The advancement in technology has brought changes in entertainment sources. Changes in technologies bring the potential for changes in users’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (Kipnis, 1997). The games played by modern children are very different from the games played few decades ago. The games, which involve physical activities, are almost diminished and have been replaced by video games. Video games are becoming an incredibly popular and pervasive form of entertainment for young generation. These games affect the children in both positive and negative ways. The technology based games help the children to improve their physical, mental neurological health, and educational skills. However, it has always been debatable whether the parents should allow their children to play video games or they need to stop them. The video games are well known for its addictive and violent properties. Although, these games were originally designed as recreational programs for enjoyment but now these have become the most addictive activities among young children and adolescents, which directly or indirectly affect their growth and development.
Growth Statistics of Video Games
Since the release of the first video game in the1970s, the video game industry has grown at a fast pace. The forecast studies have shown that around $75 billion U.S. dollars were spent on video games all over the world in 2015 which is expected to increase by $15 billion more by 2020. Video games have rapidly become a universal aspect of child development (Lenhart et al. 2008). An empirical study investigated prevalence rates and predictors of video game addiction in a sample of gamers, randomly selected from the National Population Registry of Norway (N = 3389). Results showed there were 1.4% addicted gamers, 7.3% problem gamers, 3.9% engaged gamers, and 87.4% normal gamers. Wittek et al., (2016) stated that “Gender (being male) and age group (being young) were positively associated with addicted-, problem-, and engaged gamers”. All in all, 25% of the global population played the video games which were almost 1.8 billion people in 2014.
Grubb (2014) reported “People of all ages play video games,” Gains through Gaming Lab co-director Jason Allaire said in regard to the report. “There is no longer a ‘stereotypical game player,’ but instead a game player could be your grandparent, your boss, or even your professor.” However, 27% of gamers were of age 18-35 years and 26% of those were 50 years old surveyed in America, who were addicted to games. The figures show that the younger children count has increased in the recent years. Male gamers outnumber the female gamers.
Benefits of Video Games
- Physical and Mental Health Improvement
- Neurological Health Benefits
- Educational Benefits
The video games have been proven as good for some health related issues. The researchers at Utah University had studied that video games are therapeutic for chronic illnesses such as Autism, Depression, and Parkinson’s disease. Several studies have proved that these video games have helped such children to enlighten them emotionally, improving their quality of life, and gave them a ‘fighting spirit’. The parents usually tell their children to reduce sitting in front of television or computer screens to prevent eyesight loss, but this is not always true. Video games are helpful in improving vision. Dr. Daphne Maurer from Ontario’s McMaster University made a surprising discovery “suggesting that people born with cataracts could improve their eyesight by playing Medal of Honor, the “first-person shooter” video game (Dreifus, 2012).
Video games help to improve motor skills, cognitive functions, multitasking activities, quick thinking and spatial judgment skills. In addition, the children learn to coordinate their body movement along with mental exercise while playing. Video games increase hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and spatial reasoning (Tumbokon, 2014). For example, in shooter games, the player keeps track of their position, direction, speed, aim, results and more. The brain processes all this information and then coordinates with the hands since all actions are done through the controller or keyboard. These skills can be applied to real world situations. A general surgeon at Florida Hospital, Dr. Rosser (2012) mentioned in his research studies that surgeons can improve their surgical techniques by “warming up” doing few minutes of video games play before scrubbing and performing surgeries. (pp. 3-9)
Kids nowadays spend most of their free time in front of computer screens, television and remote control devices, and it is obvious for parents to worry that their children are just scrambling their brains with gameplay. But it turns out that time spent playing video games can be educational. This kind of growing field of activities is known as “edutainment” or education while entertaining. There are many word games, problem solving tasks and building blocks games for kids, which require their attention to complete tasks and reach the next level. This helps them to learn valuable skills like math, language, science, critical thinking, accuracy, problem solving, and ability to follow instructions. In addition to it, some games help the children to be creative, socially active and collaborative skills while they interact with other players. Cognitive neuroscientists at the University of Rochester, New York, discovered that games that need some sort of decision making, act as a sort of simulator for real life to make important decisions quickly and effectively. Through games, they can excellently practice the choices of decision-making and can be able to apply same in real life.
