The hazards of children’s obsession with video games

A child is busy playing a video game.–File photo

A child glued to digital screen whether it is a smart phone, laptop or any other such gadget is not an unusual sight these days. Playing video games incessantly day and night and dawdling away precious time has little or no benefit. But the activity certainly has its debilitating effects.

These days getting a new version of a video game or a play station tops the wish list of many children who hardly show any interest in reading books. The obsession with video games seems a phenomenon of present times and a popular activity among people of all ages. In fact, video gaming is a multi-billion industry and said to be earning way more than the movies and DVDs. Even adolescents and adults are increasingly showing interest in games they play without restraint. It has its detrimental effects on both physical and mental wellbeing of people, especially children.

Some researchers claim that playing games has its own benefits if played for a limited time and can effect brain functions and behaviour in a positive way. The studies exhibit that playing games can change brain’s function, performance and even its structure. The gamers, they maintain, show improvements in sustained and selective attention. Playing games triggers reward circuity in brain and is one of the reasons these games are fun. According to scientists when someone starts playing game, brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine which regulates the feeling of pleasure from video games and one feels joy. But video games can also be highly addictive; this kind of addiction is called “internet gaming disorder” that causes intense cravings.

These unrestrained cravings make compulsive gamers and have negative effects on body and mind. The right choice of game is very necessary especially for children. Many games have negative themes. These promote violence and aggressive behaviour in kids. Scenes of extreme nature, gore and mayhem and the use of drugs etc. encourage criminal activities and tendencies, disregard for laws and authorities, sexual exploitation and aggression towards women.

“Children who spend a major portion of their time on internet can face severe health issues such as obesity which can become a serious cause of concern, leading to a number of diseases and psychological problems can surface,” says paediatrician Dr Tahir Masood. He exhorts the parents to go to any extreme to prevent their children from overusing gadgets which can pose hazards.

Not only health issues may concern the parents, other social, moral and behavioural problems arise from a teen’s prepossession of digital games. Their adherence to smart phones and other screens reduces family time, deprives kids of time for socialization and results in poor academic performance. Children also lost time for pursuing hobbies and read less which hinders their mental progress. Excessive screen time may also lead to negativity, render them emotionally imbalanced.

Worse still, the greatest matter of concern for parents is that playing video games online may expose kids to ‘online predators’. By extracting personal information they make children vulnerable to extreme danger.

All these hazardous results of too much gaming can be averted by parents if they think and work strategically for the wellbeing of children. Wholesome and supportive relationship of parents with their children goes a long way in shaping their lives. First of all, they should set clear and consistent rules about games and their playing time in and outside the homes. Moderate doses of video games make all the difference between playing games for enjoyment and gaming controlling the lives of kids. Parents should seek the help of teachers and other family members and if a child shows signs of uncontrolled aggressive behaviour and has troubled thoughts, it is time to get the counselling of a professional psychiatrist.

An eminent psychiatrist states, “in order to curb the aggressive attitude of children, it is necessary for parents to take great interest in their kids’ activities and interact with your child during the game. Actuate and encourage them to play educational games rather than solely entertaining and violent ones.” He also states that parents should try to gamify study, make it interesting with the help of quizzes and relatable stories. Find exercise games to help your child get some movement while improving their overall brain function. No wonder parents’ and teachers’ keen interest in the studies and activities of children can help wean off the entrenched habit of wasting too much time on video games.

Parents serve as a role model for children. They should cautiously select recreational activities for themselves. If they exhibit irresponsible attitude of not doing what they really want their children to do, their loved ones will never take advices seriously and that would further confuse them. So first parents should check their gaming habits before planning to mend their children’s.

The writer is a freelancer based in Lahore.

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