Video Games were first introduced in the 1970s and rapidly caught on as a major leisure activity especially among children within a decade. Children these days spend more time watching TV or playing video games than any other activity save sleeping. Since video games are a relatively recent phenomenon research about its effects on children cannot be considered conclusive. However, most studies so far indicate that video games can have both positive and negative effects on children depending on the time spent in the activity and the type of video games played.
The Positive Effects
Most early researches in the effect of video games on children indicated that they had an overall positive effect on children.
Introduction to Computers
Video games were a friendly way to introduce children to the use of computers and improved their hand-eye co-ordination. Some older studies also indicated that children who played video games were highly motivated, intelligent, and achievement oriented individuals who generally performed better in their school studies. ("Video games: Cause for concern?") Educational video games could be used in classrooms and at home as useful learning tools.
The positive aspect of video games is that it is an interactive activity as compared to the totally passive past time of viewing television. Hence if video game playing replaces TV viewing it can be considered to be a better past time for children and this is what the earlier studies about the effect of video games on children had concentrated on.
Some children, especially in the adolescent age find video game playing to be a stress-relieving activity that can get one's mind off the problems. Wasting some 'bad guys' in front of the video screen is much better than relieving your frustrations by getting into actual fights. This is known as the 'catharsis' theory, which suggests that playing aggressive video games have a relaxing effect, by channeling and releasing of aggression.
Other benefits include developing a sense of personal competence, experiencing power and control in the face of threat and chaos, and developing useful skills of concentration and logical analysis. (Mitchell) If video games are played with parents or other partners, it may help in renewing or developing important relationships that would have a positive effect on the child's development of personality.
Unfortunately subsequent developments in video games technology and recent studies have brought up several negative aspects of video games playing among children.
The Negative Aspects
The technical improvement in today's video games as compared to the ones of the 70s and 80s may well have led them to become more addictive. Dr. Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University, an expert on video game addiction, thinks that the video games of the 21st century are more "psychologically rewarding" than the video games of the 1980s as they require "more complex skills, improved dexterity, and feature socially relevant topics and better graphics." He believes that by offering greater "psychological rewards" these video games may be putting the players at greater risk of developing an addiction. ("Video games: Cause for Concern") Addiction obviously does not happen to a majority of video games players. However, a small minority become genuinely addicted and exhibits all the classical signs of one. For example, young video game 'addicts' will sacrifice social and sporting activities for getting his 'fix,' will get irritable and restless when denied access to it, and get most of his/her excitement by playing the game.
A major negative aspect of video games playing is their increasingly violent content and the results of recent studies that show that most children prefer to play video games that have violence as their major theme. A 1993 study by J.B. Funk examined video game playing among 357 seventh and eighth grade students. When asked to identify their preference among five categories of video games, the study found that the two categories that had violence as their theme were preferred by about 32% of the respondents, while sports games with violent sub-themes were preferred by more than 29%. About 20% preferred games with an entertainment theme, while 17% favored games that involved human violence. Less than 2% of the respondents preferred educational games. (Cesarone)
Psychologists and behavioral experts are, however, not unanimous about…