Video games have relatively recently become a widely available and mass way of spending leisure time. Therefore at the moment, there is a tremendous amount of controversy on the subject of the impact of computer games on people. The most attention in the framework of this topic is focused on children, about the health and development of which their parents are mainly concerned. The impact of computer games is often mentioned in the news headlines, which fuels the fire. Crimes committed by children and adolescents are often associated with their love of video games with violent scenes. Especially popular shooters and the GTA series of games are often mentioned in this context. Thus, this research essay is dedicated to examining the debate regarding the impact of video games on children’s development.
The central thesis of this paper is that video games do have a positive effect on most aspects of children’s development. Consequently, the main research question will be, “do video games make children smarter?” Since the concept of mental development is quite broad, the essay examines different aspects of children’s and adolescents’ development, which is necessary for a more detailed and in-depth study of the problem.
Existing reasoning and positions
Children worldwide increasingly prefer to spend their time playing video games rather than playing physical games outside and studying. This trend has seriously alarmed parents worldwide who believe computer games are useless and harmful. Nevertheless, Tilak, in a study based on the mental development of adolescents in the United States, writes that children who spend more than five hours playing video games tend to outperform their peers in several intellectual characteristics (2019, p. 277). This study sought to examine the correlation between learning ability, erudition, open-mindedness, emotional stability, and the time children spend playing video games.
Mayer slightly increased the understanding of the benefits of computer games in his study, which proves that there are “benefits of playing a focused computer game that is designed to provide repeated practice on a targeted executive function skill (e.g., shifting) in a variety of contexts, at progressively increasing levels of challenge, and with clear feedback” (2019, p. 50). It means that many games promote children’s ability to switch attention, multitask, and other skills. This argument also provides evidence that video games have a positive effect on the development of specific skills in children; it’s just that this research is focused on a narrower set of abilities that video games develop.
In its study of the effects of video games on children’s language learning, Atma concludes that computer games increase children’s vocabulary (2020). This study complements the work written by Tilak and Mayer, as it also confirms that video games positively affect children’s mental development. Still, the author also mentions that the extensive use of profanity and foul language in video games can lead to the appearance of these words in a child’s vocabulary. Of course, the knowledge and use of these words do not affect teenagers’ development level. Still, it can serve as an argument for the opponents of video games, who believe that they lead to the cultural degradation of the younger generation. Thus, although games allow children to learn the meaning of new words and how to use them, they also risk adding swear words and another obscene language to a child’s vocabulary, which can harm their socialization and relationships with other people. This study does not examine how computer games affect English language learning among native speakers of other cultures. Still, it is deductive to suggest that the constant consumption of information in English in untranslated games may contribute to faster second language learning among children who communicate in another language.
As a continuation of the topic of changing children’s behavior under the influence of spending time playing video games, we should note the work written by Schleifer, which states that conflicts between parents and children often arise over computer games, especially in families where children suffer from computer addiction (2018). In the U.S., gaming addiction affects about 1% of Internet users; in Asian countries, the rate is 4.9%. (Schleifer, 2018, p. 6). Such conflicts often lead to the aggressive behavior of children and deterioration of their relationships with their parents, which of course, cannot but affect the emotional state of adolescents. Also, the author writes that video games can lead to socialization problems in children, as children practice communicating with real people less and less frequently.
In contrast to Schleifer’s position, Lawn writes in his study that games are very casually linked to youth violence and delinquency rates (Lawn, 2017). The author cites the statistics of the decrease in crime rates of all categories among adolescents, going simultaneously with the increase in the popularity of video games. Yuan also writes that games, on the contrary, have a positive effect on children’s psychological and mental health. He writes that children get an opportunity for emotional release and a place to express their aggression by playing video games, possibly correlating with a decrease in juvenile delinquency (Yuan, 2018).
Thus, even when studying the same questions, researchers have different opinions. On the one hand, studies point to a positive relationship between video games and a child’s mental development. In addition to the fact that video games develop several valuable skills in children, they also promote language learning and positively affect a child’s intellectual degree. On the other hand, computer games can lead to aggressive behavior in children, cause conflict within the family, and negatively affect the socialization skills of adolescents and children. Researchers may simply be studying different types of video games. In addition to this critical argument, there is a study by Halbrook. In his paper, he writes that there can be no single statement regarding the impact of computer games on children’s development, as games can be drastically different (2019). In general, the author emphasizes that the author does not deny the positive impact of video games on a child’s mental development. Still, this issue becomes more complicated regarding social skills, levels of aggression, and openness.
