Video game addiction

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Video games can be an excellent source of entertainment and camaraderie. However, at what point are kids playing too much? Tyler Mickelson sat down with Dr. Alicia Arnold to find out the answer.

If you're 11, 12 or 13 years-old… is it bad to sit in front of the television for 4 hours/night after school? If so, why?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, "Those are important years of a child's mental, emotional, and physical development, so that is time that is not spent bonding making new friends or bonding with family, not reading or learning, and not being active with sports. Plus too much gaming itself can lead to a number of direct problems as well."

Let's start with physical effects. How bad is it to sit… and not move… for about 50 hours per week?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, "Gaming for long periods of time can lead to pain the neck, back , wrist, or hand. It can lead to repetitive stress injuries, and some have even come up with names for the pain like Nintendinitis or Playstation thumb. Vision problems can occur as well causing eye strain and fatigue which can lead to headaches or dizziness. And of course sitting for too long and not being active can be bad for you. Many studies have shown a link between obesity with those that spend too much time gaming or watching TV."

Mentally… staring at the same thing for hours by yourself… can that cause harm?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, "The concern has been there for a long time that playing violent video games can lead to aggressive behavior, especially in boys. There's also some studies that suggest that girls have an increased risk of depression with too much gaming. The literature is somewhat mixed out there but still important for parents to keep in mind. Also too much gaming may lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Some games like Fortnite do at least can have a component of collaborative play and teamwork."

In terms of development… how detrimental can THIS MUCH time on a video game be?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, "We're just starting to learn about the effects of not only gaming but all this screen time that children and teens are being exposed to. Brain development continues into your 20s, and there are some early studies that suggest that too much screen time may lead to actual physical changes in the developing brain."

At what point should parents be concerned?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, "If they notice changes in mood, social isolation, or decline in grades. Those are signs that gaming could be a problem. A few months ago, we talked about how the World Health Organization now includes "gaming disorder" in its latest version of the International Classification of Diseases, so this is a real problem that should be taken seriously."