Do children risk brain damage when playing video games?
WASHINGTON, June 22, 2017 — For millions of Americans from ages three to 70, video games are part of life and account for millions of hours of mental recreation. But a new survey of over 100 scientific studies confirms that the neural effects of video game-playing activities alter the brain’s function.
Here are some details that could be disturbing for you and your child.
Marc Palaus, a researcher at the Open University of Catalonia in Spain and the lead author of the study, claims that over one hundred of the 116 scientific studies analyzed indicate there were notable changes in brain functionality that occurred as a result of video game playing, which affected the structure and performance of the brain.
The survey, appearing in the journal of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, strongly suggests that excessive video gaming can become addictive for some, and may actually rewire the brain’s neural reward system in ways similar to those affected by other addictive disorders. For children, this can result in a disturbing impact on their learning and societal coping skills as they become teens and adults.
For teens and adults, the future is now regarding the impact of video gaming and its dominance as a highly popular entertainment activity. According to the survey, demographic data on video gaming shows that the mean age of video game players (VGPs) (31 years old as of 2014) has been on the rise in recent decades (Entertainment Software Association, 2014), and it is a common activity among Millennials.
There is a veritable plethora of options that are available for young people and adults alike to access video gaming today. Tablets, smart phones, computers, video gaming systems and even vehicles offer access to video games 24/7. In fact, over 30 percent of those using tablet computers and 70 of those using smart phones have been exposed to these video gaming technologies.
Yet for young children and teens, an abundance of options for accessing video gaming is not necessary a good thing. The survey emphasizes that exposure to negative imagery and situations, such as graphic violence, can result from excessive video gaming by today’s young people, contributing to negative affects on health, including obesity, addiction, cardio-metabolic deficiencies, and more. (Ivarsson et al., 2013; Turel et al., 2016).
According to Psychology Today, excessive video gaming can result in symptoms that lead to children becoming stressed out, potentially resulting in a mental meltdown. Yet as a parent, grand parent or caregiver you might think, “It’s only a video game and after all it keeps the child occupied? What’s the harm?”
Repeated psychological studies verify that when an individual plays a video game, the brain automatically senses danger. Because humans are instinctively programmed to react to danger, all the body’s physical and mental systems are in play, creating stress.
In children, the distinction between real and imagined or perceived danger is less clear. Therefore the mind instantly “goes to a state of hyperarousal – the fight-or-flight response. These feelings can be hard to shake off even after the provoking incident is over and the threat – real or perceived – is gone,” reported Psychology Today.
The continued flight-or-flight choice that children confront in some video games can result in a chronic state of stress, which may not permit the child’s nervous system to re-regulate to normal. So yes, parents and grandparents and caregivers, excessive video gaming does harm the child. But there is more.
Once chronic stress has developed, a child’s body directs blood flow away from the higher thinking portion of the brain located in the frontal lobes, and toward the more primitive, areas of the brain that focus on survival. This impairs the child’s ability to function in a rational or responsible way.
In addition, notes Psychology Today, “the child may be left with an increased craving for sweets while cortisol, the stress hormone, drives his blood sugar up and down erratically.” It can take weeks before this child’s body, brain and mind regain some sense of balance and normalcy.
In conclusion, current scientific literature seems to suggest that parents and other caregivers should ake the time to monitor a child’s video gaming habits. True, video gaming can be exciting for the child. But excessive gaming may lead to addictive behavior and other harmful physical and psychological issues.