As proof of Halbrook’s concept, it is worth noting a separate genre of games – ARG. These are games where the user needs to interact with the world around them to progress in the virtual game. On the one hand, this game class promotes children’s physical activity and the development of several skills directly related to the real world. On the other hand, such games can be hazardous to a child’s health and understanding of reality (Das, 2017). A prime example of such a games is Pokemon Go, the essence of which was to find game characters in the real world by photographing them. This game has led to several accidents in which children have been aggressive towards each other or have been victims of the circumstances in which the game has led them (American Safety Council, e.d.).
On the contrary, a strictly positive example of video games can be various developmental games like a chess simulator, guessing the name of countries, or answering questions of general erudition. Martí-Parreño writes in his work that such games can instill an interest in science and intellectual games in an easy and accessible way and increase students’ knowledge (2018). Teachers sometimes even include some mind games in their lessons to test students’ knowledge competitively or, conversely, to teach that knowledge. Besides, not to be forgotten are Sandbox games, which allow children to show their creativity and imagination and teach basic facts about the structure of the world. The Sandbox genre is characterized by the player’s freedom of action and the availability of various recipes for creating tools and other items. Although they do not provide exhaustive information about the structure of the world, they still often contain basic information about how to make different things and can reveal a child’s interest in construction, design, or handwork. Minecraft, Terraria, and Space Engineers are prime examples of such games.
Analysis and discussion
All the reasoning around the effects of video games on children and adolescents can be reduced to three major factors: socialization skills, mental development, academic achievement, and levels of aggression and physical development. Of course, I believe that Halbrook is correct, and it is almost impossible to come to a single conclusion regarding the effects of video games on humans because of the highly differentiated genres of computer games. Various educational games for children, chess simulators, and other intellectual games positively affect child development. However, it is essential to understand that games of this kind are not the most popular among children and adolescents. Therefore it is worth considering the most controversial genres of video games, which, as a rule, lead the debate.
Socialization skills of a child
Computer games can positively affect a child’s socialization skills, but only if the games have an element of social interaction. There is a considerable stratum of children who live in remote areas and have no opportunity to communicate with their peers, there is a large class of introverts and closed children, and there are disabled children who find it physically challenging to communicate with their peers in person. For all these children, the world of computer games becomes a place where they can interact with others and learn the importance of cooperation and mutual respect. Therefore, games in which cooperation is encouraged and various alliances and cooperatives can help a child acquire those socialization skills that, for one reason or another, it is difficult for him to practice in real life.
On the other hand, the Internet space is filled with many trolls and cyberbullies. It is also a continuation of the logic of Atma’s research related to, among other things, foul language and swearing. In addition to the foul language prescribed for the characters in the game, children may encounter adults whose behavior is difficult to predict due to the anonymity of the players. Also, it is worth considering that spending time playing video games is also a choice the child makes. That is, deciding to play in front of the computer, they refuse to communicate with real people, study, and other ways of spending leisure time. So I find it difficult to answer the question of whether video games have a positive effect on children’s socialization skills. This question depends on the game’s type and genre, the child’s characteristics, and other circumstances.
A child’s mental development
Research by Tilak (2019), Mayer (2019), and Atma (2020) proves that video games do contribute to the development of several functional soft skills in children. However, within this question, it is also essential to understand that children often neglect their studies in favor of video games, which, although they may develop a variety of skills in children, can still lead to a decline in a child’s academic performance and erudition. I believe the answer to this question lies in how much time a child spends playing video games and whether they interfere with their academic performance. If we look at the impact of video games in a vacuum, playing them will undoubtedly be more productive than doing nothing. Still, it is worth considering the limited time and energy a child spends on their primary activity – studying.
Level of aggression
There is a most profound and complex debate about the increase in aggression in children due to their love of violent games. Despite this, most current research still refutes a direct correlation between the two phenomena. Especially impressionable children who are highly susceptible to copying images and behavior can become criminals, of which there is ample evidence in criminal records. Nevertheless, three basic logic may be relevant in this context.
First, computer games with violent scenes do not differ much in their impact from the various manifestations of violence in movies, life, and books. There are age ratings for this, which the child’s parents should monitor. Second, computer games can be an outlet for depressed or aggressive teens and children (Yuan, 2018). Third, computer games can be a cause of decreased juvenile delinquency. Lawn (2017) notes a decrease in the global crime rate among children and adolescents, which may also be because the most aggressive young people spend their time at home without projecting their aggression onto live people. Of course, this may be the reason for the increase in cyberbullying, but I believe that cyberbullying is a lesser evil than actual violent crime.
