Videogame Addiction and Its Impact on Children

Introduction

Have you ever cracked a German soldier’s skull open with a trench shovel? Would you like your children to experience that as well? In some video games, you can do it. Risky and violent entertainment is the locomotive of the gaming industry. Games offer a variety of experiences that would never be readily available to children in real life. They present a plethora of different worlds, from magical lands of fairy tales to the grimy and dirty battlefields of the First and Second World Wars to be explored by gamers at their leisure.

However, there are numerous problems associated with modern gaming. The sway of the fictional fantasy land is too powerful to be resisted by children and individuals with a predisposition towards addictions. Videogames expose children, whose psyche is not strong enough to resist their sway, to unhealthy stimuli that promote dangerous antisocial behavior. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the mental issues, behavioral issues, violence issues, and developmental issues associated with videogame addiction.

Main Arguments

Violent Games and Aggressive Behavior

One of the main arguments against allowing children to excessively play videogames is because it facilitates violent behavior. According to Gunter (2016), the video gaming industry caters to the male population, and the majority of videogames involve violence and competition in one way or another. The increased popularity of videogames, thus, is directly associated with exposure to violence. Although age ratings do exist, they are very infrequently enforced, meaning that children can be exposed to violent videogames not fit for their age and mental development.

Influenced by exposure to violence and repetitive instances of situations where violence solves all problems, children are more likely to project these lessons into their real life. According to Greitemeyer & Mugge (2014), the evaluation of 98 studies with a total sample size of almost 40,000 subjects indicates that both antisocial and pro-social tendencies found in videogames have an effect on child and adolescent behavior in real life. Therefore, violence expressed in videogames affects gamers in a negative way. Since most of the videogame market is overflown with violent videogames, the negative side of the influence far outweighs the positive, facilitating aggressive behavior.

The Addictive Nature of Videogames

The phenomenon of videogame addiction has been widely known and observed by modern psychiatrists. Over 61% of clinicians are concerned about the addictive effects of videogames and their effects on the adolescent populations. For 49% of specialists, it is considered to be a major psychological detriment and concern (Ferguson, 2015). The majority of practicing professionals as well as researchers support the notion regarding the potential for addiction to videogames. Videogames provide sources of gratification associated with achievement, thus stimulating their dopamine centers. It allows quick and easy objectives that are often accomplished using violence.

Lobel, Granic, Stone, and Engels (2014) connect anxiety and disinterest in other aspects of life with overstimulation of dopamine centers. For children experiencing an addiction, mundane tasks, sports, academic achievements, and family time do not present as much gratification when compared to videogames. As a result, they focus and invest in what provides immediate happiness rather than in activities that would make them healthy, successful, and happy in the long-term perspective.

Videogames and Adverse Health Effects

The common stereotype about a videogame addict presents an individual that is in a poor physical and psychological condition. The main traits associated with extensive gaming include obesity, depression, poor social skills, decreased eyesight, and a plethora of disorders associated with the lack of movement. Rosen et al. (2014) connect obesity in gamers with the frequent use of snacking and fast food in order to prevent interruptions to the gaming process. It affects the average BMI of children aged 10 or older, causing physical and psychological distress further down the line. Obese and overweight children are more likely to be bullied by their peers in school.

Obesity is also directly causing various other health issues, such as diabetes, heart problems, breathing problems, and deformations of the muscular-skeletal system. These findings are supported by Tsiros, Samaras, Coates, and Olds (2017), who state that increased BMI has a direct correlation with the chances of incidence of diabetes, congestive heart failure, asthma, as well as various psychological disorders. Increased weight places an additional load on the heart and lungs in order to support the extra weight. At the same time, lack of exercise does not allow these organs to work under continuous stress. As a result, children and adolescents suffer health complications directly caused by the lifestyle associated with video gaming.

Counterarguments

Videogames Are Beneficial for Cognitive Functioning

One of the arguments frequently utilized by the supporters of the widespread use of videogames is that the process improves certain motoric skills as well as quick decision-making. Many videogames place the player in a situation, where they are required to analyze a multitude of different variables and come up with a course of action without ample opportunity to analyze the situation. This is true for various combat games, driving simulations, and sports games. Khan (2018) claims that playing videogames has a positive effect on the formation of neural path waves as a result of the repetition of various tasks, which could be used in real-life situations.

This argument, however, is refuted by Brown (2014), who states that although some videogames have educational potential, they represent a minority in the gaming market. The majority of violent games are not placed in realistic settings that simulate normal day-to-day activities, thus offering no knowledge and skills that could be translated into real life. Knowing how to drive a tank by pressing arrows and a mouse has very little in common with actual vehicle piloting. The only skills that benefit from intensive computer gaming are hand-to-eye coordination, which is also very limited and does not translate well into other practices. Therefore, the majority of computer games are simply pointless entertainment that has little to no educational value.

Videogames are Useful for Facilitating Child Development

A stronger argument in favor of videogames is made on the basis of their educational and developmental potential. It is stated that videogames can serve as advanced make-believe engines commonly used in children during their development stages.

