Not all video games contain violent contents, but most of them are violent and hence dangerous. Some researchers say that violent games may cause adolescents to become violent, or lead to aggressive behaviour, emotions and thoughts. It’s true that video games are violent, but aggressive adolescents are more likely to be more attracted to them. Some games reward players for doing violent actions, so this will affect them negatively, letting them think that violence is good. A study on two groups showed that the group that plays violent games is more likely to think that using marijuana and drinking alcohol is normal and good. However, contrary to researches that infer negative impacts, others have found positive effects of video games as well.
Children of today spend most of their time on computer and mobile phone games. These games cannot create any emotional and human relationship. Children’s and adolescents’ attraction to such games cause many mental, physical and social problems for them. These effects stimulate anger and violence, lead to obesity, social isolation, and other physical and mental damages. Many psychologists and mental health professionals have warned of the effects of these games.
EFFECTS ON PHYSICAL HEALTH
Excessive gaming repeatedly over long periods can potentially cause physical strain on gamers, and:
(1) REPETITIVE STRAIN INJURY (RSI): Children and young people who play games for extended periods can be affected by RSI. Stiffness, aches, pain and numbness are signs to watch out for. For example, ‘nintendinitis’ refers to thumb, wrist and hand problems associated with playing on gaming consoles. Eye strain is also common if you look at screens for long periods without taking breaks. Screen glare can also affect vision.
(2) HEADACHES AND MIGRAINES: Headaches may be related to physical causes such as eye strain, bad posture or dehydration. Or they may be related to mental health issues – including anxiety and depression. Young gamers who get regular headaches should get checked by a doctor.
(3) LACK OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY: Playing sedentary games for long periods can mean that people miss out on exercise. The World Health Organisation recommends that children and young people, aged 5 to 17, do at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day.
(4) POOR NUTRITION OR SELF-CARE: When gaming addiction takes over, children and young people may skip meals, rely on junk food, resist taking toilet breaks or have poor hygiene.
(5) POOR POSTURE: If you’re slouching in a chair or you’re hunched over your mobile, then it’s time to take a break. Whilst these positions won’t harm most children immediately, they can lead to serious problems in adulthood.
(6) POOR QUALITY SLEEP: Playing stimulating games for many hours at a time, particularly late at night, will make it harder to fall asleep.
EFFECTS ON MENTAL HEALTH
According to Fowler, Tompset, and Braciszewski (2009), a relationship between depression and violent content in video games is possible. This implies that adults and children who tend to be exposed to violence in real-life, whether as witnesses or victims, have poor mental health outcomes, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. WHO recently recognised gaming disorder as a mental health condition and added it to the international medical list.
Playing online games incessantly is not enough to be recognised as a disease. Instead, mental illness always arises when the players play online games for an extended period to the extent that it affects their daily lives. Therefore, gaming disorder is a “pattern of chronic or repetitive gaming activity” which causes the players to lose control of their gaming actions; they start considering gaming as a priority over all other interests and behaviours, leading to continued playing even though they may suffer from its negative consequences. Such consequences may include disabilities in social life as well as in education and family relationships.
(1) ANGER OR RAGE: If a parent interrupts a gaming session or broadband goes down, what is the reaction? If children or young people respond with anger or rage – including shouting, screaming or physical attacks, then this is something worth noting.
(2) COMPULSIVITY: Is there a strong sense of urgency to get back to gaming? Is it difficult to pull yourself away? With children and young people, compulsive play can manifest in playing past switch-off times, late at night or secretively.
(3) ISOLATION AND LONELINESS: Loneliness is a global issue faced by many people to some degree in their lives. It is a negative experience that people go through. The cause of loneliness is the lack of excitement in some people’s lives, resulting from major defects in their social interaction network. If children spend long periods of time playing games by themselves, this reduces interaction with relatives and friends in real life. Though many young gamers use online chat in multiplayer games, including to talk to friends in real life, this should be balanced with interactions in the same physical space.
(4) DEPRESSION: In regular gamers, ongoing listlessness, sadness or lethargy can be signs of problem gaming. Depressive symptoms will be most apparent when they are not playing the game – i.e., in the withdrawal phase. Video games are correlated with increased depression and anxiety. However, correlation does not necessarily imply causation — people who are unhappy or depressed are drawn to video games because they help to suppress negative emotions. They develop a gaming habit that causes them to get stuck in life. Naturally, they end up being unhappy.
—The writer is a BSc student at Govt Degree College Bhaderwah. [email protected]