Children’s Physical Development
This paper has not presented information about the harms of sedentary lifestyles, as this is a trivial truth about which there is a consensus in the scientific community. Ergonomics and computer use rules are taught on the shoulders of parents and teachers. Since this paper is more about video games, it is worth bearing in mind that various games require physical activity for a child. Still, if we talk about the more popular games, it is worth understanding that they rarely require leaving the house. It can harm the child’s development and health, and therefore I believe that it is also important how much time the child spends at the computer and how his physical activity suffers from it.
Thus, I believe that computer games positively affect children’s development. This reasoning is valid when video games do not occupy a large part of the child’s routine. As in the study of any case, it is necessary to consider the norm rather than individual cases to assess its impact on a person more correctly. By similar logic, you can deny the positive effects of vitamins, which in excess cause harm to the human body. Video games are also helpful for children’s development, but monitoring their focus, age limit, and the time that the child pays for them is essential. In this case, you can get rid of most of the adverse effects of computer games discussed in this debate and leave such positive effects as the development of intellectual abilities of the child, his socialization skills, and erudition and development of various soft skills.
The fast writer but the slow researcher
While writing this study, I realized that I find the writing process very easy, but I spend too much time researching related resources. About 70% of the time I spent writing the essay was spent parsing the relevant literature. I realized that keeping all positions and opinions in my head was complicated while understanding how they should be competently and consistently placed in the text. In solving this problem, I was immensely helped by writing a brief work plan and a specific algorithm I came up with.
During the work, I did not change the audience and the thesis the work, as I initially understood that the work was relevant to the general public, and an extended parsing of the topic would confirm the need for a separate assessment of each factor in the impact of video games on various aspects of development in children. Still, I had to change the topic several times because the issue was becoming broader and broader and involved not only children’s intelligence anymore. Also, due to the change in topic and the need to find related resources, I had to change the reference list several times. In addition, I had to remove several literary sources whose reasoning proved utterly irrelevant, outdated, or emotional. Ultimately, I decided to avoid using various journal articles and focus on studying research papers on the topic.
In the process, I developed my strategy: to compile a bibliographic list with my comments on the paper’s content. This principle helped me stop getting confused with the content of research papers and significantly reduced my writing time; therefore, I will use this trick in the future. Also, it was convenient to divide the text into subtopics, which helped me systematize my knowledge of the discussion by its main “collision points.
Nevertheless, I will have to change my approach to such assignments somewhat in the future. Even though writing comments on the reading list was fruitful, I still spent too much time studying and structuring the readings. Some way to speed up this process without losing on the quality of the work. Also, I found it challenging to maintain a neutral stance when considering different arguments. I have often had to modify sentences to eliminate excessive expression and value judgments that might be useful in other kinds of writing. To remedy this weakness in my writing, I want to learn to clear my mind of the information and evaluation I have initially, which could help me deal with the topic more impartially and create an opinion as I go along.
Thus, writing such a lengthy academic paper has helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses: reproducing information quickly but learning it slowly. Besides, I developed a convenient way to structure my reference list, which helped me stop getting confused about sources. In the future, I will need to learn to consume information more quickly and present it more academically and neutrally. Still, after writing this paper, I can already feel my progress in this area.
Atma, A. M. A., Azmi, M. N., & Hassan, I. (2020). The influence of modern video games on children’s second language acquisition. International Journal of Scientific and Technology Research, 9(8), 319-323.
Das, P., Zhu, M. O., McLaughlin, L., Bilgrami, Z., & Milanaik, R. L. (2017). Augmented reality video games: new possibilities and implications for children and adolescents. Multimodal Technologies and Interaction, 1(2), 8.
Halbrook, Y. J., O’Donnell, A. T., & Msetfi, R. M. (2019). When and how video games can be good: A review of the positive effects of video games on well-being. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 14(6), 1096-1104.
Lawn, M. (2017). Video Games: Changing the Perspective.
Martí-Parreño, J., Galbis-Córdova, A., & Miquel-Romero, M. J. (2018). Students’ attitude towards the use of educational video games to develop competencies. Computers in Human Behavior, 81, 366-377.
Mayer, R. E., Parong, J., & Bainbridge, K. (2019). Young adults learning executive function skills by playing focused video games. Cognitive Development, 49, 43-50.
Schleifer, J. (2018). “Just one more turn!” Why kids love video games and why adults worry about them. The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, 34(9), 1-6.
Tilak, G., & Jadhav, B. (2019). A Study of advantages of Playing video games for people.
Yuan, L., & Hu, W. (2018). The Effects of Video Games on Human Intelligence.