March 5, 2020

Do you know the advantages and disadvantages of video games for children? Obviously your kid is having fun, but do you know why people love video games?

Maybe your kid is not aware of the reason, she/he just likes it.

Video games stimulate curiosity and imagination. They also strengthen self-esteem as children overcome challenges, going to a higher game level and discovering what they are capable to achieve. Playing video games is a distraction and also an adventure!

Besides, video games is one of the preferred topics of conversation with friends. Children exchange tricks and solutions to achieve the objectives of the games when they find difficulty doing it by themselves.

The origin of games

According to Herodotus, the great historian of antiquity, the dice game was invented in the kingdom of Lydia in Anatolia, during a distant era of cold, drought and famine that lasted years.  The king realized that gaming helped people to forget their hunger. In order to soothe the dispare of famine, he established a Kingdom wide policy: In one day people would play games, the next day, they would eat. And so they survived a long time, until a group ventured out of the territory and conquered more fertile regions.

Dice game was created at that time as a solution to temporarily escape from suffering and hunger. Playing games facilitated peaceful coexistence and encouraged the search for new solutions.

When we play we can escape from reality, we can learn and have a good time. A game in itself is neither good nor bad.

What matters is the relationship that children create with the game and if the game is suitable or not for their age and abilities.

On this basis, let’s see the arguments for and against video games:

Benefits of video games

  1. Most games favor the development of logic to solve problems through puzzles and riddles.
  2. thumbUpVideo games streamline decision making because players develop long-term ability to figure out effectively the possibilities of an option, evaluating the best way to go. Playing games develop a better perception of what is happening around players, according to a research conducted by scientists the University of Rochester in New York (2010).
  3. The interaction in video games improves fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination of preschool children, according to a study by Deakin University in Melbourne.
  4. Cooperative and online games promote sociability, teamwork, ability to solve problems together for both children and adults.  

When you take the problems as if they were a game, you solve them with more determination and creativity, says Jane McGonigal, game designer at the Institute for the Future.

  1. Video games relieve physical and emotional pain, depression and aggressive behavior. Playing video games is a distraction that changes heart rate and channels frustrations in the virtual world, according to studies by the University of Washington, the American Pain Society and Keele University in the UK.
  2. Action video games with accelerated images improve vision because the required attention to it, even in people with cataracts, says Daphne Maurer, medical Visual Development Laboratory at McMaster University Ontario.
  3. “Games with epic achievements are powerful platforms for change because together we can create whatever future we imagine” says Jane McGonigal.

Negative effects of video gamesthumbDown

  1. Aggressiveness: children are increasingly exposed to growing physical and sexual violence present in all media. The violent content of these media may cause childhood aggression (Anderson 2007).
  2. Violence and pornography: video games such as “Grand Thief Auto” and “Call of Duty” for over 18 years, are training children to shoot and kill in a virtual world in which the values ​​of life are lost.

Online multiplayer games are not recommended for children under 13 years because it is in this environment where unhealthy habits (rudeness, bullying , addiction, pornography ) develop, says Andrew Doan, medical PhD, author of “Hooked on Games”.

  1. Attention problems: high speed media content can contribute to attention deficit disorder, as well as decreased concentration and memory (Christakis 2004 , Small 2008).  Elementary school children who play video games more than two hours a day were 67 % more likely to develop attention problems, according to a study published in Pediatrics magazine.
  2. Impatience: “New technologies make us more impatient and decrease frustration tolerance. They also relax a part of our brain that has to be worked”, said Alvaro Bilbao, neuropsychologist.
  3. Addiction: the player’s immediate response to stimuli game generates a mini-reward in the form of release of dopamine (pleasure hormone).

These rewards are small injections of energy feeding the engine of compulsion and continuously create a powerful effect, says Dr. Judith Donat (MIT).

  1. Sleep Deprivation: Exceeding exposure to entertainment screens produces sleep problems. Day and night overexposure generates (very vivid) hypnagogic images that usually produce nightmares.
  2. Emission of radiation: in May 2011 , the World Health Organization classified mobile phones and other wireless devices as a class 2B risk (possible carcinogen) due to the emission of electromagnetic radiation.

These are the main advantages and disadvantages of video games. Again:

What matters is the relationship that the child establishes with the technology under adult supervision.

How to limit the impact on your kid(s)?

As parents, we need to find the right balance. So here are some tips to mitigate the negative consequences of video games:

  • Let’s live and share with our children everyday as if it was an adventure (with surprises, goals, challenges, smiles and difficulties).
  • Lets’ give them the space and time to be what they are.
  • If we are attentive while kids are playing with technology, if they practice physical and social outdoors activities, we will diminish the negative effects of overexposure to screens.
  • Let’s learn together that life can be a more rewarding adventure than the one created for a video game!