On-line Essay 1510HUM

Does the extensive use of computer/video games have an adverse impact on the health of young people


The growing popularity of computer/video games has started a debate among parents, researchers, video game producers and policymakers concerning their harmful and helpful effects on young people (Prot, McDonald, Anderson & Gentile, 2012). Today’s games are much more multifaceted and stimulating, and the technology has advanced to the point where the gamer can become drawn into a multimedia-enabled alternate world. This essay will argue the positive and negative effects of the extensive use of computer/video games on young people’s health. It will firstly discuss the psychological issues of violent games and how gaming can create physical health disadvantages and contribute to unhealthy behavior. Secondly, it will discuss the educational and social benefits of video games and how this has a positive effect on young people’s health. The essay will end with a brief conclusion on whether games are good or bad.


In America, The Pew Research Center reported in 2008 that 97% of youths, ages 12 to 17 played some type of video game and that two-thirds of them (majority young males) played action and adventure games that tend to contain violent content (Harvard Health Publication, 2010). Studies have shown that violent games can increase aggressive thoughts, emotions and behavior,

decrease empathy and desensitize players to violence. Video games compared to violent movies, are particularly harmful because they are interactive and encourage role-playing. Young adults, who develop aggressive behavior, may start exhibiting it among their peers and become desensitized to the real world violence and become fearful of being victimized by violence (Teen Health, 2012). However, these video games tend to influence young people who already show aggressive behavior. Many studies of the effect of violent video game has not considered the effects in context with other influences on youth violence, such as family environment, peer delinquency, and depression (Ferguson, 2011). Given the prospect of individual variability, it may be useful to consider the impact of video games within three broad domains: personality, situation, and motivation (Harvard Health Publication, 2010).

A large majority of children and young adults in Australia exceed the recommended gaming time of maximum of two hours per day (Martin, 2011). This has resulted in a decline in the time children and youths spend playing outside and in contact with nature (Martin, 2011). This has developed great concern among parents as gaming is associated with obesity, attention problems, poor school performance, and gaming addiction. In contrast, physical activities, time outside and in contact with nature are associated with positive health and learning outcomes (Martin, 2011). However, the heath concern of young people relates to the family lifestyle and

situation. Parents provide the opportunities for children to access and play video games and can therefore limit gaming (Skoien & Berthelsen, 1997). Furthermore, Parents who use computers and other technology frequently may introduce computers in an early age to their children. Generation M2 found that in 2009, the proliferation of mobile devices, including handheld video games, mobile phones and MP3 players also impacted on young people’s engagement with video games (Australians Communication and Media Authority, 2010). Although, some video games are for educational purposes and it is the potential negative impact of excessive gaming time during leisure, which requires examination (Martin, 2011).


Well-designed video games set clear objectives, provide feedback, reinforcement and actively involve the player (Martin, 2011). These video games teach young people everyday skills and knowledge and show real-world improvements on attention span, accuracy, vision and multitasking after playing certain titles (Dorman, 1997). As Ian Bogost, associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology claimed in ABC News 26 December 2011, young people who are playing World of Warcraft are learning to delegate responsibility, promote teamwork and steer groups of people toward a common goal (ABC News, 2011). However, one major finding from MCAF 2007 was that there is a significant increase in the popularity of electronic gaming, such as World of Warcraft, among Australian boys, due to online gaming, against other players (Australians Communication and Media Authority, 2010). Even though the gaming teaches skills and knowledge, it is easy for young people to develop addiction and therefore increases health issues. However, today’s motion-controlled games, such as Nintendo’s Wii increases social benefits and helps young people to get a combination of physical and mental exercise.


A number of experiments published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, exhibited that participants who had just played a “pro-social” game, in which characters must work together to help each other out, showed a decrease in aggressive thoughts, feelings, and

behavior and increased positive behavior (Prot, McDonald, Anderson, & Gentile, 2012). Many games today also emphasize the co-operative aspects of game play, in which two or more players need to work together in order to reach a common goal. These video games have a positive impact on young people’s health as they bring friends and families together. Furthermore, new game zones and bars have opened to meet demand of computer/video game play. It is a benefit for teenagers to communicate and interact with other teenagers who have the same interests. However, many young adults may start to prioritise game play before friends, family and work and may lose themselves in an alternative world of gaming which can result in psychological issues.


In conclusion, the positive and negative effects of computer/video games clearly show that computer/video games can educate, but affect the individual in different ways. Whether video

games are good or bad and how they impact the health of young people depends on the type of game, time spent playing, individuals personality and the parents. Some effects are harmful, for example, aggressive behaviour in violent video games and addiction, whereas others are beneficial (learning and social activities).



ABC News. (2011). The Benefits Of Video Games. Retrieved from


Australians Communication and Media Authority. (2010). Trends in media use by children and young people. Australians Communication and Media Authority


Dorman, S M. (1997). Video and Computer Games: Effect on Children and Implications for Health Education. The Journal of School Health, 67(4), 133-138. Retrieved from

Ferguson, C J. (2011). Video Games and Youth Violence: A Prospective Analysis in Adolescents. J Youth Adolescence, 40(1), 377-391.doi: 10.1007/s10964-010-9610-x


Harvard Health Publication. (2010).Violent video games and young people. Retrieved from


Martin K, (2011). Electronic Overload: The Impact of Excessive Screen Use on Child and Adolescent Health and Wellbeing. Department of Sport and Recreation, Perth, Western Australia.

Prot, S. McDonald, K. Anderson, & C. Gentile, D. (2012).Video Games: Good, Bad, or Other?. Pediatric clinics of North America, 59(3), 647-658. Retrieved from

Skoien, P & Berthelsen, D. (1997). Video Games: Parental Beliefs and Practices. Retrieved from

Teen Health. (2012).Computer games. Retrieved from


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