How Do Video Games Affect Teenagers?

Questions have arisen asking if video games form habits or cause changes in teenagers; however, new research and tests have revealed that guardians should be worried about other things.

Video games can affect a teenager’s mood and emotions. “Too many video games can cause depression. If a teen plays too much computer, Xbox, Playstation, etc, it may cause depression and other issues if played excessively. The results are discouraging,” Roni Caryn Rabin, technologist at the da Vinci Surgical System, said in a New York Times article.

Similarly, 3,000 teens were recruited for a study in Singapore. A study found that teens who were socially awkward or have social anxiety were more likely to play video games than interact with other teenagers which worsens the social anxiety.

The teens that played video games were also more likely to see a drop in grades and a worse relationship with their parents. According to the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, eight out of 10 kids had a drop in grades because of excessive gaming.

In another study, the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine recruited more than 1,000 healthy and active teens. They had the teens use the internet more than the average teenager, and the result was that excessive use made them more likely to be depressed in the following 9-10 months.

Video games are also linked to bad behavior or depressed emotions, according to the Archives,  they found that ( Males are more likely to play and suffer from their violent video games, whereas females do not suffer as much. With the visual effects and audio more realistic than ever, a bigger problem has arisen with teens because the video game seems more lifelike than ever and may contribute to darker thoughts to teens.

There has been a burst of new technology that it will answer questions that have arisen. Violent video games do in fact stir up in aggressive behavior in short term, such as violent acts toward other people, and other crimes.

Scientists don’t know yet if long term emotional and behavioral effects will stay static  or increase the likelihood that violent gamers will be more prone to murder, rape, assault and rob.

Michael R. Ward, an economist at the University of Texas, Arlington, isn’t sure if all the questions have been answered in these studies.

Video games may also be responsible for the changing of eating habits. An hour playing video games may encourage teenagers to eat more over the rest of the day rather than three healthy meals at the typical breakfast, lunch, and dinner times.

The teenagers do not, however, make up for the extra calories. They eat a constant amount throughout the day, eating more on gaming days than other days. “We didn’t see an increase in hunger,” Charles Chaput, involved in the study, told a researcher in the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. “The mental-stress effect and eating food may satisfy the brain’s need for a ‘reward’.”

“Most of the food that we would want is unhealthy. And most of the food we’d want would be sugary and fatty,” said Chaput about game-day cravings.

In another study, Chaput’s team discovered that teenagers used more energy and brain power when they played video games. More so than when relaxing, giving them an extra 163 calories left over from their excessive eating.

However, if video games affect how teenagers eats, then that 163 extra calories adds up over time, resulting in weight gain. “It sounds minor, but if it’s chronic, it could have a major effect over the years,” Chaput said.

Another study with the same 3000 students took place in Singapore– 9 percent of students were considered pathologically addicted to gaming. There were similar numbers found in other areas such as, North America, South Korea, the U.K. and Russia.

The teenagers who are addicted to video games were affected in other portions of their lives too. Their grades, family, social skills, and job were damaged in multiple ways: losing jobs, doing poorly in school, losing touch with family and friends and becoming anti-social because of their gaming addiction. However, the Entertainment Software Association disagrees: “There simply is no concrete evidence that computer and video games cause harm. In fact, a wide body of research has shown many ways gamers are being used to improve our lives through education health and business applications.”

Video games are held responsible by some parents and teens themselves to cause sleeping habit changes. Michelle Garrison is the  PhD and the lead author of Study and Research Scientist and the Seattle Children’s Research Institute in Washington. Garrison said in a New York Times article, “TV and computer monitors can keep melatonin levels from rising normally because of the brightness of screens and that keeps the teens awake, even after the TV or screen has been turned off. The hormones are still there after the bright screen has been turned off.”

Violent and bloody video games have also been linked to sleep problems. “37% of teenagers who were exposed to one house or more of violent media per day had sleep problems, compared to just 19% of those who watched less than one hour or none.” Garrison said.

Dr. Carol Rosen, a medical director of the Pediatric Sleep Center at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, said in a New York Times article, “The purpose of your dreams is to take your experiences of the day, process them, look at them again, think, and organize them.” Rosen says, “If your intake is scary things, you might not be surprised that fears develop and that you might have night waking with difficulty falling asleep.”

However, watching non-violent shows or playing video games or computer view time does not seem to impact sleep, but it may form other habits like eating different foods, and behavior changes.

Some positive effects come from video games such as heightened awareness, quicker reaction time and in some cases, an extensive vocabulary from the game’s cut-scenes.

Most of the effects of video games are negative with only a few positive effects. Of course, all things in moderation.