People can’t get enough of playing video games and immersing themselves in the vast, richly detailed worlds they see on their screens. Even though gaming is hugely popular, there have been concerns in recent years about a particular demographic of players, namely children. In this article, we’ll look at the debate on video games and children. We’ll discuss whether it’s right to ban video games for children and what measures are currently being taken to protect young people from the potential harm that games can have. First, we’ll look at how video games can be addictive and what effects they can have on children.
Video Game Addiction
For most people, playing video games is an enjoyable hobby. For some, however, video games can be harmful. This is mainly because of their addictive nature. The majority of video games, especially newer ones, are designed to be immersive and engaging. They draw a player in and ask them to do all sorts of things: defeating bosses, finding treasures, completing tasks and exploring worlds, for example. When you play a video game, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of content there is and how much it is for you to do. Lots of players get stuck in and spend hours enjoying everything the game throws at them. Some video games take dozens of hours to complete; lots of the bigger ones can demand over a hundred hours of gameplay before the player gets anywhere near completion. It’s easy to get sucked in and become addicted when a video game asks so much of you.
It isn’t just the huge games with lots to do that can become addictive; fast-paced ones, especially those developed for the mobile sector, can get people hooked too. Mobile games are usually designed for quick play. They’re meant to be played on the go, in short, brief sessions, and are designed to be played over and over again.
Casino slots are a prime example of the sorts of games that are commonly played on phones and tablets. Like other mobile games, they’re easily accessible, quick to play and designed to be played repeatedly. You spin the reels, and if you don’t win, you spin them again. Lots of players take advantage of no deposit bonus codes so they can play slots for free and still have a chance of winning real money.
Both short and long games can be addictive. The companies that develop these games want you to keep playing, so they design their games in such a way that they encourage you to continue playing. The problem is that it’s easy to become addicted, and a lot of people find themselves developing problems because they spend too much time gaming. While an excess of video game playing can have negative effects on a person’s mental well-being, it can also unfavourably affect their physical health.
Negative Effects of Video Game Addiction
When children become addicted to playing video games, there can be many effects and consequences that have an impact on their day-to-day lives. Some of the negative ones include:
- Less time spent socialising with other children and with family members;
- Less time spent on other activities such as sports and hobbies;
- Inadequate social skills through lack of mixing with others;
- Lack of concentration, especially in school;
- Poorer performance in school subjects;
- Not getting enough sleep and having trouble sleeping;
- Less exercise, which can lead to weight gain;
- Becoming moody or even aggressive;
- Change in physical appearance.
In serious cases, video game addiction can cause health problems and conditions such as depression, exhaustion and dehydration.
Positive Effects of Playing Video Games
Having listed some of the negative effects that video game addiction can cause, it’s important to point out that the games aren’t all bad. There are lots of positive points associated with gaming, and it can be beneficial to a child’s development in many ways. Here are some of the positive effects linked with video games:
- Increased hand-eye coordination;
- Improved logic and problem-solving skills;
- Faster decision-making;
- More capable of multitasking;
- Greater attention to detail;
- Better brain function.
Video games can be stimulating, especially for young children who are still growing and learning about the world around them. They can promote all sorts of positive forms of brain activity and can improve a child’s ability to interpret information and act on it.
Why Are Bans Being Discussed?
Video games directed at children haven’t been banned as such. Rather, it’s the actual playing of games itself that’s been the focus of bans. Even though video games can have some benefits for young ones, the negative side effects can be too problematic and destructive. Campaigners bring up the negative points and propose bans so that children don’t run the risk of getting addicted and developing other problems as a result. Some people think that children should be getting more real-world experiences. These days, it’s common for kids to spend multiple hours every day staring at screens. They have access to:
- Home computers;
- Devices at school.
And more. It’s very easy for children to spend hours glued to the screen. After all, these devices offer countless hours of entertainment. Proponents of a video games ban for children want kids to spend more time away from screens, engaging with the real world around them. They want children to socialise with others in real life, not through devices, and spend time outdoors, running about and playing. In other words, they want kids to be kids.
Bans Already in Place
China has taken action against the supposed toxic nature of video games and has enforced limits on how much under-18s can play. In an aim to protect children’s health and prevent poor academic performance, the country is limiting those under 18 to three hours of gaming per week. Video game companies are only permitted to offer their services to minors between 8 and 9 pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. They may also do this on public holidays.
In China, you can only access internet-based games if you use a real-name verification system. This means that to play multiplayer games online, you have to submit your name and age to prove who you are; a government-issued ID is also required with this system in place, and China’s ability to block those registered as under 18 from internet gaming outside the set one-hour periods. Because this rule only affects online gaming, children can, in theory, play games that aren’t internet-based as much as they like.
South Korea introduced a video game restriction for children back in November 2011. This was enforced as part of an effort to curb addiction. It seems to have been successful, as it was lifted in August 2021. While it was in place, all those aged 16 and under were banned from playing online games between the hours of midnight and 6 am. By 2014, parents were able to request an exemption for their children.
Bans Only Go So Far
Both of the bands we’ve mentioned will no doubt have had some positive effects on the children they’ve affected. These bans have been put in place with the children’s best interests in mind. Though they may seem authoritarian, they’re meant to help the younger generation and steer them away from addiction. The bans only go so far, and they have limits. The South Korean ban, for example, didn’t affect console or mobile gaming. Therefore, kids could still play on their console or phone as much as they wanted with no limits in place. The China ban has encouraged many youngsters to get around it by paying adults to use their accounts. Lots of kids have replaced the time they spent gaming with watching others play video games instead.
Some children may well have benefitted from bans and may have replaced their gaming with other activities. The problem with bans is that they don’t affect everyone in an intended way. Plus, there are lots of children who are sensible with their gaming and don’t overdo it, and these kids end up getting punished; they have their hours cut and restricted, even though they’re not addicted in any way.
As we’ve discussed, bans have focused on preventing children from playing video games; they haven’t been about child-friendly games being banned. But could these games be the subject of a ban? It’s very unlikely. A government, as seen by the examples in China and South Korea, is more likely to adopt a widespread ban on gaming, as opposed to instructing companies not to create games aimed at a certain age group.
Most children play video games sensibly without any serious problems. There will always be some who end up getting addicted and need help. The majority shouldn’t have to suffer because of a minority of players who suffer problems. So long as most children play video games the right way and the games don’t affect them, there shouldn’t be any bans at all.