Granic, Lobel, and Engels (2014) emphasize the importance of choosing the right videogames to facilitate proper decision-making and educating children about themselves and the world. Erickson’s theory of development as well as Piaget’s cognitive theory both state that computer games can be used to simulate social experiences as well as various cognitive-emotional responses that help shape and educate children as individuals and persons.

While it is hard to dispute that certain videogames have the potential for benefit, the actual state of the gaming industry tells a different story. As was already mentioned by Gunter (2016) and Calvert et al. (2017), the videogame market is swarmed by games that are either explicitly violent or have elements of violence and violent competition in them. It was also proven by Brown (2014) that the educational values of the majority of violent computer games are extremely slim, making them inappropriate as exercising tools.

They have greater potential to desensitize a child to violence and encourage them to use violence as a means to an end, in order to accomplish his or her personal goals. In addition, certain videogames are inherently racist in that they use certain nations and individuals to provide a challenge for the player, making them acceptable targets in a child’s eyes (Brown, 2014). For example, Call of Duty and Medal of Honor games frequently utilize Germans as enemies, while obscuring their faces behind gas masks in order to prevent the player from feeling any sympathy for them. Using masks and underplaying the horrors of death is a frequent theme in violent games.

Recommendations and Conclusions

Videogames have plenty of potential for abuse. They are addictive, cause various behavioral problems, stunt personal and physical growth, and bring about numerous psychological and social issues. As evidenced in this paper, videogames provide an easy stimulus for an individual’s dopamine centers, thus alienating them from the struggles and achievements of the real world. They promote violence by desensitizing children towards death and blood as well as by showing violence as the most efficient (and sometimes, the only) way of solving conflicts, thus encouraging them to apply the same mindset in real life. Lastly, videogames bring about a plethora of healthcare issues, the majority of which are stemming from obesity and a lack of social skills.

These issues are all interconnected and have the potential of ruining a person’s life from a long-term perspective. Videogame addicts are rarely academically successful, tend to be unemployed after graduation, and impose additional costs and expenses on their parents. They are disinterested in public and social activities. As it was proven in the scope of this paper, the potential benefits of videogames as a means for education are offset by the realities of the market. Educational games are rare, they do not sell as well as shooters, and hack-and-slash games do. hand-to-eye coordination while using a keyboard and a mouse is not a marketable skill. Rapid decision-making (a useful quality in management) is pointless if the individual lacks any social skills.

Videogame addiction is going to become even more widespread in the future. Long-term effects of violence in videogames are likely to emerge in full within the next 10-15 years, once a generation raised on them reaches maturity. In regards to government policy, there are no effective ways of obstructing the videogame market. However, the negative effect of these forms of entertainment can be reduced in several ways. Brown (2014) suggests the following interventions:

  • Increased parental awareness in regards to videogame violence and addiction.
  • Widespread medical recognition of videogame addiction as a genuine healthcare problem.

These solutions have a chance of reducing videogame-induced addiction and violence as well as managing the aftermath of the affliction. Any government bans and restrictions on the video gaming industry would only make certain games of the genre more popular. Instead, parents and healthcare providers must combine their efforts to secure a safe future for their children, where videogames remain a harmless form of entertainment, rather than the sole purpose in life. Videogames will become informational and educational only when killing and violence would stop being glorified by our culture, history, and the media.

References

Brown, H. G. (2014). Videogames and education. New York, NY: Routledge.

Calvert, S. L., Appelbaum, M., Dodge, K. A., Graham, S., Nagayama Hall, G. C., Hamby, S.,… Hedges, L. V. (2017). The American Psychological Association Task Force assessment of violent video games: Science in the service of public interest. American Psychologist, 72(2), 126.

Ferguson, C. J. (2015). Clinicians’ attitudes toward video games vary as a function of age, gender and negative beliefs about youth: A sociology of media research approach. Computers in Human Behavior, 52, 379-386.

Granic, I., Lobel, A., & Engels, R. C. (2014). The benefits of playing video games. American psychologist, 69(1), 1-13.

Greitemeyer, T., & Mügge, D. O. (2014). Video games do affect social outcomes: A meta-an analytic review of the effects of violent and prosocial video game play. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(5), 578-589.

Gunter, B. (2016). Does playing videogames make players more violent? London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Khan, A. (2018). Video games impact on children – The good and the bad. Web.

Lobel, A., Granic, I., Stone, L. L., & Engels, R. C. (2014). Associations between children’s video game playing and psychosocial health: Information from both parent and child reports. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 17(10), 639-643.

Rosen, L. D., Lim, A. F., Felt, J., Carrier, L. M., Cheever, N. A., Lara-Ruiz, J. M.,… Rokkum, J. (2014). Media and technology use predicts ill-being among children, preteens and teenagers independent of the negative health impacts of exercise and eating habits. Computers in human behavior, 35, 364-375.

Tsiros, M. D., Samaras, M. G., Coates, A. M., & Olds, T. (2017). Use-of-time and health-related quality of life in 10-to 13-year-old children: Not all screen time or physical activity minutes are the same. Quality of Life Research, 26(11), 3119-3129.