DR ASHA PEMBERTON
As our young people gear up for end-of-year examinations, parents are likely considering activities and plans for the upcoming weeks of vacation. It is suggested that teens, although on vacation, have some structure to activities, leisure and physical pursuits during holidays and not simply sit playing online games. We recognise the need for our youth to engage in internet-based activities, but for many, online gaming consumes their lives. Although there are differing opinions on the potential effects on gaming in totality, parents should be aware of a few considerations.
Physical health and inactivity
Significant discussion has surrounded the impact of video gaming on the physical health of children and teens. For anyone of any age, sitting for hours in one spot is not supportive of physical fitness or muscular strength. Based on the lights, sounds and imagery, gaming is indeed captivating. So much so, that young people can literally get transported into the world of the game and lose a sense of exactly how much time they spend engrossed.
From a movement perspective, long hours of gaming reduces physical fitness due to the overall inactivity. Parents should guard against this by creating some limits for their young people and encouraging them to balance time spent gaming with time spent outdoors engaged in some physical fitness pursuits. Ideally, through leading by example, parents can get more buy-in from their children.
Sights and sounds
Games are designed to be entertaining. The graphics, soundtracks and lighting are engineered to enhance the gaming experience, but excessive exposure comes with risk. As we would expect, long-term close range exposure to images can be harmful to vision. Long-term use of headphone with loud music can be deleterious to hearing. Parents need to be aware of the actual risks to the sensory systems of their teens during gaming. Encourage your teens to take breaks, turn down volumes and to be simple aware that over time, there can be ill effects of their hobbies.
This is a topic that generates mixed opinions. Young people gain tremendous pleasure and social interaction through gaming. Although confusing for parents, they do have their own peer-generated language and means of communication. Gaming portals mostly have built-in or accompanying messaging apps which facilitate added social time. There are certainly benefits to young people connecting in this way which must be considered. Equally, however, are scenarios where youths remain locked indoors, gaming for hours and recluse themselves for the real world.
Excessive gaming has been linked to social anxiety and poor communication strategies, and so parents need to remain mindful. The best approach is to apply balance and supervision. If your young person enjoys gaming, can exhibit control and can equally engage with friends in real-time settings, then likely the benefits outweigh the risks.
Remain in close contact with your young people and take the time to understand the games they enjoy so that you can monitor the content of the games. Overall, always be aware that some people younger or older become unhealthily attached to gaming and the online world and require therapeutic interventions. If concerns arise, do not hesitate to seek support, as this is becoming more prevalent in our community.