Guess what teens love to do most in their spare time. Watching television? Reading magazines? How about playing video games? A documentary shows that the number of youngsters indulged in video games is skyrocketing. In the US, nearly 90% of kids play these games while 5 millions even have gaming addiction. Given this situation, are video games beneficial to them? If not, then why do teens forgo their studies and time spent with families or friends in order to squeeze more time for playing these games?
“Video games are certainly healthy.” This is the stance that the teen being interviewed in the documentary holds. What he claims is that these games give spiritual relief to him. The youth is always burdened with stress, especially in the academic field. Being expected to earn high marks in school results which implies a bright career future to most parents, they are therefore overstressed and need an emotional outlet to release their pressures. Playing video games is then a perfect way for them to escape from reality. Not only can they enjoy the game, but they can also temporarily escape from pressure.
Video games also help him to find short-term goals, which in return, boost their self-esteem. It is not hard to understand that achievement and self-confidence are positively related. While winning the game increases the sense of achievement which represents their abilities to be able to compete with other users, his self-esteem will also be enhanced. Other intrinsic rewards, like a feeling of autonomy, competence and presence also are the criteria for teens to value themselves. Overall, video games comfort teenagers’ psychological wellness.
Moreover, the teen regards these games as a way to improve relationships with peers. Most game players, especially for boys, find it easier to blend in their peer groups. Having the same interest, they can therefore enlarge their social circles. Also, some games are impossible to be advanced without joining a party. This implies game users have to play in teams. While team playing requires communication among players, they can interact with peers and may even learn the spirit of teamwork.
It seems that the young player, citing video games as a blessing, has valid reasons. Nevertheless, the other interviewees in the documentary, a psychologist and a teacher do not think in this way.
In fact, the psychologist does not completely deny the benefits these games bring. He thinks that playing video games can be an opportunity for teenagers to train the ability of problem-solving and equip them with critical thinking. However, the key to this is playing in moderation, which unfortunately, is difficult for people at such a tender age to fulfil.
In adolescence, teens have little self-control in timing and hardly can they control their impluse in playing like a mature adult. They are always under the mistaken notion that they can control themselves and opt out the games anytime they want. Worse still, the players are always expected to achieve important missions or raids which require hours of daily commitment. Without a mature ability to control themselves, teens may easily indulge in the virtual world for a long period of time. They end up being a video game addict who may be withdrawn from family and even society.
Another setback brought by video games is that teens will displace their physical activities. Physical development is crucial for the youth in this growing stage. However, teens may rather sit comfortably at home and play games than doing exercise. Not to mention what disadvantages will less exercising brings, even by playing these games can make a teen get headaches, lose appetite and have sleep deprivation. These kinds of health problems hinder the healthy growth of a kid.
Apart from the psychologist, the teacher also suggests that video games are harmful in many ways. The most serious problem brought is that teens’ value will be twisted due to the excessive exposure to the depiction of graphic violence or sexual themes. Unlike watching TV, playing games involve teens to repeatedly practise the actions of violence to get rewards. These games make violence more realistic and directly instil an attitude of violent behaviour into teens, which they may become desensitised to violence in the long run. Researches show that teens playing violent games are more likely to have aggressive tendencies or feelings and less willing to show love and care towards others than the ones who do not.
What the teacher is also concerned about is the academic performance of the young players. From his point of view, playing video games which have no constructive educational effect to teenagers will considerably reduce their time spent on studies. When kids receive unsatisfactory results, massive pressure builds up, driving them to seek for relief. The continuous playing of video games will then occupy their schedules, tempting them to sacrifice the time to study. Eventually the kids get poor performance, leading them to a vicious cycle. The deeper they get into the cycle, the easier for them to lose temper since they face a greater burden. Expressions of rage and anger may damage their relationships with friends, teachers and particularly, family members.
When it comes to the discussion of video games, it is not easy to judge whether they are a total blessing or a total curse. Some think they bring more harm in general while some hold an opposite view. The important matter lies in the issue is the limitation of playing time. Only by monitoring and limiting the amount of games played can a teenager gain the actual benefits. Otherwise, they can be hooked on video games, just like a drug addict, which will certainly harm the youth in the long run.