Video games are more popular now than at any time in their history. This pastime crosses national, racial, social-economic, and gender boundaries. Although it originated in the United States, the gaming industry has become prominent worldwide.
In the United States, there is a growing concern about video game addiction. Statistics show that 72 percent of US homes house video game players. This breaks down to around 150 million players. Of these, 19,000 feel discomfort if they cannot play video games regularly.
While the concern about video game addiction has grown in recent years, it is not new. In the 1980s, schools ban placing arcades on school grounds. In the mid-1990s, rating systems were used to prevent children of certain ages from getting access to video games that were deemed inappropriate.
Many believe that now more than ever it is crucial to regulate video game usage among teenagers to prevent addiction and to minimize the chances of violent acts being played out in schools. The latter concern stems from a belief among many that video games are linked to increased aggression among children. Some argue that video games can be perceived by children and teenagers as “killing simulations” and make children less sensitized to violent acts over time.
Negative Effects of Gaming on Student Performance
Research shows that video games are having a negative impact on the performance of some students. Video games are readily available. Studies show that some children as young as six years old have become addicted.
Parents and educators are rightly concerned. Video game addiction is thought to contribute to mental health and social anxiety that even young children deal with today. There appears to be a link between depression, self-esteem, and the amount of time an individual dedicates to playing video games.
Studies show that 94 percent of video game addicts are male and only six percent are female. Of the males surveyed, many were unsatisfied with their social lives and had lower self-esteem. Understandably, these two traits could influence a student’s performance in school.
A study was conducted in the United States that had 3,034 participants. Of the adolescents surveyed, nine percent showed signs of addiction. Around four percent played video games at least 50 hours a week. On average, the participants in the study played for around 20 hours a week. Students who were addicted to video games tended to perform lower than their non-addicted peers in school.
It’s interesting to see the way that China is reacting to the potentially negative influence video games can have on students. For example, China has passed laws banning children from spending more than 90 minutes a day gaming, and children are only able to play video games until 10 PM.
How Video Game Addiction Develops
Sadly, many children addicted to video games report that they have looked for people to talk to but cannot find anyone. They see video games as a way of relieving the stress that they feel in their lives by allowing them to escape via virtual reality.
Video game addiction in children does not happen in total isolation. The negative effects of video game addiction are clear for perceptive individuals to see. Both parents and teachers may notice decreased performance at school coupled with lower grades and failing classes.
Because of hours spent playing video games, video game addicts exhibit fatigue and regularly sleep during school. They may not complete assignments or may not turn assignments in on time. Video game addiction leads to a loss of interest in after school activities, including social clubs and sports. Video game addicts may actually isolate themselves from family members and friends in order to play video games.
A study was done on 2,000 children between the ages of nine and 18 who spent on average seven hours and 38 minutes in front of the screen. Of these 2,000 children, 27 percent reported less than excellent mental health and 19 percent reported poor mental health. When you look at the average amount of time these individuals spent playing video games, you find that they spent more time playing video games each week than adults spent at their full-time job.
Thirty-nine percent of the children in the study exhibited anxiety, psychological distress, and depression. A quarter of them have visited a therapist or healthcare clinic at least once.
Read about another interesting study of the University of the Philippines here.
Positive Effects of Gaming on Student Performance
It is incontrovertible that the digital age changed student’s approaches to studying. As with everything, there are two sides to the argument of the effect video games have on student performance. A study was done in recent years on over 12,000 high school students in Australia. The study showed that students who play games online almost every day scored 15 percent higher than the average student in math and reading and 17 percent higher than the average student in science. That being said, it’s difficult to prove that video games were the cause of the improvement..
One of the arguments for why these improved scores may exist is the fact that when you play games online, you are solving puzzles in order to move to the next level. This requires students to apply the skills in science, reading, and math that they were taught throughout the day.
Some could argue that children who are naturally gifted at math, science, and reading are attracted to playing online video games. It could also be that students who are gifted or who are proficient can get their homework done quicker, leaving them more time to play games. This would mean that online gaming helps identify students who have the academic ability.
There was a study done at Columbia University which showed that children who had high video game usage while they were between the ages of six and 11 had greatly increased intellectual function and overall school competence.
Can Gaming Heal?
One study showed improved visual contrast sensitivity among students who played 50 hours of action video games spread over the course of around 12 weeks. These individuals were able to distinguish slight differences in shades of gray better than control students.
Another study was done on individuals who had a lazy eye. In the study, they were told to cover their good eye while playing video games. A controlled group was also told to engage in activities like watching television or knitting while they also covered their good eye.
At the end of the study, the individuals who watched television, knitted, and did other activities only using their lazy eye showed little to no improvement. However, study participants who played video games using only their lazy eye showed marked improvement. Many of those in the gaming group developed 20/20 vision in their lazy eye. They were able to coordinate input simultaneously from both eyes after playing video games. This improved their depth perception.
Dyslexia and Gaming
Dyslexia negatively impacts a student’s abilities to perform in school. In some cases, dyslexia is the result of problems of visual attention. One study found that 12 hours playing video games improved reading tests of dyslexic children. The results were so impressive that training programs using video games have been created to treat dyslexia.
Increased Mental Capacities
Executive functioning, or the ability to allot mental resources including attention, perception, and memory in ways that allow a person to quickly solve problems and make good decisions, improved in individuals who play video games. School-age gamers improved their ability to multitask. They have increased mental flexibility. All of these things improve a student’s ability to perform well in school.
Studies like these have made parents rethink their limiting of their children’s computer play. Many argue that the research pointing to the negative impact of video games is based on myths or the negative effects are exaggerated. There is a bank of evidence that suggests that many of the mental skills children will need as adults to be successful in life can be developed and enhanced by playing video games.
Most experts would agree that moderation is the key to success. Dedicating too much time playing video games robs students of the time they need to learn, do homework, and to interact socially with others. However, strictly forbidding students from playing video games may prevent them from getting some of the benefits that video games offer. And it can rob them of the joy of gaming.