Video Games and Kids – a Difficult Relationship?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017, 6:00 AM | Leave Comment

Since video games are currently one of the world’s most popular forms of entertainment, it’s no wonder that children are some of the medium’s most avid consumers.

An estimated 97% of all teens and children in the United States have played them, with sales in the video game industry exceeding 12 billion dollars per year.

Such high numbers demand a closer inspection of the medium and its main effects on young minds.

Fortunately, a number of high profile studies have already been conducted, and they have underlined certain worrying aspects that include:

  1. Less online security

    The vast majority of video games these days, whether they’re PC games or console games, require a working Internet connection in order to run properly.

    While this was initially intended as a safeguard against piracy, it also invariably opened up the player to a number of security issues.

    Online safety is a big topic these days, and for good reason too, as the large number of high profile hacks can safely attest to.

    Children are especially jeopardized by this situation, as their relative gullibility can be exploited by fraudsters.

    When pressed to give out personal information in order to play a game, a child will be much less reluctant to do so than an adult would, thus making little ones an easy target for online predators.

  2. Higher levels of mental disorders

    While playing video games can have positive mental effects such as enhancing logic and puzzle solving skills, there are several potential dangers to keep in mind as well.

    Children who rely on video game characters for companionship may have difficulty relating to real humans as they grow up, while those with a potential for anxiety and depression may find their resistance to such ills lessened by the unrealistic expectations brought forth by most video games.

    Furthermore, the already low attention spans of children nowadays could dwindle even further as kids have to contend with faster games that only reward short bursts of concentration.

  3. Increased aggression

    While the link between experiencing violence in a controlled environment and re-enacting it in real life is tenuous at best, studies have repeatedly shown that prolonged exposure to violent video games leaves a mark on the impressionable minds of children, who are much more likely to engage in harmful acts after playing them.

    That’s because video games induce a certain fantasy-like reverie that can blur the line between life and fiction, causing kids to think that the rules of the video game world apply to real life as well.

    Fortunately, people are less likely to fantasize about being violent as they get older, but there is still some worry that issues may linger in kids who have been exposed to this type of behavior via video games at a very young age.

  4. Addiction

    Finally, like any other pleasurable activity, playing video games too much can breed addiction.

    Once a child crosses the fine line between intense enjoyment and compulsion, chances are he or she may find it difficult to give up or even pause the game at regular intervals.

    When these early signs of “withdrawal” can be seen, be sure to reintroduce your child to the joys of spending time outdoors with friends and family.

    Children tend to adapt quickly to new scenarios, so don’t be afraid to pull the plug on any video game compulsion before it degenerates into full-blown addiction.

As you can see, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed in order to safeguard children from the negative aspects of gaming. Video game play should be monitored in a responsible household much in the same way that television consumption is monitored.

If children are only allowed to play games that are appropriate for them in levels approaching moderation, this activity can have a positive effect on their mental abilities and overall mood.

All in all, the key to healthy video game consumption lies in moderation. It is a lesson best learned at an early age, but one that will continue to pay dividends even as a child ages and approaches adulthood.

Because, when all is said and done, video games are the dominant art form of the 21st century and therefore deserve to be treated with respect and a healthy degree of skepticism at the same time.

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