Negative Effects of Video Games
- Physical Symptoms
- Violent Behavior of Gamers
- Accidents and Deaths
- Effect on Social Life of Children
There are various negative effects of video game addiction on children’s life. These include health issues like obesity, carpal tunnel, migraines, sleep disturbances, backaches, eating irregularities, poor personal hygiene and epilepsy. Prolonged sitting in front of computers or video game screens may lead to weight gain or obesity and back aches in children, which further leads to health problems in young children. Moreover, the excessive use of video games can lead to ‘photosensitive’ epileptic seizures in kids as it involves flashes and pulsing lights. Video games also affect the sleeping and eating patterns, which has resulted to fatal consequences in Korea and China. In 2005, a South Korean gamer died after playing the online game Starcraft for 50 hours with few breaks. The 28-year old collapsed in an internet cafe after not sleeping and eating properly during the session. Police said that the man would only pause to go the bathroom. A similar death occurred in China when a man spent three days straight at an internet cafe without proper sleep and food.
Gentile and Anderson (2003), state that playing video games may increase aggressive behavior because violent acts are continually repeated throughout the video game. Educational games were more popular for some of the girls being asked, but throughout all the age groups, violent video games never lost their superior power in the gaming industry. An 18-year-old gunman who killed nine people in July 2016 in Munich, Germany, was a fan of first-person shooter video games, according to reports. This news made the parents worry about their children and if they learn anything violent from video games. Another similar incident happened in February, 2018 when Nikolas Jacob Cruz, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was accused of murdering 17 people in a shooting rampage. Donald Trump, the president of USA stated on this incident, “”the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.” The games like “Manhunt,” “Thrill Kill,” “Gears of War”, “Grand Theft Auto”, and “Mortal Kombat” are some of the examples of violent games which include shooting, stabbing, breaking traffic rules and buying weapons. These games are responsible for increasing criminal activities by teenagers and some of the adults.
The video games can also cause unexpected deaths. The players are pre-occupied with their game content and lead to self-destruction and may harm other people in their surroundings. A very recent example of such a video game is ‘Pokemon Go’ which resulted in so many deaths and car accidents. Mcconnel and Faccio (February, 2018) from Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management documented that the game caused “a disproportionate increase in vehicular crashes and associated vehicular damage, personal injuries, and fatalities in the vicinity of locations, called PokeStops, where users can play the game while driving.” According to American Academy of Pediatrics (July, 2016), violent media set a poor example for kids. Video games, the academy noted, “should not use human or other living targets or award points for killing because this teaches children to associate pleasure and success with their ability to cause pain and suffering to others.”
A kid’s social life can completely dissolve if the video games take over his/her life. The children usually isolate themselves from the social environment and their life is usually restrained from sports, homework, and social interaction with their friends and family members. Although, the kids interact with their friends while playing online, it does not meet their social needs. The gamers who spend most of their time on playing games usually neglect their relationships with family and friends. Some of them love to talk about games too much and other people sometimes get irritated and offended that they do not want to be around them. Such gamers usually fail to engage themselves in real life conversations. This lack of social interaction further leads to social problems in their future. The failure to develop healthy relationship results in social awkwardness in college and universities while making friends, enjoying other’s company and talk to teachers.
All in all, the negative effects of video games outweigh the positive effects. The consequences of addiction to video games are more serious and dangerous for the gamers, as well as, the society. Video games are proven to be a source of entertainment, education and beneficial for some health aspects, but the aggressive, violent and antisocial behavior of most of the children also prove them bad for them. The negative effects of video games can be reduced with the regular supervision of parents. Instead of buying their children violent video games, they can buy them learning games. This may help to keep their children away from inappropriate games that lead to antisocial behavior.