If you’re raising children the chances are that you’ve heard a lot of conflicting information about whether you should be allowing them to play video games, and if so how long you should be allowing them to play video games for.
The question at the root of all of this well-meaning advice, is: Are video games bad for you? As you might expect, there isn’t a black-and-white answer to this question.
There are some positive side effects that can be experienced in people who play a lot of video games. Studies have shown that gamers may develop an increased ability to concentrate, and the ability to keep their focus on one specific thing while tuning out everything else that is going on around them.
There is also some evidence to suggest that long-term gamers may experience hippocampal growth, and become much more proficient at identifying visual-spatial relationships.
There’s no doubt that video games can raise your stress levels. If you’re playing a game where you’re trying to escape from someone who is trying to kill you, you’ll definitely feel stress.
However, a 2019 study showed that although people playing first-person shooter games did experience variances in their heart rate and emotional responses while playing games their blood pressure didn’t alter, which suggests that their bodies were not perceiving the danger in the games as a physical threat. If you’re interested in the relationship between stress enduced by video games, you can read more about it here.
Video games themselves aren’t the thing that is harmful, it’s the fact that in order to play video games you’re generally sitting down for long periods of time which is not good for you. Long sedentary periods mean a higher risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
If your child wants to play video games (or if you do for that matter) then this is probably fine, but be sure to encourage them to get up and move about every so often to break up their gaming session, ideally outside.
The other problem with video games is that they are a solitary activity. If someone is spending all day inside playing a game, particularly during their formative years, they are not socializing with their peers which can hamper their social development and make it much more difficult for them to make friends.
It’s a good idea to intersperse gaming time with social interaction time, or to play cooperative games where you can socialize and game at the same time.
Video games are highly stimulating, which means that they can become addictive for some people. Video game addiction is becoming more prevalent in the West. The signs of video game addiction are:
- Playing for increased amounts of time.
- Thinking about gaming while doing other things.
- Lying to conceal the amount of time spent gaming.
- Gaming to escape real life problems, or mental health issues like anxiety or depression.
- Feeling irritable if trying to cut down on gaming.
You can read more about video game addiction, how to prevent it and what to do if you think you or a loved one is addicted to video games on Web MD.