Impact of Gaming on Children
Technology has slowly created its influence in nearly every domain of our life, whether it is entertainment, work or leisure. Our generation has grown with Technology so much that today if you hand a smartphone or tablet to a toddler, chances are that they know how to use it or they will figure out how to use it in a matter of seconds.
This also means that at a very young age children are becoming computer smarts. The exposure to mobile, computers, or tablets begins at home well before they start their classes in school. This experience at an early stage will help make the children take huge steps in their growth preparing for their schooling years, career development, and more.
However, with all this constant involvement in technology, there are some real worries about how this tech impacts childhood development. This is new to all of us and we are wandering into unfamiliar yet comfortable terrain as generations past have never had this same kind of constant technological immersion.
Video games and children
A video game is a good example of technological advancement that has a major involvement in children’s growth years. Due to the boom in technology accessibility to the game has been relatively easy. Children’s involvement in games has increased manyfold. The majority of parents have been troubled with their kids' engagement, especially in video games. Generally, parents feel that video games are taking time away from any valuable physical activities. Again there is increased concern regarding gaming due to the shift in the popularity of violent video games promoting violent and anti-social behavior in children. However, one cannot deny that video games are not all evil and they do have some benefits. – one of which is that they can make children smart.
A famous quote by Nolan Bushnell states that ‘Video Games foster the mindset that allows creativity to grow’. Another similar quote by Shaun White in the same context is ‘There are plenty of skills, I learned from playing video games. It’s more interactive than watching TV because there are problems to solve as you are using your brain’. And this brings us to the cons of Video Games.
Benefits of Video games
As mentioned earlier video games are a great source of entertainment and it provides a fun engaging activity to foster bonding with friends, siblings, and family.
Video games encourage children to make friends as a social activity online as well as offline. It provides a platform, and an opportunity to create peer circles who share the same interest.
And the second commonly accepted positive notion of video games is that Video games help with creative thinking; an individual will manage to score a higher score on the test related to creativity as the games encourage players to practice some level of creativity.
Not only that, Video games stimulate problem-solving, improved reaction time, Eye-hand coordination. Gamers usually have a higher degree of perpetual and cognitive ability- like leading a group in a task, decision making, perseverance, Cooperation, and Greater Concentration. The more challenging the game is, the more energetic you will be. Hence, in a way video games help in the alertness of an individual.
If one needs to say in a scientific way backed by research, Functional MRI brain imaging analyses found that children playing video games for an average of three or more hours per day exhibited higher brain activity in regions of the brain associated with attention and memory compared to those who have never played.
Negative Impacts of video games
On the flipside talking about the negative aspects is also equally important. The cons of Video games can simply be classified into two categories – On a physical and social level and secondly on a mental level.
Here come the requirements of mental health care and awareness for your support.
The most common cons that most parents will agree on is that video game encourages aggression and Violent Behavior. There has been an increase in popularity nowadays of Video games like Free Fire, PubG, Grand Theft Auto, and even Blue Whale. As stated by Prof. Kasumovic, ‘Violent video games lend themselves to our psychological needs because they’re designed in a way that allows us to achieve a sense of control and accomplishment”. Achieving success in Violent video games gives a sense of psychological achievement to overcome our fears around death and can aid with the expression of emotions, especially anger.
Studies also show that people diagnosed with Internet gaming disorder use games as a way of expressing and at times escaping emotions. Individuals having gaming disorder are more likely to be aggressive, depressed, and anxious the reason being their inability to regulate and control their emotions, such as anger, sadness, fear, or other emotions.
On a social level, the adverse impact is the degraded social life of children. Spending excessive time playing video games can isolate children. Children will prefer video games over spending time doing activities such as reading, sports, homework, and academic performance. This can limit their interpersonal skills in real life. As a result, chances of adjustment disorder, anxiety, depression , and stress get high in their working, school as well as personal life. That brings us to the effect of video games on a mental level.
The rudimentary con on a mental level that comes to mind is the addiction to video games. The adrenaline rush of competition, the accomplishment of completing a level or simply winning, the thrill of any game just challenging enough to keep the player coming back for more initiates the addictive behavior. Due to this addiction, children spend hours playing the game on their devices, which in turn, creates decreased productivity, food, and sleep schedule imbalance, causing various health issues such as obesity, migraines, sleep disturbances, backaches, and poor eyesight.
To put it mildly, these games can have a marked effect on a child showing excessive violence and aggressive behavior, social anxiety, insomnia, hostility, the risk of neuropsychiatric illness, phobia, and even drug abuse along with Gaming addiction.
A study in 2019 also found a relationship between problematic gaming and maladaptive coping strategies, negative affectivity, low self-esteem, a preference for solitude, poor school performance, and poor psychological health. Games like Blue Whale which was originally a sensationalized hoax are believed to be a likely phenomenon that led to instances of imitative self-harming and copycat groups, leaving susceptible children at risk of cyberbullying.
The condition of video gaming addiction is so grave that it has been officially recognized by World Health Organisation (WHO) as a mental health condition putting it at par with alcohol and drug abuse in the revised International Classification of Disease. India has currently two prominent clinics to treat the condition – Nimhans in Bengaluru, and AIIMs in New Delhi. The clientele mainly comprises teenage boys and young men adults brought by their parents after a drastic professional or personal failure. Usually, by the time the individuals come to the clinic, most have behavioural issues, sleep deprivation, and lack of communication skills among other
problems. Typically, individuals with gaming disorder undergo intense therapy for approximately 6-8 weeks which they are taught ways to handle craving, counter discomfort, cognitive reframing, and substitute activity. But gaming addiction is more complex. It’s much more than losing control of the number of gaming hours and not knowing when to stop. Knowing when to stop is just a preliminary step that initiates a sense of control and self-awareness, and thus knowing when to seek professional help.
Nevertheless, to conclude, anything in excess is never good. When games are played in moderation and with mindfulness, they can act as practical sources of stress relief as well as a catalyst for mental health improvement and the development of social skills.
Image credits: Freepik