Kids and teens who spend a lot of time playing video games or texting on their smartphones may end up with serious wrist and finger pain, a new study suggests.
The preliminary findings, which were presented at a medical conference, raise the possibility that overuse of gaming devices and mobile phones could impact children’s joint health, the researchers said.
Researchers studied the effect of gadgets such as the Xbox, Gameboy and iPhone on 257 students aged 9 to 15 at two schools in St. Louis. The students received questionnaires asking about the types of gadgets they used, how long they used them and how much pain they experienced.
(More on TIME.com: Why Crossing Your Arms Helps Kill Pain)
The researchers found that video gaming (on the Gameboy or Xbox) was associated with more intense finger and wrist pain than mobile-phone (iPhone) use. Also, the more kids played, the more likely they were to have pain: reports of pain doubled for each additional hour of game play.
As for mobile-phone use, the researchers said reported pain was associated with the number of text messages sent, use of text abbreviations and the type of keyboard. Among mobile-phone users, girls reported twice as much pain as boys.
“Our study has shown the negative impact that playing computer games and using mobile phones can have on the joints of young children, raising concerns about the health impact of modern technology later in life,” said Professor Yusuf Yazici of New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases in a statement.
(More on TIME.com: Is Technology Making Us Lonelier?)
The findings underscore the need for further research on “what could be a serious health concern for today’s gaming children,” Yazici said, suggesting that further studies may lead to recommendations for parents about the appropriate age to allow children to start using these devices.
The study was presented at the annual congress of the European League Against Rheumatism, in London.