Are Video Games Beneficial For Adolescents And Children?

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In global terms, 94% of children aged from 6 to 15 and 90% of people aged between 16 and 25 play video games, while just above 95% of households with children under 18 years old own a device for playing video games (Jones et. al 2014, p. 1) whereas the total hours spent by children on video games in the United States has seen an increase of 9 hours, from 4 hours per week during the 1980s to around 13 hours every week in recent years (Academic Help 2012). There are different genres of video games, but the focus of this essay will be on action video games and multiplayer games. Studies have shown that playing these types of video games is beneficial as they help with the development of social skills, regulating emotions and cognitive abilities in children and adolescents. Although there are some concerns such as it may encourage social isolation but in fact, online communities exist. Furthermore, negative emotions could be generated and may lead to violence, but research has shown that there is no connection between the involvement of juveniles in violent crimes and engaging in video games. Therefore, playing video games should be encouraged amongst children and youths.

While video games act as a platform to enhance social skills, it could also lead to social isolation. Multiplayer games are a great way for players to socialise as often players will interact with one another either virtually or in-person while communicating and working together towards a common goal (Cade & Gates 2016, p. 72). To achieve it, players will have to acquire different strategies from others whilst working collaboratively to tackle in-game challenges and giving their comments on ideas along the journey (Logan, Vasudevan & Zúñiga 2015, p. 383). Research shows that 70% of gamers participate in either competitive or cooperative gameplay with a friend (Granic, Lobel & Engels 2013, p. 73). Some claim that excessive gaming could lead to social isolation in children (Academic Help 2012) because less time is spent socialising and meeting new people, however, online gaming communities exist (Logan, Vasudevan & Zúñiga 2015, p. 382). Online forums, wikis, fan websites or guilds can act as an avenue that enables fans from the same game to discuss mechanics related to gameplay. For example, players can post artworks, develop new maps, third party applications to improve the game and share different strategies in these online gaming communities. Through these interactions, players can foster different skill sets such as leadership, community building and trust between gamers.

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Although playing video games is beneficial as it helps adolescents and children to regulate their emotions, it could generate negative emotions. Firstly, video gaming is an effective approach towards generating positive emotions in children and youths when a favorite game is being played as it aids them in mood improvement (Granic, Lobel & Engels 2013, p. 70). Interestingly, fewer mental health issues such as depression were displayed by children who played video games as opposed to those who did not (Gray 2018; Jones et. al 2014, p. 2). Even though there are some arguments to suggest that playing video games are detrimental because it could produce negative emotions such as anxiety, frustration, depression, and sadness (Granic, Lobel & Engels 2013, p. 72) as a result of different problematic situations faced in-game (Geher 2018) which may promote violence and aggression, statistics show that there is no correlation between violent crimes committed by juveniles and them engaging in video games. In fact, video games have been increasing in popularity while juvenile crime rates have been decreasing over the past few years (Academic Help 2012). Moreover, video gaming functions as a platform to reduce the effects of stress and anger (Stoll & Collett n.d.). Olson (2010) conducted a survey and found that 62% of boys and 44% of females who played video games agreed that it helps them relax whilst 45% of boys and 29% of girls participated in video games to cope with stress.

Playing action video games have the potential to boost cognitive functions in their users. Gray (2018) describes how non-gamers saw an increase in their cognitive abilities when asked to take up gaming. Firstly, one aspect of a cognition function improved by playing action video games is task-switching and the ability to multitask (Green & Seitz 2015, p. 104). A recent study showed that non-action video game users showed substantial improvements on a multitasking test when trained to play an action shooter game while no improvement was displayed by the control group who played non-action games or no games (Eichenbaum, Bavelier & Green 2014, p. 61). In addition to this, playing action video games requires the player to demonstrate the ability to respond quickly to different in-game stimuli which are linked to faster processing and improved sustained attention in individuals (Eichenbaum, Bavelier & Green 2014, p. 60). Furthermore, action video game play improves visual attention skills such as the ability to concentrate on objects across time or mental rotation. Experimental findings show that only 10 hours of video gaming are required to improve these skills (Prot et. al 2014, p. 121).

In conclusion, there are several reasons why playing action and multiplayer video games are advantageous as they are associated with many activities that can boost cognitive functions, train children and teenagers in developing social and communication skills and also help them to deal with various negative emotions and generate positive emotional experiences. However, critics of video games argue that playing them is associated with social isolation, but this can be dealt with as playing video games encourages a sense of community. Furthermore, although violence is another issue raised, research has shown that the increased popularity of video games does not attribute to the increased in crimes caused by youths. Ultimately, parental and educational interventions and assistance is the key to ensuring video gaming can be harnessed to assist the youth of the future in self-development of desirable characteristics.

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