Human experience has an inherent inclination towards finding different ways of entertainment as it helps them to relax and forget about their worries. Especially in today’s world, there is so much hustle and bustle all around which has made lives boring and tiring to such an extent that people are always trying to find some methods to take a break from their dull and mundane routines. In past, there were different modes of entertainment like reading, listening to stories, dancing, listening to music, etc. Modernization and technological developments revolutionized the methods of entertainment as well. Now people have thousands of gadgets and devices such as television, computer, video games and mobile phones etc. to enjoy themselves.Human nature is such that one is usually inclined towards such activities which provide instant gratification and satisfaction and ignores all long term effects however children and adolescents are more likely to fall a prey to such behavior because they are unable to recognize what is good or what is harmful to them.
Similar is the case with these modernized sources of entertainment, humans are excessively using them without thinking about the serious impacts that they are having on their lives. One of the major sources of entertainment whose trend is dramatically increasing globally especially among kids and teenagers is Video games. A proof of its popularity is that video games industry was worth around $23.2 billion in 2003, and it grew to $33.4 billion in 2008 (Johns 151). “According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), 50% of all Americans play video games” (Vorderer, Peter, and Jennings Bryant 19). Video games can be a source of both constructive and destructive activities. Their benefits and detriments have been a topic of debate since the onset of the gaming revolution.
Although video games are considered to be a very good source to refresh minds and relax for some time. However, in long term, they have hazardous effects on the health of kids and teenagers and are the major source of causing obesity, vision impairments, and various mental disorders.One of the major problems associated with the video games is their addictive nature. Video games work on the basis of a reward system. It has been observed that video games are designed in such a way that there is a reward for the activities involved in it. For instance, in Subway Surfer and Temple Run, a gamer gets a reward even for running; scores constantly increase with respect to the distance covered even if the gamer does not collect coins. The human brain works naturally in such a way that it responds to incentives regardless of the value of the incentive. This incentive or bonus increases the dopamine secretion in the brain which is such a hormone that gives people pleasure just like a drug.
This is what makes video games addictive in nature, due to this effect of video games; gamers spend a lot of time in front of a screen as they get pleasure in doing this activity. The idea of their addictive nature can be made by the statistics that show the time that gamers usually spend in such activities. According to a research, more than 150,000,000 Americans play video games more than once a week; 35,000,000 Sony PlayStation 2 game consoles were sold in the United States in 2005, and in the same year, the video game industry was more than two billion dollars larger than the movie industry (Public Broadcasting System, 2006). Video games just require a gamer to use his hands and not much physical activity is required for playing them. Firstly, video games are addictive and make people sit in front of a screen for a lot of time and secondly they don’t require much physical movement which is leading to a great health hazard i.e. obesity. Scientists and researchers have also found a link between child obesity and video games. Children’s weight status has also been linked to higher weekly rates of video game use.
Specifically, Vandewater et al found that in children under the age of 12 years, increase in the usage of video games as compared to TV viewing is strongly related to weight status. Consequently, indicating that the usage of video games is contributing more towards the displacement of physical activities in children. (Vandewater, E.A., Shim, M., & Caplovitz, A.G. “Linking obesity and activity level with children’s television and video game use”).Recently, research examining adolescent males’ perceived barriers to physical activity found that 15- and 16-year old boys reported a preference to engage in technology-related activities such as video games and computer activities over other self-selected free-time activities.
Specifically, when boys perceived time constraints in free time, they preferred to engage in computer-related activities over physical activity (Allison, Dwyer, Goldenberg, Fein, Yoshida, &Boulitier “Male adolescents’ reasons for participating in physical activity, barriers to participation, and suggestions for increasing participation”). Obesity is one of the greatest health threats to the world population today and it is increasing with time as a sedentary life style is becoming common due to increase in technology. Especially in USA child obesity has become the major problem due to lack of physical activity which is caused due to increasing trends of gaming and watching television. Thus according to a journal article by Steven K. Galson Between 1980 and 2002, the number of overweight children has tripled in the United States, making this a very serious public health epidemic.
