Video games have become an undeniably formidable force in the realm of digital entertainment, with thousands of games entertaining millions of players every year, and their popularity only seeming to grow; with such an enormous looming impact on culture en masse, the effect of video games on children has become a touchstone topic for many, both as a source of concern and of potential promise.
But much like the effect of any other item or element on kids, the effect of video games on children likely differs on a case-by-case, child-by-child basis, with all the other aspects of their upbringing playing a part in their maturation. However, in a broad sense, a few sweeping generalizations can be made regarding the effects of video gaming on younger players.
Although, like many gamer-related topics, the total effect may depend on the player’s preferred genres and titles to play, video games can have some interesting effects on child socialization. They may actually be more beneficial than other digital mediums, such as the internet or cell phones, considering the massive fun that multiplayer games have to offer with friends – whether remotely or in the same living room. However, the drawback is that no matter how immersive the gaming experience is, it is still no substitute for the face-to-face peer interaction that children need in order to develop healthy socialization skills.
This is definitely one of the more controversial subjects surrounding the effect of video games on children. The potentially worrying idea is that some of the most popular games on the market are rather violent, and readily display uncensored images of brutality and murder. To those playing, these life-like onscreen deaths are merely a means to an end in order to score more points, advance to further levels, etc. It is very difficult to directly tie the effect of video gaming to the amount of desensitization that a player experiences, especially if they are also willingly engaging in viewing violence in other forms of media consumption, but it is perhaps even more difficult to ignore the common-sense argument that repeated viewings of acts of violence likely does decrease the gravity of these acts in the mind of the viewer. At “best,” this may mean a loss of compassion and sympathy; at worst-case scenario, the player grows up not believing that murder is such a terrible thing.
Some see video games as a completely negative mental
stimulus, as a sort of pastime that turns one’s brains to mush. Even if playing video games is not exactly the intellectual equivalent of academic study and active reading, the position is still not quite so simple. The consequences can include loss of attention span, reduced creativity, and a lack of interest in pursuits outside of a television screen. Yet, again, many of these effects probably depend on the individual gamer, and his or her gaming choices, along with correlations for time spent playing, what other extracurricular activities are enjoyed, etc. Some even argue that the effects of video games on children actually include some positives, such as enhanced problem-solving skills, quicker reaction time, healthier imagination, math and reading practice, and others.
After all angles are considered, perhaps the most basic effect of playing video games on children is simple enjoyment. Whatever the ultimate lifelong ramifications are, whatever the subtle nuanced temporary effects are, children continue to play video games because those children like playing video games. Just like a child who develops a sudden, strong fondness for basketball, comic books, laundry, architecture, or other topics, so too will children develop an interest in video games, and the parent must accept the responsibility of helping the child approach these games in a manner that will most positively contribute to their well-being.
The subject of the effects of video games on children is a dynamic, intriguing one, because as video games change, so too will their effects. Whereas games used to be pixelated contests played using one-button controllers, now players can utilize motion-sensor remotes and other high-tech devices to engage in near-realistic gameplay. As the gamer culture continues to evolve and innovate, hopefully so too will human beings in their efforts to best react.