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Are Video Games Friends or Foes to our Children?
Since the late 1980’s video games have been an integral part of North American culture but the violent content of video games has begun to escalate since the early 90’s with games such Mortal Combat and Street Fighter. In today’s climate the societal debate escalates over whether violence in video games is detrimental to the emotional, social and physical well-being of youth or if the games promote developmental growth through the implementation of problem solving techniques. The other issue baring a warning signal is the access young children have to games intended for mature audiences. We cannot ignore the raw data, a survey conducted in the US last year revealed 44% of children as young as 7, were able to purchase M-Rated video games (which are supposed to be reserved for children over the age of 17). Recent research has demonstrated that the percentage of gamers under the age of 18 years of age, may be as high as 41% and among this group, those that are 8-10 years of age are averaging 1.5 hours of gaming a day-that is approximately 11 hours a week. A recent US census unearthed the figure of 78.3 million children under the age of 15. Which means roughly 31.9 million children spend 11 hours gaming a week, which is around the same figure of children who regularly attend school.
Friends say, The main argument of support for video gaming revolves around what the games do to encourage developmental growth. A commonly held belief is that video games teach problem solving as players persevere and try to find alternate avenues to succeed. That is to say, the child is placed in a mental labyrinth and has to navigate his or her way out, each time they hit a dead end, they have to rethink and re-navigate their route. Gamers are motivated to continue to improve their skills and are constantly forming and testing new hypotheses, a technique that in previous generations never came into contact with children until their late teens. Although the landscape is a virtual world, gamers are forced to make choices and must accept the consequences of their actions, thus encouraging and fostering the sense of accountability and responsibility. Young gamers are also learning to adapt to any situation that presents itself, which is one of life’s most valuable lessons and realities that most don’t realize or understand until later in life. Video games encourage social growth as gamers play with others and learn to work cooperatively in terms of problem solving. To get through the game requires teamwork, a skill that young children continue to try to develop throughout their childhood.
Foes say, The folks who are anti-gaming correlate emotional, mental, and physical problems or deficiencies with the overtly violent nature of contemporary games. There are many who believe that video-game play is directly linked to youth aggression, as these youth who play excessively become conditioned to the violence. Which is to say, they become used to violent nature and think that is acceptable and common practices, to use violence as a conduit of getting something done. When someone has seen violence used repeatedly to such an extent, they are more at risk of responding impulsively with violence in a real-world situation. They become desensitized in a way that would not propel them away from using violence in the real world to obtain an end goal. This is where the notion of banality of evil comes into play, which was coined during the Nuremberg Trials after the Holocaust, it states that the greatest evils in the history of the world were not executed by fanatics or sociopaths, bur rather by ordinary people who accepted the premises or their state and therefore participated with the view that their actions were normal. Other arguments are that excessive video gaming can lead to health problems such as obesity. In addition, excessive gaming can lead to social isolation and poorer grades by taking the children away from books and place them in front of the TV. Of recent, video gaming has been categorized as addictive in nature, a slippery slope for kids to travel on.
Conclusion, There is uncertainty and ambiguity in research that supports any of these aforementioned arguments, and there most certainly is not enough understood longitudinal research into the long-term effects on our youth. However, much of the research that has been conducted does demonstrate a casual link between violent video-gaming and real-life aggression along with a lack of quality friendships. What is certain, and one harsh criticism is that while glorified video game companies are raking in the profits, this generation of youth is becoming stupefied. Some are benefiting, others only think they are. Parents and anyone wishing to better educate themselves with regards to who is most at risk are advised to further their readings, but most especially to use common sense and discretion along the way. To make an educated decision about whether video games advance or hinder the youth can only be achieved through more research and focus groups. The last aspect to keep in mind is how games allow some children who are not fortunate enough to experience the real life version a window into that world. Such as a child who cannot afford to go to a baseball game, by playing the game in Wrigley field on Ken Griffey JR. Baseball, they can have an experience otherwise off limits to them. It is my opinion that life is all about balance, and as long as children (mine included) do their homework, after school sports, music lessons, etc, and have time for a little gaming now and then, is acceptable by me, as long as the gaming does not hinder children’s love for the outdoors and mother nature.
Don’t be afraid to challenge the “Whitecoats”