I try to stay active in the “video games cause this or that” debate, because usually it’s stodgy old men with conflicts of interest and think all games are Doom, talking about how a 15-year-old kid took a gun to school because Grand Theft Auto told him to. That’s easy to fight. But when they’re right, they’re right: it seems that kids in the UK are spending so much time indoors with their screens that they’re increasingly developing complications of vitamin D deficiency. In other words, they’ve got rickets.
Of course, we have to take this study with a grain of salt. No doubt the researchers were simply listing some of the contributing factors to what they see as a disturbing uptick in rickets diagnoses.
What can you say in defense? I mean, you do play video games indoors, generally, and video game hours are on the rise. Well, actually, pretty much the defense against other allegations works here: where are the parents?
In every situation where the kid is violent and plays violent games, where are the parents? When kids grow obese because they are getting no exerceise, where are the parents? And when a kid is essentially so malnourished that his bones lose their rigidity, where the hell are the parents?
While it would be accurate to say that the increasing popularity of games has led to more indoor hours, and more indoor hours leads to less vitamin D, and less vitamin D may lead to rickets, you kind of skip a few steps there. Like, say, the step where a parent gives their kid a Flintstone vitamin every day to make sure they’re getting their RDAs. Here in Seattle everyone takes D supplements because, let’s face it, where else are we going to get it?
So the increased indoor hours are kind of a fact of the new, online, games-and-media-oriented life that some lead. But that just means understanding the risks associated with that. If our kids were spending more and more time outdoors, there’d be an increase in sunburns and broken wrists, but somehow I doubt they’d blame it on Tag.