Games and Health

Games and Health

You can meet here with experts and professionals on health and video games to learn how video games affect your children’s health.
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Questions Regarding the Impact of Games on Health

A person is considered addicted to video games when they frequently play for long periods, leading to stress and failure in many life activities, such as having social, family, and educational problems. If the person has been exhibiting five of the following symptoms over the past 12 months, then they are diagnosed as a video game addict.

  The severity of the addiction is measured based on the time a person spends playing. There are three levels of addiction: simple, moderate, and severe.  

The symptoms are:

  • Continuously thinking about playing video games (thinking about the game the player played earlier and thinking about when they will play later to the point that it controls a person’s daily activities).
  • Suffering withdrawal symptoms when the person is deprived of the games they used to play (these include anxiety, stress, easily irritable, and sadness).
  • Needing to play for longer periods and playing more than what the person has intended.
  • Failing in the attempts to reduce or control play time.
  • Neglecting other activities they used to perform previously, and not even having the desire to perform them any longer.
  • Continuing to play despite knowing its negative effects on the person.
  • Fooling relatives or therapists, and sometimes lying to spend more time playing games.
  • Using games to overcome or change a person’s cranky mood.
  • Failing to maintain social relationships or having lower educational opportunities due to excessive play.

Addiction is considered a disease in the brain’s neural circuits and affects the stimulation centers and memory. The disruption of these neural circuits causes the person to have biological, psychological, and social problems as they try to obtain the stimulation their disordered neural circuits are accustomed to. As a result, we see that the addict does not have the ability to control their addictive behaviors and is in dire need of treatment and support.  

Addiction is a disease that is different from what people believe; it is not a behavior that can easily be changed once the addict is determined to stop their addictive behaviors. We should treat the addict as a patient and a “victim” of addiction due to their disordered neural circuit. We should support them psychologically and consult specialists to see what are the best ways to deal with them. We will list some of these ways below:

  • Video game addicts are victims of addiction, that is how you should see them and you should try to help them. When an addict is treated as the cause of their own suffering, their addictive behaviors become more entrenched and they feel emotionally hurt, so their playing increases to overcome these negative feelings.
  • The addict is not the cause of the addiction, but they have to assume a big part of the responsibility in order to rescue themselves out of this pit. Similarly, families and schools also have a responsibility to help them to beat the addiction. Laying the blame on someone makes them feel frustrated and increases stress, which can lead to depression. but when we consider addiction a cause and the addict a victim, then everyone will work to save the addict from their addiction.
  • It is important to share information with the addict. However, we must not forget that “information alone does not change behaviors”. Otherwise, every smoker would have quit smoking as soon as they read the warning on the pack of cigarettes.
  • Recovering from addiction is a long and tortuous journey, with many ups and downs, but its end is beautiful and great for everyone. So, make sure to be a supportive companion during the recovery as it is one of the factors for a successful treatment.
  • Many of us have bad habits, like not moving a lot, and despite our desire to overcome this, we know the difficulties we face from garnering the determination needed to start to the successes and failures, to even giving up and starting over sometimes. Those recovering from game addiction must also be supported psychologically. Failure should be considered an integral part of success as there a great deal of learning after every failure. When an addict fails or relapses, you should mitigate their self-reproach by supporting them and reminding them that their mere act of trying is a success. For example, the child walks only after tripping and failing many times, so each failure has many benefits that should be learned to reduce their chances of failing in the future.
  • Behavioral change is usually considered to be the last stage of recovery as behaviors do not change until after thinking about the behavior’s pros and cons, as well as its impact on the addict, their family, and the community as a whole. You can stimulate this important stage through asking the addict the following questions:
    • What are the benefits of playing games? (Listen carefully to the addict’s answer as playing is just an escape for other issues. For example, some of the reasons for playing for long hours is to try to escape the pressures of reality, like being bullied when playing outside, so it’s normal to escape to the virtual world.)
    • What are the least positive things about playing? (Note that we do not use the word “negative” as addictive thoughts convince the addict that gaming has no negative aspects. Through this method, the addict lists the faults and disadvantages and explores them by himself because it is much more persuasive for someone to realize what is wrong by themselves than to be told by someone else.)
    • Discuss with the person the reason behind your worries about them and your concern for their health and productivity. Explain that one of your duties to them is to support and work with them to overcome addiction. Clarify that they are not the cause of their addiction and it is everyone’s responsibility to seek treatment.
    • Remember that many video game addicts suffer from other mental illnesses, such as mood disorders, anxiety, and sometimes, substance abuse. Look for signs of these mental issues and consult professionals to treat them as some of them are a reason to keep playing to the point of addiction. (For example, a patient suffering from social anxiety will escape to virtual reality in order to avoid the anxiety associated with social events. So, after treating the social anxiety with help of professionals, the patient will quit playing or reduce it as they no longer do it with the aim of escaping their anxiety.)

Preventing someone from playing all of a sudden can lead to many withdrawal symptoms, such as anger, anxiety, and sometimes hostile behaviors towards others, as well as disorders in many aspects of everyday life, such as eating, sleeping, etc.

Remember that the person is the victim of addiction and that an addicted brain searches for things that sustain their addiction. Brain changes in a person have occurred over several months or years, so it is normal to take weeks or months to heal.

Always start by talking to your child about how much you love them and fear for them, and ask them how they think they can create a balance for their playing habits. The purpose is to gradually reduce the number of playing hours with the help of the family and school, and not to prevent them from playing.

