Negative effects of video games
- The effect of video games on the child’s brain
- Video games and eyesight
- Kitchen timer or parental control app?
THE EFFECT OF VIDEO GAMES ON OUR CHILDREN’S BRAINS
As a parent I have to admit that I have largely negative feelings about the amount of time my son spends playing video games given half a chance. It seems like most other parents I talk to about it feel the same way. I place limits on his gaming screen time and generally try to discourage him from downloading new game apps. I prefer him to choose something more obviously educational. One of the justifications I give myself for this is my understanding that video games can impact children’s brains as they develop and even become an addiction. But where did I get this idea from?
Video games change children’s brains
A recent review of studies on this issue shows that video games and game apps DO affect our brains and can literally shape their structure as well as affecting our behaviour. Video games had the strongest impact on those brain regions responsible for attention and visualisation. What surprised me though, was that taken together the studies revealed that video games actually made those brain areas More efficient!
The positive impact of video games and game apps
Quite a few of the gamers who took part in these studies showed improvements in their attentive skills. This included both sustained and selective attention. Also, scientists noticed growth of the right hippocampus in both long-term gamers and volunteers. This is the brain section responsible for visuospatial skills.
A study by Turkey’s Bahcesehir University and other institutions showed a positive effect of game apps and video games on new skills acquisition. They tested areas including languages, organisational skills and coding among Syrian refugee kids. For them, game apps became an effective instrument for their adaptation to a new life.
Screen time limits still needed
At the same time, many of the studies reviewed also noted an addictive effect of games, sometimes described as “Internet gaming disorder.” Games affect the sections of children’s brains responsible for rewards and excessive use can potentially lead to addictive behaviour.
So where does that leave me? Perhaps I can relax a bit about my son playing games. It seems there are plenty of positives to them too. But I’m going to keep on limiting his gaming screen time with Kidslox. In part to avoid the risk of possible addiction, but also because it ensures he finds time for everything else he’s got going on!
CHINA RESTRICTS VIDEO GAMES OVER DANGER TO KIDS’ EYESIGHT
The Chinese government is cutting down on video games “to protect children’s eyes and prevent game addiction.” They want to limit the total number of online games and control the new ones to be approved in the country. The main reason given for this is the increasing amount of video gamers among children and the time they are spending in front of screens.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is concerned about the gaming problem and how it may be affecting children’s eyesight. Scientists find school-aged children who spent seven or more hours a week using gadgets or playing video games tripled their risk for myopia, or nearsightedness. It’s a condition in which close-up objects can be seen clearly, but distant ones can’t.
Thus the Chinese Ministry of Education announced the measures to struggle with “epidemic levels of myopia”. It will also adopt recommendations for schools and parents to limit screen time for kids and inform about game addiction dangers.
Game company to cooperate?
The Chinese government has blocked dozens of games in the past. Earlier this month, a popular Monster Hunter World game was banned in China. Shortly after the president’s announcement of game censorship, Chinese technology giant Tencent introduced tough new rules to identify under-age gamers.
A real-name registration system for its Honor of Kings games will be presented in the middle of September. It will be linked to the state public security database. A new method of identification is called to restrict the time kids spend on the game. However, Tencent’s move is not legislated yet. The company took the decision to limit the time children could play a game, but in fact, the state would take it under control.
Children under 12 will be allowed to play one hour a day and those between 13 and 18 up to two hours. The system will “better guide under-aged players to game sensibly”, the company said. Nevertheless, the privacy and confidentiality of families are not taken into consideration. It seems obvious to us that parents should have the right to decide on the screen time controls placed on their own kids – without the state’s oversight. In fact, that’s exactly what Kidslox is about. You, the parent, have the best idea of what’s right for your kid, you know them and their strengths and weaknesses better than anyone. That’s why Kidslox is positioned as a parental control app. Empowering mums and dads to make good decisions for the benefit of their kids and ensure that those plans are carried out.
Chinese officials’ commented “it’s a step to improve children’s health, particularly to solve the problem of myopia.” But nearsightedness is not only a Chinese issue. Rates of myopia have increased worldwide in recent years. It’s estimated to affect about half of the kids in the U.S. Today 1,4 billion people have myopia, which carries a risk of blindness, and the problem soars every day.
AROUND 5 BILLION PEOPLE – THE HALF OF WORLD’S POPULATION – ARE EXPECTED TO BE SHORT-SIGHTED BY 2050
Too much screen time means less sunlight
The issue is not only about video games, but rather the amount of time which kids spend with devices. The problem of bad eyesight can’t be solved with screen protectors or sitting “not so close to the tablet.” It’s really about limiting the time and encouraging the minors to play outside more.
“THE BEST RECOMMENDATION FOR CHILDREN IS TO SPEND MORE TIME OUTDOORS,”
– researches from the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou claim.
Spending extra 40 minutes a day outdoors for three years resulted in a reduction in the rate of myopia in children. Optometrists say that sunlight plays an important role in protecting vision. The reason why that’s the best healing is that it triggers dopamine, a neurotransmitter that keeps an eye from getting too elongated during childhood. Moreover, there are more objects that people can observe on the long distance – to train the ocular muscles.
“So as the eye is maturing, if it stretches too long it becomes more and more nearsighted. So the dopamine actually prevents that,” – Dr. Christopher Starr, an ophthalmologist at Weill Cornell Medical Center in NYC, says.
