Statistics show that over 150 million people play videogames in the US alone, with four out of five households owning a device that can be used for gaming purposes.
In these circumstances, it’s safe to say that gaming is the dominant art form of our times. But as the technology surrounding video games continues to develop exponentially, it’s worth asking what the psychological impact of these games really is.
Far from the scaremongering tactics of yesteryear, we now have scientific facts to back up most claims and can use them to make conclusions on the real advantages and disadvantages associated with gaming.
One thing’s for sure, though – since children are generally more impressionable than adults, video games have an outsized impact on their brains. For that reason, let’s take a closer look at five common video game-induced issues and how they can be addressed:
1. Creating a false sense of security
Since most games nowadays require a constant Internet connection in order to run, children are exposed to all the various dangers that lurk online. These can range from online predators posing as other children to scam artists looking for a quick buck.
With today’s technology, the ability of gaming consoles to spy on us has almost become a given. As a general rule of thumb, children are more liable to put their faith in technology without being fully aware of its shortcomings, so be sure to instruct your child on the most important ways to stay safe in the virtual world.
2. Stirring up feelings of aggression
Adult gamers are capable of distinguishing real life from fiction well enough to not let the habitual violence and gore that characterises most modern video games get to them. But children still have an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for our decision-making process.
In fact, a 4% uptick in aggressive behaviour has been observed in young children after they are exposed to a violent video game. If your child gets uncontrollably angry during gaming sessions, know that it’s high time you stepped in and made him or her take a much-needed break.
3. Increasing the likelihood of antisocial behaviour
Aside from instilling aggression, video games can also create a false sense of social belonging, particularly for children who identify as outcasts.
They are much more likely to find companionship online, which can lead to an almost unbearable feeling of depression when they also have to contend with real life. Online abuse is also surprisingly common, with about 12% of Australian gamers confessing to having dealt with a cyberbully or a toxic environment during their gaming sessions, and can cause many gamers to lose confidence in themselves and those around them.
4. Being conducive to a static lifestyle
Even at their most benign, the vast majority of games promote a sedentary lifestyle. To that end, the October 2009 edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found measurable correlations between video game playing and several health risks. Indeed, the common cliche about gamers is that they’re all overweight couch-potatoes. While that couldn’t be further from the truth, staying in any one place for hours at a time can be detrimental to a child’s health. For that reason, try to get your little ones interested in real life games such as football or basketball, which provide a good workout for the body as well as the mind.
5. Leading to money misuse
While most of the games of yesteryear only charged a flat fee upon purchase, nowadays there are plenty of titles that rely on in-game purchases in order to fatten their bottom line.
The psychology behind freemium games has been a subject of much research, as plenty of adults have succumbed to the temptation of buying all kinds of flashy in-game upgrades and tools while ratcheting up quite a bill in the process. But since children are much more impressionable, the risk for money misuse is much higher in their case. Be sure to monitor all your credit cards and prevent your child from gaining access to financial information if you suspect him or her of having made transactions behind your back.
Lastly, it’s important to note that video games should not be viewed as a potential boogeyman for future generations. There are ample reports that suggest many potential benefits associated with gaming, as long as it’s practised in moderation. Of course, the responsibility of not slipping into compulsive behaviour always belongs to the player, but when it comes to children a certain amount of parental guidance is often necessary in order to help your little ones tell right from wrong.
Photograph by StartupStockPhotos / Pixabay