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How to create a healthy gaming space for kids

Whether playing games in person or virtually over the internet, the benefits of socialising and learning through play are multiple.


The popularity of gaming is such that seasoned gamers are often seen creating attractive gaming spaces and investing in the right furniture like gaming chairs and desks, fitted wardrobes to hide gaming accessories and the latest in coloured LED lights to illuminate their space. These spaces are sleek, minimalistic and kept up to date with the latest technology.


There is a lot to learn from professional gamers when designing a gaming space. In this article, we'll look at the benefits and drawbacks of gaming using computers, tablets and gaming consoles and the best strategies to create a healthy gaming space that your kids can enjoy as they grow.


Whether your child is a seasoned gamer or is only just starting to utilise technology to engage in online gaming here are the main benefits and drawbacks to consider and the action to take to create a healthy environment in which to enjoy this activity.


sharps fitted wardrobes

Image credit: Sharps


Why is gaming important to our children?


Let's take a step back to look at the bigger picture. Many parents - myself included - find themselves wondering if online gaming is a healthy way of socialising, making friends and developing good habits. After all, we did not grow up playing in the virtual world, but in backyards and streets and sports clubs... So surely what worked for us should work for our children too?


The statistics tells us that there are over 3.2 billion - yes billion! - gamers worldwide, with over 700 million gamers in Europe alone so your child is definitely not alone in their preference to play virtually. So take a deep breath and process reality.


With the pace of life becoming increasingly faster, online gaming - whether on a smartphone, tablet or in front of your TV - is becoming the norm for several reasons:


  • It is a form of making new friends out of school who share similar hobbies

  • It is a way to learn new skills - from strategy to coding to developing artistic creativity

  • Online gaming can be used to unwind and relax after a long day at school

  • It can be a precursor to developing a love for computer science

  • Or simply, it is a form of entertainment and getting away

  • Importantly, online gaming can be equally enjoyed by boys and girls.


mental health and online gaming

Why are parents concerned about excessive gaming?


It is widely recognised that any habit, when taken to extremes, can have an impact on you. If you are a parent of a child that makes gaming part of their daily routine, then you already understand the impact that excessive gaming can have on them. Let's have a look at the warning signs.


Impact to eye health


Just like adults who spend hours at their desk working on a computer with no regular breaks, teenagers and kids of younger age can experience eye strain which is only going to increase if lighting in the room is bad.


The white light that we see coming from smartphones and computers (for example when working on a Word processor), contains a significant amount of blue light that can potentially subject the eye to increased energy levels. The same light is emitted by tablets and TVs.


Extended exposure to blue light can impact vision and accelerate eye aging. The results: eye strain, characterized by symptoms such as eye soreness, irritation, and trouble focusing. This can further lead to dry eyes and eventually harm retinal cells, potentially leading to vision issues and the need to use glasses.


Impact to body health from gaming


Parents are right to be concerned about the possible side effects of excessive gaming:


  • One of the most common concerns is the sedentary nature of gaming, which can lead to a lack of physical activity and contribute to issues such as obesity, muscle stiffness, and poor posture from the prolonged periods of sitting in front of a screen.


  • When limits to gaming are not introduced, gaming during night time can disrupt sleep patterns, as the blue light emitted from screens can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. This can result in poor quality sleep, leading to fatigue and decreased cognitive function during the day.


  • The repetitive motions involved in gaming, such as clicking a mouse or pressing buttons on a controller, can lead to conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome or other repetitive strain injuries. These issues can cause pain, numbness, or tingling in the hands and wrists, affecting not only gaming performance but also daily activities.

Impact to mental health


Understanding how gaming interacts with mental wellbeing is important - after all gamers expect their online experience to be positive and for online communities to feel safe. However, some online interactions can be upsetting as there is little filtering in what can be written in chat functions.


In addition, this independent study by the mental Health Foundation reported on the lack of representation of various ethnicities, nationalities, genders and sexualities in games which can impact gamers' sense of wellbeing.


the effects of gaming in children physical and mental health

Preventing health problems for gamers


Explain the impact to eye health


Unless you want your teenager to start complaining about dry eyes or start wearing glasses, you need to take action. The first step is to educate your kid about the impact of excessive exposure to light emitted from computers, tablets and phones. This strategy is better than imposing time limits without explaining the 'why'.


Agree time limits and when gaming can take place


Gaming during the week can distract from school work - which is getting longer and more important as your child moves into their teenager years and starts working towards GCSEs and A Levels.


As a parent, you will need to agree when gaming can take place. In our household, for example, no gaming is allowed during the week, unless there is clearly no school homework to be done (and we check!).


Whether it's during the week or over the weekend, daily time limits should be agreed.


Introduce regular screen breaks


If setting time limits does not work well with your teenager, try to lure them out of their gaming zone another way.


  • Prepare healthy snacks that they must eat in the kitchen/dining room while having a conversation with you.


  • Ask them to do small chores for you, like walking the dog.


As long as you don't associate the break from screen with some form of punishment you'll be onto a winner!


Ensure the room has good lighting


Introduce rules about lighting in the room. This is one of the most important factors that will help with eye strain.



  • They will probably want to avoid a harsh, centre-of-the-ceiling, overhead light, so instead, use a floor lamp at the opposite end of the room. The light in the periphery of the eye will help reduce the contrast from the screen light.


  • During daylight, ask them to keep blinds and curtains in the room at least slightly open, to ensure a decent amount of light comes through.


Use accessories that prevent blue light


If your child is set about playing in a darker environment, then they likely will, the moment you are out of the room.


In that case, you can gift them a blue-light blocking pair of glasses, making special fuss about how pro gamers use them. Find a good YouTube review and share with them to explain how these glasses work and why those who spend long in front of computers like to use them (tip: I use Gamer Advantage glasses at work as I spend a good 7 hours in front of a screen).





The benefits of a well-designed gaming space for kids


Creating a well-designed gaming space for kids can have numerous benefits that go beyond just providing a place to play. A thoughtfully planned gaming area can stimulate creativity and imagination in children, fostering their cognitive development. Consider these paint colours to maximise the potential of a gaming space, according to colour psychology.


By incorporating elements that encourage physical activity, such as interactive games or space for movement, a gaming space can also promote a healthy and active lifestyle.


Furthermore, a well-designed gaming space can serve as a social hub where kids can interact with their peers, building important social skills and fostering friendships.


mental health and online gaming

Use an ergonomic set up


From sit/standing desks to adjusting screen brightness, and following the 20-20-20 rule (looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes) you can further decrease the possibility for eye and back injuries.


Use fitted furniture for a tidy space


Using fitted furniture improves the use of space and making sure everything is in place and organised. Consider using fitted wardrobes or fitted desks and bookcases, to create inspiring and well organised spaces.


Last thoughts


Unhealthy gaming habits can have a significant impact on various aspects of an individual's life, including physical and mental health. Socially, unhealthy gaming habits can result in isolation, strained relationships with family and friends, and a lack of participation in other activities.


Furthermore, when gaming habits become excessive, they can interfere with academic or professional responsibilities, leading to poor performance in school or at work. This can create a vicious cycle where the individual may turn to gaming as a coping mechanism, further exacerbating the negative impact on their overall well-being.


Setting limits, taking regular breaks, and engaging in physical activities or hobbies outside of gaming can help in maintaining a healthy relationship with gaming and prevent the development of unhealthy habits.


 
seasonsincolour.com blog

Jenny Kakoudakis likes to blog about interiors. She launched the award-winning Seasons in Colour in 2014. When she is not chasing criminals out of the financial system (her day job), she gets creative by redecorating her own home.


Download her free bathroom renovation guide here.




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