Experts say video games can actually have health benefits

Gaming can be good for brain, experts say

DETROIT – Parents have told children for years that they'll lose their eyesight and become couch potatoes if they keep playing video games, but experts say video games can actually be good for people.

Sometimes video games get a bad rap. There are downsides, but gaming can be good for the brain.

"It has to be the right kind of game, and under the right circumstances," Dr. Emily DeAyala said.

DeAyala said there are benefits to video games if the gaming activity is kept under control.

"Like anything, it can kind of suck you in," DeAyala said. "Before you realize, hours have gone by."

Time and convenience are issues for many families, and it can be tempting for busy parents to use game consoles as caretakers.

But there's no need to make children abandon video games. It's all about which games they choose.

Dr. Stacy Leatherwood, a pediatrician at Henry Ford Hospital, helped develop a game that parents should encourage children to play.

"We came up with a fun way that we can kind of introduce healthy habits," Leatherwood said. "We know that a lot of kids play video games and this is just another game that they can play. But while they're playing they're going to learn some healthy information."

The game is called 5-2-1-0.

"Five fruits and vegetables a day, two hours or less of recreational screen time, one hour or more of physical activity and zero sweetened drinks," Leatherwood said.

Older children might want a little more action in their video games, and there are health benefits in those, such as developing analytic skills, eye-hand coordination and decision-making.

Doctors have discovered that video games, if chosen carefully, can offer medical benefits, even diagnosing medical conditions such as concussions.

"It's a digital prescription, which might sound funny, but it works," said Karen Snyder, a professor of digital media. "They actually have games that are in the works right now that will be classified as digital prescriptions."

Parents will have a hard time avoiding video games with their children, so it's important to point them in the right direction.

"Parents are telling us they're asking for more water and they're asking about vegetables and that sort of thing," Leatherwood said. "We've also had kids that have really enjoyed spending that time with their parents. One of our games is a more interactive game. It's called Quality Time. It's the two games, so two hours less of recreational screen time."

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