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Science calls stories about gaming and rickets ‘lazy’

Science calls stories about gaming and rickets ‘lazy’

Forensics lab

A scientist conducts experiments on a PSPgo, yesterday.

Mad scientists at Newcastle University have hit back at London free paper, Metro, for reporting that their research had somehow concluded that gaming was to blame for an increase in cases of rickets among young people. These scientists are perfectly rational, sane human beings, by the way. When we say ‘mad’, we mean they’re angry at being miss-reported in the press.

You might recall that we recently correctly reported that ‘Playing games will not give your children rickets’ and remarkably sensible gaming news blog, Gamesbrief, felt the same way, even going to the trouble of contacting the researchers and getting a response from them. Dr Timothy Cheetham had this to say,

“I understand METRO has said that we have linked computers to rickets, whereas we are actually saying lack of outdoor activity in childhood is a risk for poor D nutritional state. We do not say that gaming causes rickets. The average age of a child with rickets is around 20 months old: too young to use a keyboard and mouse!”

And Gamesbrief wasn’t the only blog asking for a response. Every UK gamer’s favourite Member of Parliament (an avid Play reader, so he told us), Tom Watson, contacted the mad scientists too and got an answer from Dr Simon Pearce, who seems to be the slightly madder of the two,

“No we really didn’t do a study to show that, or say that Gaming causes rickets. It was a classic piece of dodgy lazy journalism, taking 3 words out of PA’s hyped-up version of our press release.”

So we were right. Well done us.

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  • Thanks for the link to Gamesbrief 🙂

    Actually, Professor Pearce made the point about the average age of a rickets sufferer between 20 months.

    But you missed out the other really important point. Prof. Pearce and Dr Cheetham raised Vitamin D deficiency as an important public health issue (50% of UK adults are Vitamin D deficient in winter. Yep, really. Half of us.)

    They identify two big risk factors alongside not going outside enough:
    – Having pigmented skin (in particular being of African or Asian descent)
    – Overzealous use of sunscreen before the skin has time to synthesise Vitamin D.

    They do say that staying indoors is an issue(whether that’s reading a book, playing monopoly or using a computer, or because you are elderly or infirm.)

    But it’s a really big issue. The papers could have said “Decline in cod liver oil sales blamed for rickets” or “Playing monopoly blamed for rickets” or “being black blamed for rickets”.

    But they picked games. And an important public health message was lost.

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