One topic of conversation that is frequently found among parents these days is the effect of video gaming on the minds of young children and teenagers. It’s unsurprising that this has become a commonality more in recent years, with the advancement of entertainment technology, and the fact that many toddlers as young as two years old now have access to some sort of video gaming device. It has become almost commonplace to see children playing with an iPhone, or watching movies on an iPad, and for them to hold a pretty high degree of understanding in how to use these devices.
The debates about how video gaming may affect those who partake regularly are not new, but with the age group of users dropping lower than ever before, it’s only natural that the pros and cons of how so much screen time may impact the brain are being brought back to the forefront of popular discussion.
One downside to video gaming that is spoken about widely is the tendency for it to make kids somewhat anti-social. Often, it is observed that when children or teenagers are spending the majority of their free time “plugged-in” to technology, they tend to become isolated from what’s taking place with people in the world around them. The cliché of the “gamer geek” kid who stands around awkwardly in social situations and avoids sports like the plague is a stereotype that has appeared on TV and in movies for years. It does shed some light, however, on what could potentially be in store for those who really do spend a great deal of their lives “in the game” as opposed to out in the world.
On the flip side, there are also those arguments that take the stance that video games can actually promote socialization. The majority of online games are comprised of many other players from around the world, and so it could be argued that in participating in this, kids are being exposed to lots of new and different people, from lots of new and different places. It can also be said that many kids who count gaming as an active interest or hobby, socialize a great deal with others who share this pastime. Whether it’s conversations with other kids at recess about the latest games, or inviting a group of friends around for some multiplayer action, this definitely seems to count as socialization in the real world.
Other popular concerns regarding video games include: a tendency to make kids more violent due to the normalizing of fighting activities that are a core of many video games; a lack of productivity when it comes to actually doing things in the real world; and the risk of eyestrain from spending too many hours staring at a screen.
Not everything about video games is bad, though. Some research has shown that, contrary to the risk of eyestrain, playing video games may actually improve vision, by practicing the skill of being able to spot detail in an otherwise crowded environment. A study by the University of Rochester has shown that those who played video games were 50% more likely to be able to find specific items on a busy screen than those who did not. Video gaming has also been linked to improved dexterity, better problem-solving skills, and even enhanced memory.
It would seem that too much video gaming can certainly have its drawbacks, but it has its plus sides as well. The remaining questions then seem to be: Do the benefits outweigh the potential risks? Should children as young as two really have access to gaming devices? Is it just a sign of changing times and to be taken in moderation?
What do you think?