Data shows that 13% of our nation’s 2- to 5-year olds and 18% of 6- to 11-year olds were overweight in 2003-2004, and the prevalence of overweight adolescents aged 12-19 years increased from 5% in 1980 to 17% in 2004. (Galson 258-59). This trend is alarming because overweight children are at increased risk for multiple health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. In the same article, he has also described the reasons for obesity among our youth. The increase in childhood obesity is partly attributable to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition. Sedentary behaviors such as television viewing, computer use, and video game playing often replace vigorous physical activity in children. Moreover, obesity does not only lead to increases in diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol but it also causes cancer.
According to research published in The Guardian, there is a strong evidence for a link between excess body fat and an increased risk of various types of cancers which includes: colon, rectum, endometrium, breast, ovary, kidney, pancreas, gastric cardia, biliary tract system and certain cancers of the esophagus and bone marrow. Although video gaming is not directly linked to cancer however the obesity caused by it is the root cause of various other diseases which not only has an adverse effect on health but can also prove to be life threatening. The excessive use of video games impacts the eyesight and create very severe temporary and permanent vision problems. Eyes are the most important and delicate part of a human body so its proper care is essential for proper functioning. One of the most common eye diseases caused by looking at computer screens for a long period of time is Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
According to an article published in The Guardian, CVS is affecting 70 million people worldwide which is an alarming number. In Iran, recently a study was conducted among 642 students from age 11 to 18 from which 70% used to watch computer screens for at least two hours a day. Half of those children suffered from the symptoms of CVS i.e. eye strain, blurred vision, dry eyes, and headaches. Recently a research has been conducted about myopia i.e., nearsightedness. It is an eye disease which causes elongation of the eye ball. Resultantly, it hinders the proper formation of an image on the retina and causes blurred vision. According to this research, from the early 1970s to the turn of the century, myopia has increased from 25% to 42% in the people having age in the range of 12-54 years.
These are the same years in which rapid technological development has made the use of television, computer and most importantly video games common among this age group. A research regarding older generation and people living in rural areas (where electronic devices are not common) was also conducted which showed that this trend of myopia was not common among them. It clearly shows a link between myopia and usage of electronic devices like computer and video games. In the same article, the writer talks about a research in which scientists tried to find a link between outdoor exposure and nearsightedness relief. In 2007, Mutti and his Ohio State team conducted an experiment in which they analyzed 514 children who were not suffering from nearsightedness in third grade. After 5 years, analysis of those children showed that one fifth of them who were more exposed to outdoor activities were less likely to be nearsighted. Thus there clearly exists a relationship between myopia and video games because nowadays the excessive use of video games is the major reason which does not let children move towards outdoor activities.
Research work shows that outdoor light stimulates the release of neurotransmitter dopamine which limits unwanted eye growth. A sunny day delivers 28000 to 30000 lux of this light whereas inside house it was just 1000 lux (Seppa 22-25). The addiction to video games keeps children indoor for most of their time due to which they do not get enough sunlight which is beneficial for their eyes.Moreover, staring at computer screen also disrupts blinking. Kids become so absorbed in playing video games that they forget to blink due to which eyes become dry leading to eye irritation. Tears on the upper transparent layer of eye i.e. cornea, contain water, mucus and oil, and lots of proteins and complex molecules from the blood serum. The balanced amount of all these chemicals present in eyes is very necessary for its protection. When kids do not blink, these tears get evaporated and this makes focusing difficult for eyes. Thus, along with other severe health issues, video games are causing a great damage to eyes that lead to temporary as well as permanent vision impairments.
It is a worldwide dilemma that despite the introduction of highly advanced medical technology and research about the human brain, we still do not recognize and give importance to mental health as it should be given. The mind is the most important part of the body as it is the center of control of our entire body functions but issues related to medical health are easily over looked. Similarly, in case of video games, people usually do not give a second thought about the mental health disorders that the video games may cause. Video games are not only dangerous to eyes and body but also to the brain. Most of the time, teenagers and kids are in their developmental stages when they get addicted to video games and need more physical activities and other cures to avoid the severe health issues.
In teen age, a person has a great amount of energy in his body and this excessive energy needs to be discharged through different productive activities involving both mental and physical work. Just as in case of our digestive system, excessive and undigested food needs to be discharged from body otherwise it may prove very harmful. Video games are also hindrance towards the proper discharge of physical energy and thus it causes several problems regarding mental and psychological health. According to psychologists and mental health specialists, several problems have been thought to be caused by playing video games. It affects the power of concentration. In 2014 a book was published by Oxford University, it brought many scholars together to research on youth development. This book named ‘Media and the Well-Being of Children and Adolescents’.