When designing an intervention plan, ask yourself the following questions to judge whether or not the goal is feasible:

  • Is the goal specific, clearly-defined, and meaningful? (For example, preventing my child from playing is a specific goal because I will take their PS away.)
  • Can I measure the implementation of the goal? (For example, I will deprive my child of PS for a full day as a punishment for failing to perform their duties, and then return it to them for a specified and agreed upon amount of time.)
  • Is my goal realistic and not unattainable, and do I have the tools to implement it? (For example, depriving my child of their PS for two days by taking it and locking it away in my room may not be realistic and I may not succeed in implementing this goal, which will negatively affect my child’s respect for the house rules because I backed down.)
  • Is the current goal appropriate and is it a part of the overall objective? (For example, a total ban on playing may not be appropriate for a treatment plan that is about overcoming addiction rather than overcoming playing per se.)
  • Is there a deadline to achieve the goal? (For example, it would be a mistake to set a goal without a time frame for its implementation because having a deadline leads to detailed planning and prioritization.)

Children acquire their behaviors from home, school, and the street through imitating the people whom they regard as role models. The child imitates the behaviors they see in their worlds. For example, if the parents hit each other and beat their children, then violent games will reinforce this behavior. However, when the positive role models in real life triumph over the virtual negative ones found in games, the child will balance their reactions as they are more influenced by their positive family surroundings. Therefore, you should pay attention to the need for educating children by setting a good example and behaving in the correct manner. Then children will learn to differentiate between good and bad behaviors. You should also spend more time with children and change whatever negative behaviors you see in a friendly way. The child will undoubtedly acquire negative behaviors from the game unintentionally, but we must set a clear barrier between these behaviors and our family and religious values.

The answer to this question has two parts, and it is all about balance:

  • There are some educational games that may improve attention, concentration, and eye–hand coordination.
  • Excessively playing some games can lead to stress and lack of concentration, leading to worse academic achievements.

Education is a template in a specific geometric form designed by parents. The shape of this template must be explained to the child along with the consequences of violating its limits in order to form the behavior of the child within this same template. Whenever the child enters a new age group, the template must be adjusted to suit it. For example, a child’s desire to play a particular game changes based on their age, and parents should take that change into account. If the child behaves in a way that violates the template, then ask them about the reason for their behaviors and explain the template for them. It is preferable to write down the instructions and get the child involved by providing them with a copy or hanging one in a visible place, like on the fridge. Give the child other chances and remind them of the consequences of repeating the mistake. When a certain mistake is repeated, you should ask the child about the reason and discuss with them the punishment they agreed to, such as being prevented from something. The punishment should be designed as previously mentioned.

Video games are designed with certain mechanics, which include giving the player a thrill when they get points or complete a level. Feedback is then provided to the players, which undoubtedly affects the extent to which they are involved in the game. Some games allow killing other characters. These games are considered the most widely-spread games, as killing more players translates to earning points in the game. There are research papers that have proved playing violent games makes children not only indifferent to violent and hostile behaviors towards others but also accustomed to them, in addition to not being afraid of violence any longer. This has led some children to imitate these negative behaviors. There are also other studies that have shown that continuously playing violent games leads to an increase in aggressive behaviors, especially in children with emotional and behavioral problems, learning difficulties, hyperactivity, and distraction. Since prevention does not work sometimes, parents need to accept this phenomenon but they also need to control playing time. Although some games are educational in nature, many games are designed just for entertainment, and they have several features, such as:

  • Killing or hurting people or animals.
  • Drug and alcohol use.
  • Hostile or criminal behaviors, ingraining defiance of authority, and non-adherence to social standards and values.
  • Sexual blackmail and violence towards others.
  • Reinforcing negative sexist or racist stereotypes.
  • Using words and behaviors that are inhumane and unethical..

We have written a few recommendations for the screen times allowed for children according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

  • Avoid using electronic devices for children under one year and a half of age.
  • For children aged one year and a half to two years, parents can allow them some screen time as long as they make sure to choose high-quality programs and watch them with their children to explain to them what they see.
  • 2-5 years: screen time is set to 1 hour. Parents should choose high-quality programs and watch them with their children to explain to them what they see.
  • 6+ years: parents choose suitable screen times for their children depending on how old they are. Parents must also monitor the content of the programs and ensure that play time does not affect other everyday activities, such as sleep and moving around.
  • Parents should allocate some time to interact directly with their children without any electronic devices.

This question was partially answered in question 6, but in general, a game’s impact on learning depends on the design and purpose of the game itself and if the game developer uses educational techniques to impart information. Reasonably playing purposeful and educational games can be scientifically beneficial and develop certain skills in children, and vice versa. As for video games addiction, it has been scientifically proven to have a negative impact on the child’s academic achievement and education.

Family upbringing means being there for the child, both physically and emotionally, and setting a good example for them to acquire language and life skills in general. This becomes the main behavioral and value code for the child. It is true that children will acquire what we offer them if they do not have other competing codes they acquire from their families.

There is a lot of scientific research being conducted about video games as this area is still growing. In general, studies highlight the importance of balancing play times and the roles of family, school, and society in it. They also demonstrate the dangers of video games addiction on a person’s daily activities and call for more research to deal with this illness.

Video game addiction is an illness that affects the neural circuits in the brain, where mainly the stimulation, reward, and memory centers. The disruption of these neural circuits causes the person to have biological, psychological, and social problems as they try to obtain the stimulation their disordered neural circuits are accustomed to. As a result, we see that the addict does not have the ability to control their addictive behaviors and is in dire need of treatment and support.

Playing some purposeful video games may improve the balance of some of the players’ skills, such as:

  • Quick eye-hand coordination
  • Attention and visual accuracy
  • Spatial skills
  • Problem solving
  • Enhancing creativity
  • Reinforcing the concept that a player is intelligent through feedback.