Videogames in Childhood and Adolescence

Videogames in Childhood and Adolescence

Beneficial or Harmful?

Videogames have become a ubiquitous form of entertainment for children and adolescents, raising concerns about their potential impact on cognitive, social, and emotional development. While some argue that they can have significant benefits for a person’s cognitive and social skill development, others express concern about possible detrimental effects, such as addiction or violence. In this article, we will examine different perspectives to understand whether video games are beneficial or detrimental to young people, exploring its potential impact on cognitive skills, social behaviour, emotional regulation, and overall well-being within child psychology in childhood and adolescence.

How do video games affect children and adolescents?

Advantages of the use of video games:

  • Cognitive development: Numerous studies suggest that certain types of videogames can enhance cognitive abilities such as attention, spatial reasoning, problem-solving, and hand-eye coordination. Action games, in particular, have been associated with improvements in these cognitive skills.
  • Social Implications: Videogames can provide opportunities for social interaction and collaboration, especially in online multiplayer games. Furthermore, cooperative gameplay has shown to foster teamwork and communication skills.
  • Emotional Regulation: Some studies suggest that videogames can help individuals manage stress and emotions through relaxation and cathartic effects, and can also serve as a coping mechanism for emotional distress. Nevertheless, exposure to violent or highly stimulating videogames has been associated with increased aggression, desensitization to violence, and emotional desensitization in some people.
  • Educational learning: There are video games designed specifically for learning and education. These games can teach academic concepts, foreign languages, history and more in an interactive and engaging way and have been proved very useful for its purpose.

Disadvantages of the use of video games:

  • Cognitive development: Excessive gaming has been linked to potential negative impacts on cognitive development, such as reduced academic performance, impaired executive functions, and attention deficits.
  • Social Implications: gaming abuse can to social withdrawal, isolation, and poorer real-life social skills, particularly if most social interactions occur in virtual environments.
  • Emotional Regulation: video game abuse can interfere with proper emotional development, especially in children and adolescents. They may have difficulties expressing and managing their emotions in a healthy way. Some people who abuse video games may become more aggressive, impulsive or irascible, especially if they are exposed to violent or competitive content on a constant basis.
  • Physical health: The sedentary lifestyle associated with long hours of play can lead to health problems, such as obesity, sleep difficulties and other disorders related to lack of exercise.
  • Loss of interest in other activities that can be beneficial to their overall development and neglect of responsibilities in daily life, such as schoolwork, household chores, or job responsibilities.

How mental health is affected, consequences of excessive video game use:

Excessive gaming can lead to negative effects on mental health, such as increased anxiety, depression, low self-steem and social isolation, especially if the person uses video games as a form of escape or evasion from emotional problems or stressful situations in real life.

Some young people may develop an addiction to video games, further increasing all the negative consequences cited above. Several factors can contribute to the development of video game addiction, such as high levels of stress, social difficulties, avoidance of real-life problems and easy accessibility to games. In these cases, there are excessive and uncontrollable gaming habits that disrupt the individual’s daily life and it is important to recognize the signs of addiction, such as an irrepressible desire to play, neglect of other responsibilities, neglect of social activities, decrease sleeping hours to be able to play and irritability when unable to play.

Not all people who play video games experience these negative consequences to the same degree. The impact of video game abuse can vary depending on factors such as personality, age, social context and family support. Furthermore, some video games contain violent, sexual or age-inappropriate content and it is crucial to take this into account and regulate our children’s exposure to such content.

Guidelines to help establish limits on video games

Guidelines to help establish limits on video games:

Setting healthy limits on video games for children and adolescents is crucial for promoting balanced lifestyles and overall well-being. Here you can find some guidelines.

  • Age-appropriate content: Ensure that the content of the video games your children play is suitable for their age and maturity level. Periodically review the content to ensure they remain appropriate.
  • Create a schedule: Establish a schedule for when video game play is allowed. For example, after schoolwork, chores, or physical activities.
  • Set time limits: Determine a reasonable daily and weekly time limit for video game play. The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends limiting screen time to 1-2 hours per day for children and teenagers.
  • No screens before bedtime: it can disrupt sleep patterns and affect their quality of sleep.
  • Encourage physical activity: Balance screen time with physical activities.
  • Lead by example: Set a positive example by managing your own screen time and showing balance in your digital habits.
  • Educate about online safety: Teach children the potential risks of interacting with strangers in online gaming communities.
  • Promote other interests: Encourage children to explore and develop other hobbies and interests beyond video games, such as reading, arts, music, or sports.
  • Use parental controls on gaming devices to restrict access to inappropriate content and set playtime limits.
  • Open communication: Discuss with your children the importance of balance and the reasons behind the established limits.

The impact of videogames on childhood and adolescence is a multifaceted issue with both beneficial and harmful aspects. While some videogames can offer cognitive and social benefits, gaming abuse and exposure to certain types of games can lead to negative consequences. Finding the right balance and promoting responsible gaming habits are essential in harnessing the potential benefits of videogames while safeguarding the well-being of young individuals. The limits you set may vary based on your child’s age, maturity, and individual needs, so be willing to adjust them as necessary. It is essential that parents and educators are involved and know how to make the most of the positive aspects of video games while managing the associated risks. Open communication and setting healthy limits on play time and game type can help ensure that video games are a positive and enriching experience for young people. More information on other risks of new technologies can be found in the following articles: “New risks of the digital society: sexting among teenagers” and “The dark side of social networks“.

In conclusion, video games can be beneficial when used in moderation and carefully selected to be age and developmentally appropriate for the child or adolescent. If you suspect that your children are experiencing problems due to video game abuse, do not hesitate to contact us to offer you the help and support that you need.

Prot, S., Anderson, C. A., Gentile, D. A., Brown, S. C., & Swing, E. L. (2014). The positive and negative effects of video game play. Media Psychology, 17, 276-301.

Aina Fiol Veny
Psychologist Col. Nº B-02615