Game Over or Game On?

Video games are can no longer be considered a new novelty.  It’s been almost 40 years since the home gaming market kicked off in the United States, and now many companies that publish games are household names (Nintendo, Playstation, Sega, etc.) No human being alive today that could be reasonably considered a child has ever existed in a world without video games. 

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At this point, video games are ubiquitous on the American landscape, and your children are being bombarded with advertisements every day for a plethora of new and exciting options for how and what to play.  As computers have gotten more powerful, games have gotten more involved, more graphically complex, more narratively intense, and both more realistic and/or more fantastical depending on your genre of choice.  Are they bad for kids, though?  It’s a debate that has been raging for over three decades at this point.  As is typically the case, the truth is really a little yes and a little no. 


There are clearly negative aspects to the gaming world. Gaming can be an addictive activity, as it increases dopamine levels during play that can leave children chasing that natural high again.  The addictive aspect can leave children more susceptible to predatory behaviors via games (even from a financial standpoint--some games allow players to rack up bills worth hundreds upon hundreds of dollars in extra charges extraordinarily quickly with just a few simple, “harmless” clicks).  Some studies suggest that violent video games can desensitize people to real life violence.  Some studies suggest that video games are socially isolating and can lead to depression.  There are a plethora of things that can be pointed to as evidence of the “dangers” of video games.


However, there are also many and more benefits to video game playing that should be considered as well.  Games can help to improve cognitive function and mental acuity, and the tiered difficulty progression can help people develop patience in problem solving.  Some studies suggest that gamers also benefit from a focused sort of self reflection, as figuring out different video game styles and problems allows them to consider the way they themselves think about things.  The violence that concerns so many parents may actually be a healthy way to vent pent up aggression, in largely the same emotional way as playing aggressive sports.  Video games can help improve decision making behaviors and provide a necessary burst of self-esteem.  They can be a positive force in a child’s life.


Like with anything, the key to harnessing the best qualities of the video game world seem to be communication and moderation.  Parents should limit the amount of time children spend in front of a television foregoing the real world.  They should also have open and honest discussions about games their kids are playing, and making sure they understand the difference between real life, a movie, a video game, etc.  Every child is different, and some can quite compartmentalize the differences between punching a video game character and punching a human being.  We should not quite discount the ever important role video games can play in modern childhood.  In a fast moving, globally interconnected, and constantly updating world, there are valuable social skills and life lessons to be learned from the gaming world. 


The Children’s Clinic is a professional association of pediatricians that are proud to have been providing the people of Tennessee with excellent medical services for decades.  Our highly qualified staff offers compassionate, personalized care from birth through the teenage years.  If you are concerned about your child’s health, need a physical for extracurricular activities, or are seeking a primary care provider for your kids, please do not hesitate to contact us at your earliest convenience.  Our office is located at 264 Coatsland Drive in Jackson, TN.  Feel free to come by the office, or you can reach us by calling 731-423-1500 or via our website,