Recently NSW Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, expressed concern about the potential effects of violent video games on children. He made a comment in his opening remarks that puts a very clear perspective on some of the games that are out there in the market. He said “In reality, there’s no reset button that can bring the player back to life. The real world is not a video game.” We know very well the positive side, “they’re fun to play”, yet our boys can lose themselves and waste time.
On average, boys tend to play online games for 100 minutes a day. There is also the dual effect of the desensitisation to violence a boy by the age of 18 will have experience after watching thousands of murders as well as the physical effects because the peak use of social networking in Australia occurs just after midnight.
There are a number of concerns and implications that lengthy game play can have detrimental effects on a boy’s physical and mental development. Boys tend to display a few characteristics that can lead them to being competitive, more physical and more impulsive. During the adolescent years, particularly between 13 and 15, boys experience an increase in adrenal hormones and testosterone which can fuel aggression and a ‘fight or flight’ response over which boys don’t normally have any control. A research paper compiled by the Young and Well CRC shows the general difference in the types of games girls and boys choose: “Girls expressed a preference for puzzles, role play, and platform games, whereas boys preferred games that involved action such as racing games, sports games and beat and shoot’em up games” (Colwell, 2007). Potentially, boys are more at risk of becoming addicted as game playing triggers that ‘competitive’ reward system in the brain by releasing bits of dopamine as they pit themselves against adversaries - something that boys love to do. However, in this virtual world there is a reset button and the game starts all over again and our boys do not experience any consequences as a result.
If you add social networking to video gaming plus TV watching, there is very little difference between time spent in school and, in some circumstances, time spent in a virtual world.
We need to look at limiting the amount of time boys spend on these mediums. We need to check the classification and the Australian Council on Children and Media can be a great resource as it provides an App review by age and suitability.
It would be great if boys, instead of turning on the TV, picked up a book to read in order to break the cycle; look for fun alternatives to some of the violent games and try and replace these with some of the more popular and less violent options; try some real life activities like changing a car tyre or helping the family cook dinner.
Boys need to ensure that their brain is well oxygenated. This can be done by playing outdoors, playing sport or just regular exercise. They need to exercise the brain in different ways - the brain loves variety! Adopt a healthy diet and remember the saying that “you are what you eat”. If a boy eats junk food then he is endanger of having a junk mind.
Finally, the brain needs to be rested. Sleep is so important. If a boy is awake in the middle of the night either gaming or involved in social media, then there is no way the brain can be fully rested. It is important to keep electronic equipment out of the bedroom after bedtime.
Lastly, parents need to be their son’s greatest role model.