Updated June 27, 2020

Negative Effects of Video Games

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According to EEDAR, 211 million people, or 67% of Americans, play video games. That means millions of people could be causing damage to their brains, mental state, or ability to sleep.

Keep reading to learn the negative effects of video games and how to prevent it from happening to you or a loved one.

Too Many Video Games Can Be Harmful

What are the negative effects of video games?
Video games can negatively affect the brain, memory, and vision. They can cause stress, anxiety, and even isolation if the addiction gets severe enough. Video games can even kill brain cells and interrupt a person's sleep.

How do video games affect the brain?
Studies show that people playing "shooter games" damage the hippocampus area of their brain. This is the area used for spatial and long-term memories. Research states that this is because shooter games require excessive use of the caudate nucleus rather than the hippocampus. The caudate nucleus takes grey matter from the hippocampus, which can lead to illnesses like depression and Alzheimer's.

How do video games affect your memory?
A study conducted by Pyc and Rawson showed that "video gamers" lose some of their short-term memory, but have better long-term memory than non-gamers. The participants studied two pictures for 2½ minutes. After that time, half of the students played a video game for 15 minutes while the other half read a book. After the 15 minutes, each group wrote down what they could remember from the first picture. After 24 hours, they returned and wrote down what they recollected from the second picture. The "gamers" scored better on the 24-hour test, but worse on the test immediately following the video game playing.

Effects of Video Games on Health

Are video games harmful to child development?
In a study conducted by psychologist Craig A. Anderson, it was proven that children who play "aggressive" video games often have aggressive behavior. They also have a decreased level of empathy for others. Others state that "violent video games" desensitize. This may make an adult less affected by violence as well as more likely to commit the violence himself.

How many hours of video game play is unhealthy?
The "sweet spot" for video game playing is one hour or less a day. With this amount of video game playing, children have better social skills and enjoy life more. On the other hand, those who play more than 3 hours per day have problems with hyperactivity and attention, and have inept social skills.

Does playing video games hurt your vision?
Just like 3 or more hours of video game play can cause health issues, it can also cause vision issues. While playing video games for short times (1 hour or so) does have its benefits, playing for more than 3 hours can cause computer eye syndrome, eye pain, issues with focusing, and even headaches.

Can video games cause stress?
A study on violent video games and the stress they cause show that children playing violent video games have increased stress levels. It could be due to the body's ability to "fight or flight" when presented with a stressful situation, such as a shooting game. Because the gamer doesn't "fight or flee," and they instead sit in their chair for what could be hours, the stress takes a toll on their health and their mind.

Can video games kill brain cells?
Whether video games kill brain cells is still out for debate, but a study conducted by scientists at Tohoku University did find that children who play video games for hours a day might have underdeveloped frontal lobes. This can inhibit proper emotions, the ability to learn, and the ability to remember things.

Can playing video games make you motion sick?
Doctors have found that certain motion video games can make people feel motion sickness, similar to what they would feel in a car or on an amusement park ride.

They think it's because your eyes say that you are moving, but your inner ear says that you aren't. Your brain gets confused and it could result in dizziness and nausea.

Effects of Video Games on Behavior

Do video games affect behavior?
The benchmark for negative effects from playing video games centers on the 3-hour mark. At that point, video game players tend to exhibit behavior issues, act more hyper, and lose interest in school and academics, more so than those who play less than 3 hours a day.

Do video games cause violent behavior?
Violent video games have been tied to violent behavior, but to varying degrees. While it often shows decreased empathy in video game players, as well as a tendency to be more aggressive, there are no conclusive studies that show a direct correlation between video games and crimes committed. The feeling is that the longer a person (child or adult) is exposed to violent video games, the more aggressive they may become.

Can video games cause anxiety?
A study conducted by researchers at Nottingham Trent University and University of Oulu found that video game addiction leads to anxiety among other mental health issues. As much as 9% of gamers experience some type of anxiety as a result of their game playing habit, although the numbers tend to be lower in children game players than adult game players.

Effects of Video Games on Sleep

Can video games make it hard to fall asleep?
Video games can delay a person's sleep, especially adolescents. A study conducted by Flinders University found that increased physiological arousal and cognitive alertness make it harder for adolescents to fall asleep after playing video games at night.

Do video games interfere with sleep?
The studies by the researchers at Flinders University also found that there "might be" a connection with the amount of REM sleep a teen gets after playing video games, but the research is still ongoing. As most experts suggest, playing in moderation can help alleviate any potential issues.

Should kids play video games before bed?
Use of video games before bed does make it difficult for many children to get a good night's sleep. 18% of parents in a recent study cited sleep issues with their children who played video games at night. Experts recommend limiting video game or even media time (TV) to the daytime hours to avoid the risk of sleep issues at night.

Can playing video games make you tired?
Playing video games may not make you tired while you play them—they may actually have the opposite result. But what they can do is interfere with the quality of sleep that you get.

If you don't get a good night's sleep because your brain couldn't shut down after being ramped up from video games, you'll feel the effects the next day. Even if you get 8 hours of sleep, you may feel tired, irritable, and unable to focus because of the lack of good sleep.

Effects of Video Games on Addiction

What is video game addiction?
Video game addiction, like alcohol and drug addiction, is an impulse disorder. Gamers rely on their ability to play video games at all times. If they are unable to get their "fix," they start to experience irritability and aggression. Rather than relying on a substance, gamers rely on the fantasy world that gaming provides to escape their own reality.

What are the types of video game addiction?
There are two types of video game addiction. First is the addiction to single-player video games. Gamers get addicted to beating a certain score or completing a specific mission. If they are unable to do so, they become obsessed.

The other type of video game addiction has to do with multi-player games. Gamers addicted to these types of games get lost in their "virtual world." They find a way to escape their own reality and become one with their online character and the people in it. When forced to leave this fantasy world, the addict can become irritable and/or aggressive.

What are the physical signs of video game addiction?
Every gamer will exhibit different symptoms of video game addiction, but some of the most common include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Lack of caring for oneself.
  • Headaches.
  • Problems with joints and ligaments as a result of playing the games too much.

What are the emotional signs of video game addiction?
The emotional signs of video game addiction include:

  • Anger or frustration when not able to play.

  • Inability to focus because one's mind is on the video games nonstop.

  • Finding ways to get out of obligations to stay home and play video games.

  • Losing friendships or causing strain in relationships over the video games.

How can you treat video game addiction?
The most common treatment for video game addiction is cognitive behavioral therapy. Unlike addictions to drugs or alcohol, there are no medications that a person can take to "get rid of the issue." Instead, players need to learn how to remove the focus of video games from their lives and to enter their "real life" once again.

The Benefits of Playing Video Games

Can video game playing improve hand-eye coordination?
A study conducted at the University of Toronto found that people who play video games often have a heightened sense of hand-eye coordination or coordination in general. This makes it easier for gamers to learn new tasks that involve coordination in real life, which can be beneficial.

Can video games improve reaction time?
Certain video games—such as action video games—can change reaction time. This is because players have to react quickly and swiftly in order to succeed at the game. Players of non-action video games do not increase their reaction time nearly as much as those playing action games.

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