When we see the joy and laughter on our children’s faces as they play their favorite video games, it’s hard to see any downside to it. However, the old saying everything in moderation reigns true as we discuss the negative effects excessive video games can have on your child’s mental health.
How video games are affecting children negatively?
1. Risk of Addiction
First and foremost when people play video games for extended periods of time they increase the risk of developing an addiction. Obviously, some people are more susceptible than others but when it comes to our little ones why take the risk?
Video game addiction is an official mental health disorder after being recognized by the World Health Organisation. They looked at the data and incidences across the globe and found consistencies in the behavior and symptoms that indicate video game addiction.
How video game addiction works in young children and adults alike is it causes them to become addicted to dopamine. Dopamine is a neurochemical responsible for important roles such as memory, cognition, emotions, and learning. When we play video games the stimulation and rewards cause large amounts of dopamine to be released making us feel great. On the downside, long hours of excessive gaming lead to overexposure and desensitization of our brain to dopamine.
Ultimately it means that we need to get more dopamine to feel the same level of satisfaction and hence more time playing video games. Many of the symptoms that video game addicts feel are largely attributed to their desensitization to dopamine.
It’s evident that an imbalance in this neurochemical can massively hinder your child’s development.
2. Decrease Motivation
A common symptom many video game addicts display is low energy and poor motivation to do anything else except gaming. In children, this can likely manifest itself as reluctance to do homework, poor performance in school, and neglecting other responsibilities.
The reason this happens is due to video games’ ability to shortcut what is known as the triumph circuit.
It’s the portion of the brain that motivates us to achieve things for that triumphant feeling we get after it’s completed. Video games create small achievable goals that provide a consistent level of satisfaction as and when we want it. We can liken it to instant gratification.
In the mind of a child that plays video games excessively, why would they want to invest time and energy “suffering” doing schoolwork or other hard tasks when they can play games for an hour and feel accomplished for it.
If this behavior isn’t rectified it could go on to stunt their capacity for success later in life when it comes to hard work.
3. Decreased Attention and Interest
Video games are an undeniably unique activity. It satisfies our need to see measurable growth, our need for social interaction and is also used to relax and unwind. With an activity that does all of this from the comfort of our own home, it damages children’s interests in other greater pleasures they once had.
You might find that your child is no longer interested in playing outside with their friends, going to their favorite after-school sports club, or playing with their household pet. Gaming often substitutes many important areas of a child’s life that are important for personal growth.
Not only that but some research has shown evidence that they have a negative impact on attention span. Results of a study demonstrate a relationship between video game addiction and other comorbid diseases such as ADHD. Hence it’s important to remain vigilant when it comes to our child’s mental state.
This is the technical term used for a condition where an individual cannot identify their emotional state. fMRI studies have shown that playing video games suppress negative emotions such as fear, pain, and anxiety. Hence many young people resort to playing video games rather than experiencing these negative emotions.
The problem with this; is that over time young people begin to lose the ability to determine what emotion they are feeling.Rather than learning how to healthily deal with negative emotions, it becomes an overwhelming sensation that they feel the need to run from.
And of course, the main way they know how to do this is through more video games causing a detrimental negative feedback loop.
How to prevent Video Games addiction?
Now that we have explained some of the main effects gaming can have on your child’s mental health and you know what to look out for. Let’s now go through some of the most effective methods to cut down your child’s gaming habits and prevent them from developing video game addiction.
Here are some ways to prevent video games addiction:
1. Set Healthy Boundaries –
Removing video games altogether might be a bit drastic when it comes to dealing with a child who plays excessively. Often it can result in friction between the parent and the child which leads to tantrums, arguments, and disputes that could have been avoided. We recommend sitting down and discussing a reasonable amount of playtime during the week. It could be a certain number of hours a week, a number of games per night, or an allotted slot on the weekends.
The purpose of this is to preserve the enjoyment they get from gaming while still leaving lots of room for productivity. Playing video games nowadays is a very social experience as they team up online after school with their friends. So allowing them some time to play gives them the opportunity to build and maintain friendships
2. Provide Alternative Activities –
As we previously mentioned playing video games is a very unique activity that covers a lot of the needs we have as developing people. To satisfy what gaming once used to, we need multiple different activities that cater to those needs.
a. We will need a stimulating activity. Something that engages them mentally and harbors the opportunity for them to see a measurable growth in their skills. Activities like learning an instrument or a new language are great choices.
b. We will also need a social activity. Something that gives them a chance to meet other kids and socialize in a setting that isn’t over the internet. Activities such as dance classes, after-school sports clubs, or martial arts.
c. Finally, they will need a resting activity. Many children like to rush home from school to kick their feet up and unwind by playing video games. So we will need a low energy activity in order to substitute this. Things like reading or drawing are good examples.
In teenagers and adults with video game addiction, they struggle to find new passions that substitute what gaming used to offer. Large portions of treatment of their addiction are finding new ways to invest their time without gaming. Therefore it is essential that we break these habits now, early on. Give them the opportunity to build a healthy and sustainable passion.
If you think that your child might be at risk of video game addiction or want to know more about how to treat video game addiction, The Mindful Gamer is always here to help.
Love & Light,