Not so good vibrations

Children who play hours of computer games with vibrating game pads risk developing hand arm vibration syndrome, according to experts at UK's Great Ormond Street children's hospital.

Doctors and researchers have called for all games that use vibration to carry a health warning, advising children and parents only to play the game for around two hours per day. The move has received support from the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children).

"There are currently no guidelines for parents, who generally don't know how long their child should sit in front of a computer screen," said a spokesman for the NSPCC. "Anything which draws the possible dangers to their attention has to be a plus point."

A young boy was submitted to Liverpool's Alder Hey hospital showing all the symptoms of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome or 'White finger', a condition normally associated with workmen who operate hand-held drills.

The boy had been playing console games for up to seven hours a day. As a result his hands had become white and swollen. But a question still remains at to who should be responsible for issuing any health warnings.

"We believe that, with increasing numbers of children playing these devices, there should be consideration for statutory health warnings to advise users or parents," said a British Medical Report written by Gavin Clary, a specialist registrar at St Ormond Street hospital.

Eidos Interactive, one of the UK's best known computer games firms, says it is the responsibility of the gamepad manufacturers to incorporate warnings and not an issue for game publishers.

"We already put warnings on our games, with recommended time limits but this is not about the games, it's the fault of the hardware being used," said an Eidos spokesman.

But Sony Computer entertainment, which makes vibrating handsets for its Playstation consoles, said it already issues health warning with all hardware. "Warning are contained in all manuals," said a company spokesman.

Sony manuals contain a warning that users should take a break from gaming at least every fifteen minutes, but there is no limit on how much time children should play games per day and nothing written on the outside of boxes.

RSI (repetitive strain injury) has become a common, if not necessarily medically recognised, complaint from regular mouse users and experts expect many more cases of White finger will be reported.

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Wendy Brewer

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