Could Video Games Be Causing Behavioural Problems In Young Adults?
Children are spending an increasing amount of time on video games today. What impact could it be having on their psychology?Depends.
Scientists have been studying the link between violent video games and criminal violence in real life, and till date, there is a deficiency of evidence that could establish a straight answer. A more recent study by the American Psychological Association (APA) certainly established that violent games increase aggression in players over a period of time, and caused a decrease in social behaviour, empathy, and sensitivity to violence. But whether violent video games can directly lead to violence is an ongoing debate. Video games led to a worldwide rise in concern among families of teens, after the 2012 incident, where Adam Lanza gunned down 20 school children and 6 teachers in an elementary school in Connecticut, USA. Investigations revealed that the 20-year-old had a penchant for video games, thus setting off a worldwide paranoia, that ceases to subside.
Following this incident, a task force was set up for further investigation, which concluded that criminal violence cannot come from just being exposed to violent games, but can be attributed to an accumulation of risk factors like depression, delinquency, anti-social behaviour, family issues etc.
Another study by Andrew Przybylski, an experimental psychologist based at the University of Oxford, found that violent video games don’t influence kids’ behaviour at all, and that behavioural changes observed were of such low magnitudes, that it establishes a minor relationship, at most. Here is the study in detail:
In the study, researchers studied 217 teens – 110 males and 107 females – and examined their game habits and personalities, with their teachers as judges. Over 50 per cent of the females had never played video games at all, compared to just 13 per cent of the males. 16 per cent (18) of the boys played video games for more than 3 hours a day, compared to 3 per cent (4) of the girls. The researchers found that the 22 kids who played video games the most each day were most likely to have behavioural problems, such as hyperactivity, and have trouble academically, but the effects were "quite small in magnitude”. The study also said that there is no way to know whether kids are drawn to video games because of their personalities, or whether video games alter their personalities.
One could conclude that what really matters is the context and the content. Not all video games promote violence; some promote teamwork, creativity, perseverance, and patience. And not all acts of violence can be blamed on digital triggers, because if you were to believe the pro-gaming research results, then all a game can do is bring out an already existing psychological issue.
Bottom line: Why take a risk? Here’s what you can do to ensure that your children’s digital world is balanced and healthy:
1. Take reviews seriously –
Look at the reviews/ratings for every game before you buy it for your young one. Don’t buy anything you feel is too violent. Period.
2. Don’t feed the addiction –
Let the child never get used to the sedentary, solitary lifestyle of continuous gaming. Introduce the child to outdoor activities from early on, and allow limited gaming time in a week. That may sound cruel, but understand that gaming can easily turn into an addiction, and what your child never spends a lot of time with, he/she doesn’t get addicted to.
3. Eye contact over iContact –
Test the games out yourself. Play with your children; they will love it! Even better, spend non-electronic time with them. Put your phone away too. Let them not be bored enough, often, to feel the need to play games/watch TV/surfing the web etc. All electronic media should be considered equal, whether it belongs to them or to you.