This essay was submitted by a student in "The Expository Essay I" at HEROES Academy. The student was asked to respond to the question, "Do you believe that parents should limit children's access to video games?"
If one walks into a Game-Stop, they are bound to see shelves filled with various video games, from Hello Kitty Kruisers to Fortnite, and almost all of those games would have an age rating on the back to determine who the video game’s content is suited to. There are six main video game ratings recognized by the Entertainment Software Rating Board: Early Childhood, Everyone, Everyone 10+, Teen, Mature, and Adults Only (Game Rating Information, n.d.). An informed and responsible parent would make sure to buy their child age appropriate games, but even games meant for children can still prove to be harmful to the overall well-being of a child when played in excess. All parents must limit their child’s access to video games by only allowing them to play age appropriate games for a restricted number of hours, so their child may avoid the adverse effects video games have on their mental and physical health.
Victoria Dunckley (2016) states “Playing video games mimics the kinds of sensory assaults humans are programmed to associate with danger. When the brain senses danger, primitive survival mechanisms swiftly kick in to provide protection from harm…. the threat does not have to be real — it only needs to be a perceived danger for the brain and body to react.” This jump into a state of hyper-arousal, also known as the fight or flight response, is the primitive physiological response to an alarming situation. In modern times, the fight or flight response still proves necessary under certain emergency situations; however, repeatedly enduring said responses can be deleterious when no imminent danger exists.
When a child, or anyone for that matter, first experiences this state of hyper arousal, their heart rate and blood pressure rapidly increase causing a persistent heavy pounding in their chest and temples. Following this leap in heart rate and blood pressure, adrenaline and dopamine floods player’s brain to keep them alert and absorbed in the action of the game, so much so that all other sensory input is blocked off. Blood flows away from the player’s stomach, intestines, liver, and kidneys and towards the heart, lungs, and limbs, effectively reducing hunger and increasing the capacity for physical exertion. In a growing child, a decrease in appetite could be detrimental to the child’s development, and random boosts of energy at inappropriate instances, such as before bedtime, could distort the child’s mental clock.
When the fight or flight response occurs too often, the brain and body have difficulty returning to a calm state, and chronic stress ensues. Victoria Dunckley explains how once chronic stress sets in, blood flows away from the frontal lobe, the part of brain devoted to self control and emotion, and toward the more primitive areas devoted to survival, resulting in difficulty functioning. As children’s nervous systems are still developing, this sequence of events occurs at an accelerated pace; therefore, the video game obsessed child begins to struggle. No child should have to deal with the repercussions of playing violent video games, so it is imperative parents only buy their child video games they know they can handle physically and emotionally.
In addition to making sure children play age appropriate video games, parents must almost place strict rules on the number of hours a day a child is permitted to play video games. According to a study out of Oxford University which involved surveying 5,000 girls and boys between the ages of ten and fifteen on their satisfaction with their lives, students who play video games for less than one hour a day were considerably happier than ones who played for more than three hours a day; the study also found that video games had no effect on students who played them between one and three hours a day (A little video game-playing, 2014). By limiting the hours their child spends playing video games to under three, parents can be sure they not posing a threat to their child’s mental health by allowing that child to spend too much time absorbed in video games.
Playing certain video games for a limited amount of time can be enjoyable, entertaining, and even relaxing for kids, as shown in the previous study; however, in order for a child to benefit from playing video games, it is paramount for parents to take initiative when enforcing video game rules to their child. Children must only play video games for a set amount of time that promises not to impact their social lives, and they must also confine themselves to games which contain material appropriate for their age. If parents implement both of these regulations, children will be able to play video games without negative effects on their lives.
Dunckley, Victoria. This is Your Child's Brain on Video Games. (2016). Psychology Today. Retrieved 3 February 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mental-wealth/201609/is-your-childs-brain-video-games
A little video game-playing linked with better-adjusted children. (2014). University of Oxford. Retrieved 3 February 2019, from http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2014-08-04-little-video-game-playing-linked-better-adjusted-children
Game Rating Information. (n.d.). Xbox. Retrieved 3 February 2019, from https://www.xbox.com/en-US/marketplace/gameratings