Video gaming amid COVID-19 helps us connect, but too much can be unhealthy

By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The coronavirus pandemic is keeping most of us confined to the great indoors, and many have turned to video games as a way to keep themselves occupied.

Dr. Jon Krigel, a psychologist at Attune Philadelphia Therapy Group who has an expertise in technology addiction, said playing video games with others in your house or online is a good way to fill the human contact void while we practice social distancing. It can also help improve relationships.

“It's a nice opportunity for parents to get on the kids’ level, or maybe for kids to get on the parents’ level, and really share something that they both enjoy,” he said. “If you have friends who play, you can kind of talk to them through a microphone and work with them and be on a team with them.”

But long periods in the house can lead to more gameplay than usual. Krigel said there are some signs to look out for if someone may be developing a gaming addiction.

“Because they're playing, (are they) not able to get their work done?” he said. “(Is it) eating into their sleep in a significant way?”

Nikkia Gordon-Byrd from Glenolden said video games have been a positive way for her and her son, Amir, to bond while in isolation.

“It gives us time to actually talk about things like school,” she said. “It creates opportunities like that when we're playing those video games.”

She is being cautious, though, and they take educational breaks in an effort to break up Amir’s screen time.

“Read in between those video games, so we're not solely focused on action all day long,” she added.

The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of two hours of screen time per day for children.

Gaming has increased among adults too, like Javon Nixon, who unwinds at the end of a work day by turning on his PlayStation and playing “Madden” or “Call of Duty” for a few hours.

He’s been working from home since the stay-at-home orders took effect, and gaming, now more than ever, has helped keep his mind balanced.

“Gaming has always been my escape from my reality,” he said. “Not saying that I have a bad reality, but you pay a ton of bills, you do this, you do that. Gaming is just my getaway.”

Among all the positives, Kruger said to be aware of dependency habits. If you see signs of a gaming addiction, he suggests talking to that individual and finding other productive activities to focus on.