What do your kids do while they’re at home?  Of course they eat and sleep, but what do they do in the time that is in between?  I have never been a big fan of television or video games.  Growing up I would turn the television off when my brother and sister were watching cartoons and tell them they have watched enough.  (I was the oldest and looking back I think I had some confusion on my role as a sister and not a mother…haha.)  But I came ingrained with this desire to spend my time doing other things.  Now that I am a mom, I have definitely resorted to cartoons in times of need.  I will never judge a parent for letting their kids watch television or play video games, and I have seen these used as effective rewards for behavior.  That said, I believe these things need to be used in moderation and that actively PLAYING and using your imagination is so much better and more rewarding. These views are reinforced in me now that I have read the recent post on the Arm Chair Empire about gaming and heatlh.

I really enjoyed this article about the brains of children who play large amounts of video games, and thought it would be good to share especially when video games are probably at the top of most Christmas lists.  Studies have found that the brains of teen video gamers look similar to those of an addict.  These discoveries were made by studying the “rewards center”:

The reward center, focused around a brain region called the ventral striatum, releases “feel good” chemicals when we do something that helps us survive and reproduce — like eating or mating. Sometimes, as is the case with addiction, these brain regions become overactive in response to non-useful stimuli, like cocaine, alcohol, excessive sex or excessive gambling.

The participants in the study did not reach the levels of addicts but their brains did show overactive rewards centers.  In the study, the teens that played over 9 hours a week were considered “frequent gamers” and the those who played under 9 hours a week considered “infrequent gamers.”  The frequent gamers had a much larger reward center.  “Problems with this area have been correlated to disorders such as schizophrenia, addiction and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.”

Frequent gamers were also found to be faster at making decisions and their brains showed more activity in the rewards center when they lost.

“This indicates that losing money is somehow rewarding for frequent gamers,” Kühn told LiveScience. “This could be the neural basis of a phenomenon called ‘loss chasing,’ which is known from pathological gambling. It describes the phenomenon that pathological gamblers keep on playing even when they lose a lot of money.”

I found these findings extremely interesting and I recommend reading this article and deciding for yourself what is a good amount of time for your kids to be playing video games.  It definitely motivated me to help my kids find other things to do.  It’s hardwork for moms to get their kids playing and being active sometimes, but it’s worth it!  If you’re drawing a blank on what your kids can do….that’s why we’re here!

By sean dreilinger