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Effect of Video Games on Adolescents

Author: Isabella Ng

Editors: Sophia Chen, Flynn Ma

Artist: Lalita Ma

As technology continues to grow, it becomes easy to place blame on the internet as the root of all problems in adolescents. Video game addictions, rising screen times, and social media usage are all undeniably increasing, and so is the prevalence of mental health disorders in this young generation. But is there a correlation between the two? Or, contrary to popular belief, do computers and video games hold a vital place in the 21st century?

Conversations about video game addiction and physical health have been ongoing in the adolescent population. Parents frequently complain about increased screen time usage, blue light exposure, and poor sleep quality. While there is insufficient evidence to directly associate sleep disorders and fatigue with video game playtime, there is substantial research evidence regarding the relationship between obesity and video game playing. Of the five studies investigated in a research paper by BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine (BMJ), three reported signs of low-risk bias for an increased BMI with increased levels of video game playing (Huard et al., 2020). Moreover, musculoskeletal pains, particularly in the lower back, upper limbs, or finger joints, are common complaints among chronic video game players. This is mainly due to bad posture, and repetitive use of clicking motions on controllers and keyboards. Additionally, sitting down for hours is a major cause of obesity, mainly due to the lack of physical activity. Therefore, the effects of video games must continue to be researched in more depth to clarify associations between gaming and health indicators. 

Video games can be both beneficial and detrimental to the social lives of thousands of adolescents. On one hand, they provide a network of same-minded individuals who can bond over a shared topic. However, addiction and poor time management can lead to isolation from the real world. The term “game” can cover various activities, encompassing online trivia platforms, mobile games like Candycrush, and online shooting games such as Rainbow Six Siege. Playing for hours could mean less time with friends and family. The cycle is addictive, meaning that adolescents can be playing for hours or even days on end without speaking to other people around them. At times, video games can be used as an outlet to avoid real-world responsibilities. Recent studies show that 1 in 10 people in the United States are addicted to computer games, and the numbers could be larger for adolescent populations who grew up in the internet age. Researchers claim there are significant differences between the social skills of those who are and aren’t addicted to computer games (Zamani et al., 2010). The feelings of escapism and parasocial connections formed with those online provide a sense of community that video game players use to compensate for their declining social interactions in the real world. However, multiplayer online games can be utilized in education. With online computer games like Gimkit and Kahoot being used on an international scale for classroom settings, it is clear that in the 21st century, video games have an important place in all kinds of settings. Ultimately, video games have the potential to serve as educational and social enhancers, but excessive use can be detrimental to one's social well-being. 

Often, adolescents turn to technological outputs as a means of stress relief- whether it be social media usage, calling friends, or, in this case, playing a video game. Findings support the idea that playing a game of choice improves mood and can help decrease stress levels. According to Volume 2, Issue 1 of the Journal of CyberTherapy & Rehabilitation, subjects given any of three games of choice had “mood-lifting effects,” with scans showing decreased left alpha brain wave activities, which are associated with euphoria (Parks et al., 2009). The impacts video games can have on conditions prevalent in adolescent populations, such as depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders, can be alleviated through stress relievers like CVG (computer and video game) play. For instance, games that encourage problem-solving can stimulate the brain, which is beneficial for overall mental health and well-being. Similarly, physically demanding games can help combat obesity by enjoyably promoting physical activity. Thus, gaming could give kids a fun outlet to turn to during times of uncertainty. 

The impact of CVG play on adolescents is intricate and should be examined from various angles and perspectives. Though video games encompass both positive and negative aspects, it is evident that excess or chronic use of gaming is detrimental in all aspects—social, mental, and physical—alike. While some studies suggest gaming has benefits in brain activity and can even combat disease through euphoric release, other studies claim that video games can alter circadian rhythms, sleep patterns, and body regulation. Therefore, responsible habits, such as setting time limits and prioritizing active and positive video games, are essential. Possible recommendations to foster these responsible gaming habits are to set timers on your phone, get up every 30 minutes to walk and talk to people, and play physical games, like sports or board games. By understanding and further exploring these complexities, a world where gaming can be utilized healthily and holistically for adolescents is in sight. 

 

Citations:

J., Parks. “A randomized controlled study measuring the effectiveness of casual video

games in reducing stress and increasing mood.” Frontiers in Neuroengineering, vol. 2,

Zamani, Eshrat et al. “Comparing the social skills of students addicted to computer games

with normal students.” Addiction & health vol. 2,3-4 (2010): 59-65.

Huard Pelletier, Vincent et al. “Video games and their associations with physical health: a

scoping review.” BMJ open sport & exercise medicine vol. 6,1 e000832. 2 Oct. 2020,

doi:10.1136/bmjsem-2020-000832

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