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Excess video games could mean less social and more agressive kids

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Video games are becoming more and more popular among a younger generation of kids.

But how much game time is too much?

Health officials are finding kids are spending twice as much time in front of a computer, TV or video game than they should.

Experts said all that screen time can lead to less social and more aggressive kids.

When Lissa Calson's sons Christopher (10) Corbin (7) head home after school, playing video games is out of the question.


"If it's a school day, they know better to ask, but they'll still try and I've noticed lately, they've been pushing for the extra time," said Carlson.

She said gaming wasn't as big of a deal in her house until they received one very generous Christmas present, a Wii gaming system.

"I'm telling you, by the end of the week, I saw a difference in my oldest son's behavior," said Carlson. "He's very competitive to begin with, so when he's playing a video game with his brother, he'll get frustrated and angry if it's not going well."

"When kids watch violent things on TV, they tend to be more aggressive," said Jeff Reiland, child and family therapist at Gundersen Lutheran. "That shouldn't come as a surprise. Kids are very influenced by what they watch."

Reiland said the more time kids spend playing video games, the less time they have in developing important skills.

"They're not spending time with families, they're not exercising, they're not interacting with other kids, they're not learning pro social skills," said Reiland. "They're learning whatever the game is teaching them, and in some cases those are violent games, so they're learning how to shoot and how to kill."

He said kids should be limited to one or two hours a day of screen time and it should come as a reward, not a right.

As of right now, Carlson's sons can only game on the weekend or on days when school isn't in session.

If they want extra time, she'll have to think about it after practicing the piano, the chores and homework are done.

"We know that it's not productive time for them," said Carlson. "So we try to use it as a tool and a vehicle to get them to do things we know are productive."

Carlson said she makes sure the games her sons are playing are age-appropriate by paying attention to the rating system of the games.

She also said there are some games that are more exercise and physically active games the Carlsons like to do as a family, but everything is still done in moderation.

Reiland said kids start learning social skills when they're toddlers, if not younger. The more screen time kids have at a young age, the harder it becomes to learn those skills.

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