Are video games brainwashing our children?

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Words by Raelee Lancaster

A recent article in the Daily Telegraph has reignited the debate over the dangers of video games amongst young children.

The article, published on the 6th of July, interviewed a mother who believes that living with her twelve-year-old son is “like living with someone who is drug addict”. Journalist Jane Hansen, the author of the piece, paints the young boy as an intelligent student who was turned “into a monster” by his video game addiction.

But this claim, when put up against the research, doesn’t add up.

The US Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention found that during 1994-2000, when the video game industry boom began, juvenile violent crime rates lowered by 44% and 24% in young adults. A US Judge agreed, and in a statement said that video games could be healthy for children. He vehemently argued that shielding children from violence seen in video games, and other media, could be detrimental to their wellbeing as they would be ill-equipped to cope with the world outside of their protective “bubble”.

A 1999 Australian Government supports these claims, concluding that there is “little evidence to support fears that playing computer games contributes substantially to aggression in the community.” Some scholars even went so far as to suggest that video games could be beneficial for children as action games improve mental attentiveness as well as visual and fine motor skills.

However, for every hour of screen time a child has, their risk of developing attention-related increases by 10%. It could therefore be assumed that excessive screen time is what led to this twelve-year-old boy’s anger issues. Indeed, excessive screen time clearly has consequences. Obesity, bad eating habits, poor cognitive performance, reduction in sleep and fewer social interaction are all attributed to the depression and lifestyle his mother spoke of to the Daily Telegraph.

In his book “20 Tips for Parents”, Professor Kim Oates, paediatrician and former head of The Westmead Children’s Hospital said that children under two should have no screen time, children between two-five years old should have no more than one hour and those older than five should have no more than two hours. “The right does at the right time of appropriate screen time…can be good,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

It seems that video games aren’t the problem here. The amount of time, however, that young children, like this boy mentioned in the Daily Telegraph article, spend in front of an electronic screen does.

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