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Video Games Fun but Pose Social, Health Risks

Move over Tickle Me Elmo. The recently released Nintendo Wii and Playstation 3 video game systems //are rivaling the giggling red monster as the gifts children beg their parents for most this holiday season.

As coveted as these new video game systems and other models are, some parents may want to think twice before buying them for their children and teens, a University of Florida child psychologist says.

With more educational games hitting store shelves and one system, the Nintendo Wii, actually requiring players to peel themselves off the couch to use it, video game makers seem to be addressing concerns about how playing affects children. But too much gaming still puts children more at-risk for behavioral and health problems, which is why parents should consider how they will control children's playing before they buy a system, said Eric Storch, Ph.D., a UF assistant professor of pediatrics and psychiatry.

"If you're concerned it is going to be difficult to control how much your child is playing, then one recommendation would be not to tempt them," Storch said. "Don't purchase one of these systems."

Video games can be a good outlet for children who like them, but they shouldn't consume their lives, Storch added. Setting limits on playing time may help prevent casual gaming from spiraling into hours spent in front of a television screen with a controller.

Children and teens who play excessively often do so at the expense of homework, and playing solo can isolate children from their peers, potentially causing problems for them later in life, Storch said.

"Social interactions teach you how to deal with other people as well as what's appropriate and what's not," he said. "You learn how to handle situations. Social interaction is also one way of coping with stress and receiving emotional support."

Serious gamers who spend hours sitting in front of a TV also risk becoming obese and dev
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