Video games get a lot of flack. Risks like increased aggression and the risk for addiction have been heavily publicized over the years. On the other hand, psychologists are also exploring the positive impact of video games on mental health.
Their research has fascinating implications for mental health, especially for those in stressful situations.
What About Those Negatives?
Increased aggression and risk for addiction sound pretty bad. Surely, the positive benefits cannot outweigh these negatives?
Well, it depends who you ask.
Current research recognizes these patterns. Humans, especially children, are impacted but what we observe. Therefore, watching (and playing) violent video games for hours may increase aggression.
However, not all measures for aggression are created equal. Most studies on aggression do not measure how frequently a child hits another person. Instead, they measure self-reported aggression, which leads to bias. Moreover, factors like “how much hot sauce a participant makes another person drink” are also used to measure aggression.
These measures are not foolproof. Many studies are questioning these perceived truths, and more agree that moderate video gameplay does not increase aggression. Moreover, exposure to violence is not a given when playing video games.
Another concern about video games is addiction.
Many parents have a perception that a teenager playing video games plays them for hours every day. More often than not, this isn’t the case. In fact, video game addiction is associated with other characteristics that precede the video games themselves. This can include lower psychosocial well-being before playing video games.
Overall, there is a lack of long-term, replicable studies. While screen time should be limited (and outdoor activity increased), moderate video gameplay is safe. In fact, more and more researchers are touting the benefits of video games!
Video Games & Mental Health
Video games can benefit mental health? Why did nobody tell me?
Jones and colleagues were among those researching the positive impact of video games on mental health. In fact, Jones and colleagues have determined that there is a strong link between playing video games and flourishing mental health!
They used Seligman’s model of well-being, which addresses five elements:
- Positive Emotion
- Meaning and Purpose
If you have ever played a video game, you may look at this list and think “yeah, I can see 4/5 of those being true”.
Many video games, like Skyrim, encourage players to complete quests for a greater purpose, or to help other characters in the game. The sense of accomplishment and meaning created by these quests encourages positive emotion.
Jones and colleagues argue that video games are designed to appeal to each of the five elements! This is especially true in online collaborative gaming. Partnership and friendship are increasingly important aspects of various video and online games. Moreover, the intention of a video game is to engage the participant.
Video Games & School Competence
Jones and colleagues are not the only researchers focusing on the benefits of video games. Kovess-Masfety and her colleagues primarily focused on the impact of video gameplay on children.
They found several benefits of moderate gameplay!
- high intellectual functioning
- high overall school competence
- decrease in overall peer relation problems
What does this mean for the average parent?
While limiting screen time and encouraging other activities (like these ones) is vital, video games are not the enemy. When you or your child plays a video game for an hour each night, there are actually many benefits!
Video Games & Chronic Pain
This balanced perspective is effectively highlighted in Griffiths’ research.
In this study, Griffiths used video games to help manage pain. Video games provide a distraction, decreased nausea, and lower systolic blood pressure. They can also be used to increase hand strength.
The need to moderate video game play is also evident in Griffiths research.
Extensive video gameplay can lead to wrist and neck pain, as well as various other symptoms. By limiting gameplay, or regularly taking breaks, these symptoms can be avoided altogether.
So They’re Great?
Yes, and no.
There are a lot of benefits associated with playing video games. They provide an escape. They promote feelings of accomplishment and purpose. Video games allow you to cannot with friends across the world! Moreover, video games are associated with increased intelligence and decreased peer problems. Coupled with their ability to distract from chronic pain, it seems like video games can do no wrong!
But, as with anything, too much of a good thing isn’t too great anymore.
Health, as you’ll learn from reading my blog, is holistic. While video games support one aspect of mental health, they are not the sole treatment. Any extended amount of screen time can have a negative impact.
Social media can skew our perception of the world. Our eyes and necks are sensitive to the light and position of our computer. Likewise, video games (when played too often) can lead to joint problems, eye weakness, obesity, and more.
So what? Is there a perfect amount of video games to play? Should you bother playing video games at all?
Video games are a piece of the wellness puzzle, but their effectiveness is dependent on a well-balanced lifestyle.
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