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By Chelsea Karnash
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The story of an Ohio teen who played video games for four days straight then was hospitalized for dehydration is causing concern for some parents.
According to WCMH-TV, the boy, 15-year-old Tyler Rigsby, spent at least four days in his room while playing Xbox’s Modern Warfare 3. His mother, Jessie Rawlins, says he emerged only for snacks and a quick shower during that time period.
Tyler’s marathon gaming session finally came to an end Tuesday morning, WCMH-TV reports, after which he collapsed and was taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with severe dehydration.
Though Tyler is expected to be okay—and will no longer be playing his Xbox, which was taken away by his mother—the incident has many concerned about the effects of extensive gaming.
So, what should parents be aware of when allowing their kids to play electronic games? And just how common are gaming-related health issues?
While Tyler’s case might seem extreme, one local physician doesn’t find it entirely surprising.
Dr. Jennifer Caudle, a family physician and assistant professor at UMDNJ-SOM, says she often asks her patients how many hours a day they are spending with electronics such as computers, smartphones and video games. She calls the feedback “staggering,” and says she is seeing more and more children who are plugged into their electronics from the time they come home from school until the time they go to bed—and often even longer.
And while dehydration is one health issue that could arise from too much “electronics time,” as Dr. Caudle calls it, she also sees something else more often: hand injuries. She cautions that any repetitive motion—typing, texting, gaming—can cause health issues such as carpal tunnel and tendonitis. In those cases, Dr. Caudle says, the patients affected were actually forced to quit typing or texting entirely.
Still, the more worrisome effects of too much time spent with electronics are psychological. Dr. Caudles says that excessive time spent gaming can result in social isolation and sleep deprivation, which in turn leads to poor performance in school, distraction and irritability—among other things.
Parents must set parameters when it comes to electronics, Dr. Caudle says, and kids need to follow them. She also urges parents to set time limits on gaming or computer usage and to encourage “shut-off time” from all electronic devices.
Finally, Dr. Caudle says, don’t ignore your basic human needs (sleeping, eating, drinking) while gaming. It may seem like common sense, but it’s something that many kids—and their parents—might need reminding.