Video Games or TV: Which is Worse?

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As humans, we employ a myriad of methods to keep ourselves entertained and our time occupied. Two of the most popular and demonized of these activities are video game playing and television watching.

I've often wondered, if a battle-royal was waged between these two notorious, idle pastimes, which would win out as the worst way to waste time?

In the left corner, we have the reigning champion! It was originally conceived back in the late 1800s but really didn't take it's present form till the mid-20th Century. Weighing in at up to 500 pounds, often coupled with a comfy sofa from which its viewer can lackadaisically lollygag, and featuring craptastic shows with almost no redeeming qualities like Storage Wars, Days of Our Lives, Jersey Shore, and Cougar Town; it's Television!

And in the right corner; we have the challengers! They're small compared to Television, but what they lose in size they make up for with sheer numbers, variety, and addictiveness. You used to see them chained to TVs but now they're invaded other mediums like computers, cell phones, and mobile devices. Seeking to supplant Television as the worst way to waste time in the world: Video Games!

DING. Round 1.
Oh, and Video Games come roaring out of their corner, unleashing a fiery torrent of strikes against Television! Data from the Kaiser Foundation has shown that kids aged 8-18 play about 73 minutes of video games each day. Numerous studies have found that playing video games, especially highly competitive ones, can reduce the brain's response to violence and increase aggression, even after the game has been turned off.

Round 2. Television appears to be weathering most of Video Games' vicious strikes fairly well, and has fired back with some of its own. Kids watch television for an average of 4.5 hours every day! A study published in 2009 in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that young children excessively exposed to TV appear to be at an increased risk of aggressive behavior. Children under five are also more at risk of developing behavior problems if they watch two hours or more of television per day.

Round 3.
Looks like Video Games took a fierce knock to the chin in that last round. They're looking dazed, confused, and not nearly as dangerous as they used to. Apparently, Video Games can actually yield some benefits. Researchers at Michigan State University studied 500 kids and found that they more they played video games, the more creative they were at tasks like drawing or story-telling. In addition, other studies have shown that action video games have the potential to improve vision and augment decision-making speed without any reduction in accuracy.

Round 4.
Television does not appear to be tiring or relenting, however. It's got Video Games up against the ropes. A systematic review conducted by researchers at Loughborough University discovered that "television viewing was strongly associated with the consumption of

energy-dense snacks, drinks and fast food, and a lower consumption of

fruit and vegetables." And a 2010 Australian study tracked the lifestyle habits of 8,000 adults, concluding that each hour of sedentary TV watching is correlated with an 11% increased risk of death.

Well, after four rounds, it's time for the judges' decision. Here it comes... Television has held on to its title belt! It looks like what tilted the judges' decision in favor of Television was a 2009 study which examined blood pressure differences in children during various sedentary activities like reading, watching television, and using the computer. Of these activities, television watching was the worst. It was the only sedentary activity associated with higher blood pressure.

The inherent difference between Video Games and Television is clear. Television is an entirely consumptive activity that often requires almost no physical or mental involvement for its viewer, while Video Games require the player to actively shape their experience. Playing Video Games requires attentiveness and occasionally even demands problem solving skills or physical activity.

At this point in time, Television clearly trumps Video Games as the worst way to waste time.

(Image: Paul Townsend, Wikimedia Commons)

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