Vision problem and learning
The eyesight formation goes up to 8 years-old. The children between the ages of 2 to 8 spend on average 2 hours a day on screens. Doctors believe that if kids spend less time on screens, it will not only protect their eyes but also improve their ability to study.
Squinting and loss of attention could be the warning signs that your child is suffering from myopia.
Sometimes children can be misdiagnosed with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia when it’s really a vision problem. Thus parents should watch any differences in how their minors observe the objects, read, play. If kids used to be very interested in reading or drawing and all of a sudden they start losing their place during reading – it may be a sign of a bad eyesight.
Every mom and dad must understand, that myopia impedes the ability to learn properly at school. “Learning is 80% visual, and we need a good vision to learn,” – Dr. Starr warns.
Outdoor activities are the best option for healing
1,900 first-graders from 12 different schools in Guangzhou took part in a study conducted by Dr. Mingguang He of Sun Yat-sen University. His team examined these kids over a period of three years. The half of the schools added one additional 40-minute class of outdoor activities to each day. The doctor also asked parents from these schools to engage their children in outdoor activities after school, especially during weekends and holidays. Children and parents from the other six schools continued their usual pattern of activity.
After three years the experiment showed that the incidence of myopia was 30.4 % in the group of students who spent extra class time outside. For the children without the extra outdoor activity, 40 % had myopia.
Small children who develop myopia early are most likely to progress to more severe cases. So parents must motivate their minors to play less video games inside and quit screens as much as possible. If you are ready to take this challenge, use Kidslox to protect children from addictive screens. Besides, outside playing is not only about better eyesight, it has a number of well-known health benefits for kids, including increasing their physical activity and decreasing their risk of obesity.
KITCHEN TIMER OR PARENTAL CONTROL APP?
I don’t think there was a single period of human history when parenting was easy. Today seems unique though in the pure quantity of new things that affect our kids’ lives. Deciding which parts of our culture, which toys and technologies, which traditions and habits we’ll allow to be a part of our child’s life is one of the most important parts of being a parent. Determining how we make those decisions into a reality for our family is another thing altogether.
Video games as a new parental challenge
Video games and the questions of screen time quantity and quality are among those new issues modern parents are faced with. And frankly, we could all use some guidance on how to monitor and manage this area of our children’s lives. Writing in the Guardian, Ellie Gibson recently tried to help us out by exploring answers to the questions: How to pick a good game for your child? How long should kids be playing? And (perhaps most importantly) how to drag kids away from the screen?
Many parents would agree with Ellie, that “parenting often feels like endlessly having to say no”. But that’s one of the most fundamental ways that boundaries are set. Child pushes limits, parent tells them it’s not ok. Ideally of course, the child understands why we’re saying no. Even if in the moment it comes out as a sharp negative instruction, we’d hope to get an opportunity to explain the reason afterwards. When children keep pushing at a known boundary though, simply saying no over and over is tiring and feels ineffective.
When it comes to managing screen time, Ellie has a neat suggestion for use with younger kids. Set a time limit and enforce it with the use of a kitchen timer placed somewhere where they can see but not reach it. What I like about this is that it’s visual and makes it easy for the child to understand how much time they’ve got left. Also, I like that it inherently implies an agreement: the child and parent first need to have talked about the rule (and hopefully the reason for the rule) and decided that it’s how they’re going to operate.
Dealing with the challenge
For some kids, that kitchen timer idea will be perfect. For others, especially older kids, we’ll need something more. And that’s only the start. As parents we face hundreds of questions about what we do and don’t allow our children to do and how we let them interact with the world around them (including the internet). We might decide that we want them to use only games that stimulate their imagination and creativity, or that their games should hold educational value. We might decide to ensure they spend as much time being physically active as they spend in front of screens or that we’ll play their games together with them.
An intentional response to these questions is essential. Be observant about what works and what doesn’t and share it with your other parent friends. Share it online in forums and comments sections. When each new generation of parents faces the same old problems, we can turn to our own parents and grandparents for help and advice. They’ve been there already. When it comes to questions of screens and computer games though, we need to support and share more with each other as there’s no historic base of experience to draw on.
There are different opinions on how much time a child should spend in front of screens, but pretty much everyone is in agreement that some sort of limitations do need to be in place. It’s essential to talk with your kids about those limits, offer them alternatives to screen time and try to practice what you preach. Perhaps you can foster in them a healthy attitude towards screens which includes a balance of physical activity and social interaction too.
If you find that a struggle though, or you simply need a hand turning that nice idea into a family reality, parental controls are a vital tool. Parental controls could mean placing a kitchen timer somewhere visible. In most cases though it’s likely to mean something a little more heavy duty. Console producers and digital service providers like Netflix and Steam understand this problem and often include some sort of inbuilt parental control system. Sometimes these are effective and have the sorts of features you find useful, other times they’re essentially a token effort so that the company can tick “parental control” off their checklist.
When it comes to mobile phones and tablets we found that the inbuilt restrictions were quite good, but didn’t offer the sort of flexibility or remote access that we were after. That’s why Kidslox parental control system is set up to offer the parent as much flexibility as possible. So that you can decide for yourself exactly what the rules are going to look like for your family (or maybe try out several different versions of the rules). Kidslox makes sure that the rules you set become a reality in your home.