When it comes to video games, there is a common belief that ‘kids playing violent video games can lead to aggressive behaviours.’ Similar expressions were shared by one of the parents complaining that her kid spent most of his free time on a ‘violent video game’ CS-GO (Counter Strike – Global Offensive: a multiplayer first-person, objective-based shooter game). She believes that her son might have developed aggressive behaviour, which can also deteriorate his physical health. Interestingly, the concerns are valid. As I mentioned in my previous articles, too much screen time can impair the teen’s brain function. However, there are two different concerns which parents and educators sometimes consider as one. First, spending excessive hours playing video games and Second, playing violent video games in leisure time. In this article, I will briefly discuss both concerns separately to understand whether playing violent video games really related to teens’ mental health?
As the coronavirus pandemic put a restraining order on kid’s physical and social activities, it gave more opportunity for children to socialize with friends virtually through online gaming. However, this extra screen time may have also increase parental concerns about kid’s digital wellbeing. One of the most frequent parental concerns is ‘My Kid is spending too much time playing video games. Let’s review this perspective first.
Spending Excessive Hours on Playing Video Games
According to IJHSSR research conducted in 2017, multiplayer games could increase students’ engagement in classroom tasks and activities and students’ sense of patience. However, repetitive stress injuries, or overuse injuries, are injuries that come from activities that involve extended use of muscles and tendons to the point that pain and inflammation develop. If these injuries are allowed to progress, numbness and weakness can develop, and permanent damage can result. Overuse injuries of the hands and arms are rampant among gamers. One typical example is carpel tunnel syndrome, which many gamers develop. Carpal tunnel syndrome, often seen in-office employees, involves inflammation of a nerve in the wrist, which causes pain and numbness.
Gaming is also associated with obesity in teens, and, reasonably, the same in adults, if studied. This is due to the apparent phenomenon where a teen keeps sitting in front of the screen for hours every day, and they aren’t getting much exercise. Obesity is also thought to be due to increased food intake while playing video games. According to a study, more than 1 hour of video gameplay in healthy male adolescents is associated with an increased food intake, regardless of appetite sensations.
As with many other activities that have possible benefits and harms, self-control is the key. Most of the damages from gaming can be improved by limiting the number of hours spent in front of the screen and engaging in healthy activities like exercising or socializing in the real world instead of the virtual game world. Similarly, gamers need to be self-aware on how to protect their thumbs, wrists, and elbows, their waistlines, their emotional state, their sleep, and their eyes.
Now, let’s review the second most frequent parental concern ‘My Kid spent most of the free time on playing violent video games.’
Playing Violent Video Games in Leisure Time
Disagreement over violent video games surfaced in the 1990s, especially after Grand Theft Auto games. However, the argument of whether these violent video games lead to aggressive behaviour in real life is still a debatable question. Some experts argued that violent video games could lead to increased aggression in players in real life. The theory behind this thought is that players model the violent behaviours they observe in the game, making them more disposed to commit similar acts in real life.
Danielle Ramo, PhD, a clinical psychologist, believes that there is no link between violent video gameplay and anxiety, depression, somatic symptoms, or ADHD. She cited the most recent and detailed research published in Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking. It showed that people got just as aggressive when they lost at games like Mario Kart as when they lost a much more violent game such as Fortnite. It was likely the frustration of losing rather than the violence that caused people to act aggressively. Another study suggests that tendencies to mental health problems like depression and anxiety are more important to pay attention to than video game exposure, violent or not.
Dr Ramo further asserts that the prolonged use of violent video games can potentially lead to teens’ aggressive behaviour. However, the research did not show that gaming itself necessarily causes aggressive behaviour.
So, do parents still need to be concerned anymore? The answer is Yes.
Do parents still need to be freaking out that their kids trying to find the imposter in a game will make them more likely to hit their friends when they are back together in person? Probably not. However, excessive video gameplay takes kids away from other valuable activities for their social, emotional, and creative development, such as stories, art, structures, fantasy play.
As I mentioned above, moderation is the key and excess of anything can lead to severe results. Pandemic has left more gruesome effects on teens than adults, resulting in a high level of anxiety and depression. Long story short, if video games help kids cope with their anxiety and depression, we should not worry at all, and if they’re struggling psychologically, we should not be blaming the games. As parents, stay up-to-date on what they’re going through and think more about how games can support well-being.