Parents’ and other children’s’ caregivers have been grappling with the question; of what benefit are video games to children? Opinion is divided about the positive and negative effects of video games to the development and behavior of children .But it is important to underscore since the first video game, ‘Spacewar’ (released in 1962),it is now 50 years plus and video games are not going away soon(Kirsch,2010).
American children are playing video games now more than ever before. According to Rideout et al., (2010) the percentage of children between the ages of 8-18 playing video games has increased by 400% since 1999. In this paper we will look at the literature that discusses the effects of that video games have on players. Both negative and positive effects of the video games.
Positive effects of video games are those that bring benefits to players and even the society at large. Such improved social skills, improved cognitive ability and enhanced ability in mathematics. According to Kirsch (2010) video games can be used to teach specific educational skills and also used to pass knowledge to students. He outlines the importance of video games to the academic performance of the children and how they can be used as learning tools and as research aids for students to create and intended positive outcome. Unlike the traditional approaches of teaching, video games are interactive and creative while at the same making learning fun so that student are not forced to sit through a boring class but rather it becomes something to be enjoyed. Computer games offers clear objectives and thus can serve as excellent instruction aids for educators.
Gentile & Gentile (2008) argue that video games can reinforce what has been learned as children keep on playing. Some specific subjects such as algebra, compute programming and algebra can make use of computer games. As they put it, “encourage children to persevere in acquiring and mastering a number of skills, to navigate through complex problems and changing environments, and to experiment with different identities until success is achieved” (p 127).
Social skills are also greatly enhanced because children can easily make friends with other children with whom they share the passion for video games. Especially for children who play pro-social video games are also to develop pro-social behavior such as empathy, sharing, cooperation and helping out others (Gentile, 2009). Students who are exposed to games that are about helping others and trying to make a world a better place were found to have a positive attitude towards and more likely to help out when others are in need.
On the other hand, negative outcomes are those that are likely to cause harm to an individual or the society at large. Such negative outcomes include aggressiveness and violent behavior in teenagers. According to Anderson et al., 2010) states that there is a well-established link between aggressive behavior and violent video games. The aggressive and violent behavior in children can be in the form of Physiological arousal. Psychological arousal can be characterized by a high blood pressure, increased heart rate which can lead to other complications. Psychological arousal that is caused by exposure to violent video games can be very easily misattributed to something else because they are viewed by many as exciting and engaging.
According to Anderson et al.,(2010) video games can lead to desensitization to violence. A teenager exposed to violent video games can develop aggressive behavior, which can in can be characterized by physically hurting others, bullying, vandalism and verbal abuse. Even if the said aggression does not escalate into violence it is harmful to both the teenager and the society in which he belongs. As Strausburger (2009) found children develop their behavior and attitudes at a pretty young age and it might not be easy to change them later on in life. There is a clear relationship between media violence and real life aggression
The research on media violence and its relationship to real-life aggression and thus it would be good to do something about it because most of these aggressive and violent behaviors are developed when children are still young. However, it is good to point out that media violence is not the only cause of aggression in children (Strausburger, p203)
According to Padilla-Walker, et al., (2009) videogame playing by late adolescents and young adults (18-26) can be associated with risky behavior. Those who regularly play video games have a high tendency to drug use, alcohol drinking, besides they are also likely to have poorer relationships with friends and family. The effects are even more heightened among females because besides the use of drugs and alcohol they are also likely to develop a sense of low self-worth. The effects can be very risky because they come at a time when these adolescents and young adults are at a stage of forming personal identities.
Video games are also known to be very addictive. According to Mehroof and Griffiths (2010) people desire for neuroticism, aggression and sensation seeking can easily influence and pull one towards video games. This particular personality traits are likely to them addicted or more prone to addiction. Parents need to take due care to know and limit the amount of time that children that children spent on video games because children who are addicted are more likely to be playing more violent games and this can lead to many negative outcomes.
In conclusion, in my informed opinion video games are good for the development of children but like any other good thing should be used in moderation. They have some negative outcomes both psychological and social, that can only be checked and controlled with proper discipline.
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