A new study was recently conducted that talked about the link between mental health issues and video game addiction. I for one would first start by saying that if it has already been established that you are addicted to video games then you already have a mental issue. The study looked at three thousand 4th through 8th grade children and found that nine percent of them had “pathological gaming” problems.
The study showed that mental health issues including depression, anxiety and poor grades led these children to access video game playing. The study stated that children who are socially awkward with a high tendency toward impulsive behavior and who had played a great amount of video games are at higher risk to become addicted to them.
Many people with some stating that they used “flawed methodology” have attacked the research study. There definitely are some issues I have found with the study, but first let us look at the CNN report.
The first issue I have with the study is the age range. Perhaps once you reach the junior high age video game addiction can become more of a concern due to the different social structures you will find yourself in. However, parenting is still paramount and if your 4th grader is becoming addicted to video games then it is solely the fault of the parent.
While issues before a child is born can cause different mental issues in children it is how you are raised that will determine when and how those issues will come about. Even if your child becomes a video game addict once he or she beings college it can be prevent by parenting or general supervision long before then.
If a parent cannot, does not or will not take the real time it takes to raise a child then that child will cling onto the first stimuli that it finds be it games, television or even positive activities such as reading. An active parent who is in control can allow the child to experience games, books, and television in the proper moderation without becoming overbearing causing the child to rebel just because.
When it comes to social awkwardness, the lines can become blurry mainly because the idea of what is socially acceptable changes from week to week. At one time, anyone who used a computer or played video games was looked down upon yet today it is much more accepted and mainstream. Again we return to the issue of age because as you develop and grow you are discovering what kind of person you will become socially. Just because a child may choose to remain quiet and listen to a conversation as opposed to talking the lead and running it does not necessarily mean your child has an issue or will develop one.
When we talk about social awkwardness the problem comes about when we compare how the person acts in different to other children, mainstream concepts of social acceptance or even the parents own social history. Often if we do not understand the ever-changing social structure, we will find fault where there is none. On the other hand, many parents are in denial and will misdiagnose why a child is not fitting in.
It is far too easy to point to a gamer that spends a lot of time playing video games and state that his lack of “face time” with other human beings is a result of that gaming time. For many gamers the act of gaming is their social time especially in games where you play in team or guilds or with thousands of other players. In addition, many gamers have tried to find common ground with other children in the outlets they have access to such as school, the neighborhood and other activities and found they relate to other gamers.
This is where many studies fail in my opinion because they refuse to adequately study the social dynamic of gamers. While it can be a generally true statement that a gamer is less socially mainstream than a non-gamer it is not true that being socially mainstream is the best course for every child. If a gamer has a strong core of good friends, who can provide positive reinforcement then it should not matter as much where that common ground was found, as long as the act of gaming does not hurt the child physically or mentally then choosing to ally his or herself with other gamers can be socially healthy.
In the end, it again comes down to parenting and control. If a parent takes an active role and is willing to learn instead of just reacting then it is much easier to distinguish if your child is finding friends within the gaming community or is turning to gaming because of an inability to make friends in the real world. If you monitor your child’s game play just as you would their television time or even food intake it will become easier to discover the truth.
There is a balance that all parents must maintain between keeping a watchful eye and smothering and it varies from child to child. I personally was the type of child that needed an over-viewer, someone who watched from a distance to make sure I was okay, but not directly involved in my minute-to-minute activities. However, children are different and each parent must find out on their own what type of monitoring style works best.
Variety is still the spice of life and as a child, it is important to expose your children to different stimuli while they are young. Even someone who becomes an avid gamer to the point that it becomes a career path can benefit from having experienced many different things as a child. I have personally been exposed to many different social and cultural events, sometimes kicking and screaming and through in the end my love was for computers and video games I know I am a better person for having had those experiences.
Being a gamer does not mean that is all you do. Today’s gamers can go to a sports event, watch a movie, listen to concert and then go home and play hours of World of Warcraft. In order to get to the point where one outlet does not control your entire free time one must be exposed to new things and the things they enjoy the most must be in moderation.
The main problem with a study on video games and its effect on someone socially is that the study often does not research the full home life of subject(s) in question. Take for instance weight as an issue. If a child was overweight and then tuned to gaming did the study take that into account? How about the parent, was enough research done into the parenting style? Many parents would be on guard when their child is under study, how does one find out what effect their parenting had on them before they even had a social life to examine?
This was not an endeavor to discount the effects of excessive gaming; it was more to show that linking social or even mental issues to one cause is flawed science in itself. Even if a study was to take into account that many other factors could have led to social or mental problems if video game addiction is in the forefront then many readers of the study will stop there and not dig further.
Real gaming addiction should be studied and the people who are trapped need to be saved and this will not happen with the way we currently look at it. It will take real steps and a lot of background and extensive research to discover why anyone turns to any one thing to be their everything.