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The Risks and Rewards of Adolescent Gaming
Episode 711th May 2023 • What The Health: News & Information To Live Well & Feel Good • John Salak
00:00:00 00:09:16

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Welcome to another episode of What the Health! In this episode, we explore the highly debated topic of the impact of gaming on young people. While critics warn of harmful mental and physical health issues, advocates argue it can ease anxiety, provide social connections, and support cognitive development.

Over 90% of American kids and teens play video games, making it crucial to establish guidelines and encourage balance with other activities. We discuss potential dangers, including addiction and poor health, but recent research suggests benefits such as improving mental health and cognitive skills.

Join us for practical tips and recommendations for monitoring children's gaming habits and establishing healthy boundaries. Learn about the latest research and the need for ongoing discussion and education.

Chapter Summaries;

[0:00:30]: The Impact of Gaming on Children and Adolescents: Debates and Discussions

[0:01:12]: The Dangers of Excessive Gaming Among Children and Adolescents: A Closer Look at the Research

[0:02:35]: The Pros and Cons of Gaming: New Research Sheds Light on the Benefits and Drawbacks for Young People

[0:00:30]: Health Hacks: Promoting Well-Being and Managing Excessive Gaming

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Let’s Connect:


You know, there's heated debate in this country on just about everything from politics to religion, sports, nutrition, and fitness. Pick a topic, and you're likely to get an argument. This is especially true when it comes to the impact of gaming on children and adolescents. Everybody has an opinion, whether it's good, bad, or somewhere in the middle.

It's almost as if the historic debate on television impact on the young has morphed into the digital age, has parents, educators, scientists, and others argue over the perceived dangers and merits of spending hours online with any one of the thousands of games available. Ultimately, there's good reason for these arguments, debates, discussions, or whatever you wanna call them.

Critics claim gaming can be a dangerous addiction for children and teens that can lead to all sorts of harmful mental health and even physical issues. Proponents, however, are just as quick to note that these same games can ease anxiety, offer social connections, even support cognitive development, both camp stress that their claims are supported by research.

So, who's right? It's unclear and we'll delve into the details shortly. What's not in question, however, is that these children and adolescents spend lots of times online, in general, and in particular on gaming. Let's consider children ages eight to 12, spent four to six hours daily on a screen of some kind, smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, computers and TVs.

Teens spend up to nine hours. Estimates vary as to how much time American kids and teens spend a day on gaming, but it's believed to be more than 90% of them play video games. That number might be as high as 99% for boys and 94% for girls. It's suspected that on average these young people are gaming over two hours daily.

Some excessive gamers could be playing for four to six hours daily. If anyone's counting, it means that some are spending a quarter of their young lives gaming.

So a lot of children and adolescents are gaming, no question. But is it dangerous? There's plenty of research and commentary to suggest that it is. Gaming, in fact, may even be addictive. One study reports that up to three to 4% of the world's, 2 billion gamers are addicted. That's 60 million people.

Worse yet, perhaps 8 to 9% of those between the ages of eight and 18 suffer from gaming disorder, which includes a range of aggressive and antisocial behaviors. Okay, but what are some of the specific dangers that we're thinking about here? On a mental health level, they include poor sleep, hygiene, aggression, lack of motivation, depression, social anxiety, poor emotional regulation, interpersonal conflict, and in some cases even suicidal thoughts.

The purported physical issues include physical health atrophy, exhaustion, dehydration, obesity, and heart problems. Also, excessive screen time of any kind can lead to computer vision syndrome, which is something that's not good for anyone of any age.

 All of this can give parents or anyone else who cares about young people, plenty of cause for concern. But here's a rub of late additional research has surfaced that shows gaming has its benefits, both physical and emotional. And we've reported on a lot of this at WellWell, just go to our site, WellWell and search gaming, and the detailed stories will appear.

But exactly what possible benefits are we talking about. Well, here's one. Young gamers between the ages of 9 and 10 appear to be smarter than kids who don't game. Although the researchers who reported this aren't exactly sure why. It could be that the smarter kids are simply attracted to gaming. A recent Korean study counted earlier research by reporting that adolescents playing violent games.

Now we're thinking about Call of Duty or Mortal Combat, do not necessarily develop aggressive tendencies or increase their risk of mental health issues. A British study followed this reporting up. By noting that 11 year old boys who gamed most days were much less likely to develop depressive tendencies than those who gamed less than once a month.

Other research suggests that gaming can actually boost an individual's mental health, enhancing a person's mood by reducing anxiety and stress. Multi-player games can also provide social support. Gaming may even reduce the urge of some young people to bully others if they assume the role of a villain in a game and start feeling remorse.

There is also a report that claims gaming supports brain connectivity, and that's linked to muscle control, memories perception, and spatial navigation. One research team out of Sweden went as far to make a clear distinction between gaming, and TV and social media. This group reported that young people who spend an above average amount of time gaming saw their intelligence levels rise above average.

Yet those watching excessive amounts of TV or spending too much time on social media had no impact on their cognitive development. Another piece of research notes that gaming may help those with dyslexia improve their reading comprehension. In addition, certain child-friendly games were also seen to help children in general between the ages of eight and 12 improve their reading skills.

So where does this plus negative balance leave us somewhere in the middle. Ultimately, the biggest drawback of gaming may not be gaming itself as much as excessive screen time that leads to addictive behaviors and or prevents those involved from doing other things that might be more beneficial.

 As always, before we deliver up some health hacks related to gaming, we wanted to flag you to a special offer from one of our WellWell affiliates. WellWell-Being members receive a 15% discount from Leaf Organics on their range of quality C B D products, which can help with a variety of ailments, including anxiety, pain management, poor sleep, even pet care.

Now becoming a member of WellWell-Being is easy and it's free, and it opened you up to hundreds of exclusive discounts from our other affiliates. Just visit WellWell Go to Milton's discounts, and on the pull down menu, you'll see the signup form. Enjoy. Okay, so you're a parent or a guardian. How do you assess or control excessive gaming, which is likely or possibly can lead to all sorts of mental health issues?

The best way to do it is to establish some guidelines. Here are some gaming should only start after homework and other responsibilities are finished. Set a limit for how long a young person can game on school days and on weekends. Enforce these guidelines in effect. Stick to them. Encourage other activities, sports, social and engagements, outdoor happenings, et cetera, to balance gaming.

You don't need to put down gaming, but encourage your children to engage in these other activities. If you are worried about the extent of gaming activities, there are software applications that allow you to monitor a child's gaming activities and also protect their devices from being infected with malware and other factors.

They're easy to find. You can probably find the one that's right for you, and if you're worried, use them. Okay. That's a give and take on gaming. Gaming moderation and monitoring. Mental health indicators appear to be the feel good keys. I hope you got something out of this podcast and I hope you'll be around for our next one.