In this book, it has been published that video games cause several attention problems and affect many conceptually related abilities. Several cross-sectional studies have found that children and adolescents who play more video games also tend to have more attention problems (e.g., Chan & Rabinowitz, 2006). Furthermore, longitudinal studies have found that video game exposure is related to greater subsequent attention problems, even when earlier attention problems are statistically controlled for (Gentile: “Pathological Video Game Use Among Youths: A Two-Year Longitudinal Study”)
Another problem related to excessive video game play is that they require the player to focus a lot and thus the player faces a great pressure on his nerves which may cause seizures due to neurological damage. In book ‘The Effects of Video Games on Children: The Myth Unmasked’ By Barrie Gunter, the writer has described a number of incidents related to excessive game play and seizures. He writes that observation about this phenomenon was made when a 17-year-old teenager faces 2 epileptic attacks after playing the same game for 20 to 30 minutes. There was another observation made by a fifteen-year-old boy. He did not have a history of seizures before but after playing video games regularly for one year he started to have seizures. (Gunter 112). There is a gray matter in hippocampus part of our brain which is responsible for the transfer of neurological messages and signals and thus helps in brain functioning.
A recent research was published in The Guardian which has revealed that playing video games reduces the gray matter in the brain and thus causes disorders such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. According to the same research of the people, it was observed that people who play games such as Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto V and Tomb Raider were more likely to employ navigational strategies associated with decreased gray matter in the hippocampus part of the brain. Thus, playing video games causes a lot of mental pressure which leads to neurological damage and causes various psychologically harmful impacts such a seizures and stress disorders. (Chan, Philip A., and Terry Rabinowitz. “A Cross-sectional Analysis of Video Games and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms in Adolescents.”).
Despite all of these harmful implications of video games, there are still many people who believe that video games are really good for children and teenagers as they can help relieve any kind of depression and anxiety. Nowadays, people make a huge mistake about the understanding of the terms like anxiety and depression. People generally consider the small stress and pressure faced during daily life matters as depression and anxiety but the fact is not so. Depression is actually a constant state of tension and sadness that prevails for a very long period of time. So the minor sort of tensions and stress may be reviled by video games for a short period of time but depression and anxiety cannot. This is because by stimulating dopamine release, video games help people to enter a state called “flow “.
People gamble or play video games for many reasons, including relaxation, competence, autonomy, and escape from daily concerns. Playing can produce “flow” states, in which the player is focused, has a sense of control and may lose a sense of time and place, and finds playing intrinsically rewarding. (Gentile “Pathological Video Game Use among Youths: A Two-Year Longitudinal Study.”). Therefore, video games may help relieve stress but only for the time during which a person is in the state of flow just as drugs help people forget about their tensions for some time. They may only benefit from this feature of video games as long as they are playing video games, as video games require the player to focus on them and thus the players’ focus does not incline towards his own depressive thoughts and anxieties.
But as soon as one stops playing video games one is again in one’s world of reality with all the same tensions and problems and the temporary solution is not really a solution. The short term effect may relieve from depression but according to recent research video games are also a cause of depression. A research was conducted by Dr. Douglas Gentile of Iowa State University and his companions. After conducting a research on a number of students in Singapore for 2 years regarding the link between video games and depression he found a definite correlation between heavy gaming and symptoms of depression. He said, “I was expecting to find that the depression led to gaming but we found the opposite in that study. The depression seemed to follow the gaming.’’ Thus it clarifies the fact that video games enhance depression and stress instead of reducing them as claimed by some scientists.
To conclude, the excessive video gaming is a formidable reality of today’s world. Video games not only cause physical health problems like obesity and vision impairment but also several mental health problems. Video games are still considered as good for relieving mental stress by some people, but, in depth researches through intense data collection have clearly refuted the claim about video games as beneficial for mental and psychological health. The involvement of the potential asset for the better future in such devastating activities has very severe consequences for the society as a whole.Thus, letting kids destroy their health just for the sake of instant and temporary gratification is not a good option at all. So, parents should strictly keep an eye on activities of their children and must guide them about the things that can prove hazardous to their health.
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