The effect of video games on the health of young people

New Communication Technology – Online Essay

Does the extensive use of computer/video games have an adverse impact on the health of young people. What are the most recent papers? Clarify what all sides of the argument claim and only then offer your reasoned opinion based on facts.

The impact of video games on young people’s health has been a popular topic of discussion since the rise of video games in the 1980s. A substantial amount of attention is generated about the negative effects that playing video games can have. However, there have also been significant proven positive effects.  This essay will examine both the positive and negative effects that video games can have on teenagers. Negative effects of video games are caused by addiction and reactions to violent video games. A combination of research suggests that there is a strong relationship between violence in the media and real-world aggression. Whereas, games designed to train and educate provide users with ongoing positive effects. Medical video games have helped patients rehabilitate themselves as well as motivated them towards goal achievement.

To understand how video games can have an adverse impact on the health of young people it is important to define several key concepts. Computer game addiction can be defined as excessive or compulsive use of video games where the individuals’ daily life is interfered with (Weinstein 2010, p.268). Users isolate themselves from society and disengage from various forms of social contact, seeking satisfaction and reward from the challenges presented in their faux-reality. This must not be confused with the amount of time that the gamer spends playing games, and rather on how this gaming affects other areas of their life. Video games also have a strong link to the negative effects that violent television and movies produce. Both these mediums regularly depict violence and aggression and causal and correlational links with real behaviour have been discovered. Aggression is the behaviour which is intended to harm another individual who is trying to avoid such harm. Extreme acts of aggression such as physical assault and murder are referred to as acts of violence. These types of games are the most promoted and consumed video games, however there are educational, sports, and strategic games on the market. A combination of experimental, cross-sectional correlational, longitudinal and empirical research suggests that there is a strong relationship between media violence and real-world aggression. This can be seen in various crime sprees over the last 3 decades such as the Columbine High School massacre (1999) and the Virginia Tech massacre (2007). Anderson (2004, p.114) states that violent video games increase aggressive thoughts, feelings, behaviours, arousal and decreased helping behaviours. This creates an embrace and dependence on the distortion of reality that these games create. The relationship between virtual self and real self provides satisfactions and social relationships which may be hard to cultivate in real life.

There are also numerous physical effects that arise from video game addiction. Most frequently, these include described cases of “Pacman’s Elbow” or “Space Invaders Revenge (Weinstein 2010, p.268) where gamers suffer skin, joint and muscle problems from repetitive strain. It is also prudent to consider the effects that addictions to videos game can cause. This addiction can be attributed to a compensation for deficiencies in ordinary life. In a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American children spend over six hours per day watching and playing video games and television but do not meet the recommended level of one hour of physical play per day. This has led to concerns that video game addiction is becoming a leading cause of childhood obesity and self-image problems.

On the other hand, the development of video games to improve health care and education services has seen numerous positive effects on patients. Basic computer games have been created to focus on education and training rather than entertainment. These have targeted both the improvement of patients’ health as well as educating doctors and medical students on certain skills. Particular video games skills are being focussed on as there is evidence that avid players have shown enhanced visual spatial performance, hand-eye coordination and fine motor control, all of which are critical skills required for successful surgical procedures.  When looking at the positive effects on patients, gamers often engage in these types of video games to experience a distractional and motivational effect. This allows gamers, especially children, to experience catharsis; the release of tension and fears in a safe environment (Kato 2010, p.113). Other positive effects of playing this style of video game include the motivation of patients to participate in physical activity through an innovative interface. More specifically, joystick control and movement has helped therapeutically for arm injuries, while racing style games have been used as physical therapy for patients in wheelchairs or suffering spinal cord injuries.  Results showed that patients were able to reach fitness and mobility goals and approached medical treatments with happier attitudes. This style of game, referred to as an “exergame” encourages interactive physical activity and combines challenging quests with exercise. This style of game was found to be more appealing and motivational to gamers who considered themselves “sedentary” and did not enjoy typical forms of exercise.  Medical video games can also provide a method of pain management where alternate realities are created in which the patient does not experience their physical symptoms. These tailor-made games were targeted towards sufferers of burns, asthma, cancer and breast health issues. To find out more about how video games are being used in medicine, click here.

Positive effects can also be seen in educational video games. Students benefitted from innovative and interactive teaching methods. In particular, children and adolescents can be taught reading skills, mathematical skills and creative skills by playing educational games. This style of game is also beneficial to businesses that use educational video games to engage employees and develop work-specific job skills. For example, the US military uses video games to simulate and train combat skills while attempting to increase recruitment.

In conclusion, adverse impacts on the lives of youths is primarily due to the effect that violent video games and media has on youths but not the entire genre of video games. While the reputation of video games remains negative due to the popularity of violent games, there are alternatives which aim to improve critical functional skills such as hand-eye coordination and visual-spatial awareness. Gamers can only be assessed by the type of game they are playing and not by a generalisation of the type of media. This article is a good summary of some of the most prominent positive and negative effects of video games.



Weinstein, AM 2010, ‘Computer and video game addiction—a comparison between game users and non-game users’, The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, vol. 36, pp.268-276, DOI: 10.3109/00952990.2010.491879

Anderson, CA & Bushman, BJ 2001, ‘Effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, and prosocial behavior: a meta-analytic review of the scientific literature’, Psychological Science, vol. 12, p.353, DOI: 10.1111/1467-9280.00366

Anderson, CA 2004, ‘An update on the effects of playing violent video games’, Journal of Adolescence, vol. 27, pp. 113-122, DOI: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2003.10.009

Kato, PM 2010, ‘Video games in health care: closing the gap’, Review of General Psychology, vol. 14, no. 2, pp.113-121, DOI 10.1037/a0019441

Anderson CA, et al. 2012, ‘Video games: good, bad or other?’, Pediatrics Clinics of North America, vol. 59, no. 3


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