There is no scarcity of addictive habits, ranging from inherently dangerous such as drugs, to inherently harmless but harmful when they become an addiction, such as binging or gambling. Video games fall in the latter category, a past time which children and adults love to indulge in as a way to de-stress themselves, and just have a good time staying within the confines of their home. Another plus point which video games were intended to have was their serving of an educational and informative purpose, via which people could learn problem-solving skills, math, science, history or other content.
Unfortunately today video games are more known for being harmful because of their ‘adult’ and aggressive content, and for spawning an addiction of sorts where children and adults both indulge in the compulsive use of computer and video games.
Video games when played in moderate amounts can simply be classified as just a popular pastime. And even too much gaming can seem comparatively harmless when compared with the perils of alcohol or drug overdose. But there are subtle, yet distinct ways in which video game addiction is slowly ruining lives of a teenagers and adults alike.
People who play video games for four to five hours a day have no time for interacting with peers, playing sports, or doing any other sort of mentally or physically stimulating activity. Additionally, video game addiction can also be the prime cause of lack of exercise, leading to lethargy and other health problems. In children, it can cause stunted social development when children prefer to stay cooped in their room for hours on end without interacting with friends and family. Such children might not learn how to talk to members of the opposite sex, how to participate in sports and extra curricular activities and hence, would end up doing themselves more harm than good.
This is aside from the obvious disregard to academic work, as children who are addicted to video games tend to ignore homework and other academic activities. This is not a problem which can be characterized in a particular age group. Adults can be just as easily hooked on to video games as children and there are harmful consequences there as well. Compulsive gaming can lead to jeopardized jobs and relationships as adults play for extended periods of time and ignore meals, sleep and even their family.
This is aside from the belief that the overly ‘adult’ and aggressive content of these video games leads to increased violence and lead to more aggressive thoughts, feelings and behavior. Some people also propose that violent video games can actually be more harmful that violent movies or television shows because players tend to be more engrossed in video games due to their interactive and rewarding nature. An example of such a game is World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment), which is a teen-rated, online role-playing game. And while the rating system is a welcome policy in terms of its regulatory impact, the most popular games remain the ones rated ‘M’ (Mature) or ‘AO’ (Adults Only).
However, even after having observed and identified all the above behaviors and negative consequences of video game addiction, the point remains that players of video games will never admit that they are addicted, which is a characteristic that most addicts share. They wholeheartedly believe that it’s within their control (when it actually might not be) and that they can stop playing at any given time, if they so wish.
Also, they really do not understand what the fuss is about; after all, it’s not as if they’re indulging in any sort of harmful substance abuse. What can be done to reduce the menace is to provide children with educational games, set time limits for playing times and encourage playing in groups rather than in solitary confinement. Policies restricting children’s access to violent games will continue to be a hot topic for debates but at the micro level, parents should ensure that they fulfill their supervisory role and guide their children towards beneficial and constructive activities.