to sedentary activities is of course being overweight and obesity.


A Statistics Canada study shows that children between 6 and 11 years old who spend more than two hours a day in front of a TV screen, computer or video game are twice as likely to be overweight or obese. In teens, where parents have less control over the time spent playing or watching TV, 23% who spent less than 10 hours doing this type of activity were at risk; that number rises to 35% for teens who spent more than 30 hours in front of a screen.


A what tunnel?


Playing video games requires doing repetitive movements. Dr. Dominic Chalut, ER Director of the Montreal Children’s Hospital reports that many patients come to the hospital with some kind of arm pain which often turns out to be the result of spending too much time playing video games.


Injuries are numerous: Thumb and wrist pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tendonitis. Some even call it Nintendonitis! Most of the game manufacturers put warnings on their package but nobody will be reading that on December 25! However, during the holidays your child will have more time for video game ‘marathons’.


I’d rather be with my Playstation

A child who is dependent on video games might choose more often to spend time playing his favorite game instead of going out with friends or family. He might also forget about the activities that he used to enjoy. If this continues, the child could be isolated for long periods of time and start to disconnect from reality. Over the long term, his relationships will suffer too.


Game rules


Here are some tips that you should follow to keep it fun – and avoid a visit to the doctor


  • Explain to your child the negative effects of playing video games too often.
  • Establish a schedule of activities: sports, homework, video games, TV, and playing outdoors
  • Establish a limit of game time: be fair, some games last more than an hour. One and a half to two hours should be reasonable.
  • Be sure they take breaks
  • Be sure they are sitting in a proper position
  • Play with them, observe their behaviour and reactions while they play
  • Encourage them to move, run, play outdoors
  • You are an example: if you play video games, play by the same rules
  • Ask yourself questions: Is there a reason why he spends so much time playing? Is he avoiding some uncomfortable home situation?


Don’t ignore these signs


If some of these signs are evident, it is time to have a talk with your child


  • Gaining weight
  • Recurrent complaints about
    • Neck, back, wrist pain
    • Numb fingers
    • Loss of strength in arms
    • Headaches
    • Eye discomfort or pain


  • Fatigue; this could be a sign that he’s playing overnight.
  • Isolation
  • Irritation or aggressiveness when you say it’s not time to play