Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, video games have become one of the most important means of entertainment among children, adolescents, and young adults. According to Kracht et al. (2020), in the United States, the sales of that product increased by $10 billion just in five years and amounted to $29.1 billion in 2017. Such continuous growth in popularity is explained by the ability of electronic games to create a special reality for the users, which realizes their fantasies and delivers new experiences not available in real life. Moreover, gamers often time can enjoy online multiplayer mode, which allows them to create shared experiences with others and build online communities.
However, despite the fact that video games bring positive emotions and are a great way to relax, there are voices of skepticism that question the impact that computer playing can have on its users. Many social media platforms and scientists constantly argue that video gaming may negatively affect peoples’ cognitive skills and lead to physiological and psychological problems. Especially concerns are raised about middle childhood development, as this group may be most significantly influenced by computers due to undergoing active physical and mental changes. Therefore, it is necessary to discuss which effect video games have on the latter age group’s cognitive, physical, and psychosocial development. Moreover, it is important to analyze not only direct influence on the child but also indirect impact through various systems adopting the theory developed by Bronfenbrenner (1979).
Cognitive, Physical, and Psychosocial Consequences of Video Gaming
Previous studies indeed found that playing computer games significantly affects a child’s cognitive development, but the results are contradictory (Palaus et al., 2017). For instance, while some authors find the positive impact that playing video games has on the reading abilities of dyslexic children, others deny the existence of such a relation (Franceschini et al., 2017; Łuniewska et al., 2018). However, the prevailing number of studies conclude that there are more benefits that activity brings than harm. The researchers found an increase in self-control, cognitive control, attention, problem-solving skills, fact recalling, and visuospatial skills in computer players (Palaus et al., 2017; Gabbiadini & Greitemeyer, 2017). On the other hand, Palaus et al. (2017) maintain that extensive usage leads to the development of certain parts of the brain but degradation in others. Therefore, it can be concluded that adequate involvement in video gaming can actually improve brain functioning, but prolonged playing should be avoided.
Conversely, in the sphere of physical development, the studies find more negative outcomes of computer playing than positive ones. Mustafaoğlu et al. (2018) argue that excessive computer usage, including video gaming, can seriously damage children’s musculoskeletal system, causing headaches and abdominal pain. Moreover, some studies discovered a relationship between playing with computers and child’s obesity, but those results are contested by other researchers’ findings though (Kracht et al., 2020). Finally, long-term exposure to a computer’s blue light may be harmful to kids’ eyes, causing various diseases and vision loss. For those reasons, parents should seek to minimize the negative physiological effects that are associated with video gaming and computer usage in general by teaching a child correct sitting posture and appropriate computer behavior. The latter, for instance, may include making pauses every 45 minutes and letting the eyes relax.
Next, it is necessary to see how playing computer games can affect the psychosocial development of a child. Kovess-Masfety et al. (2016) could not find any relationship between video gaming and mental problems but discovered that the former is negatively associated with peer relationship problems. However, a significant number of researchers argue that exposure to computer games, especially violent ones lead to increased aggression and a lack of empathy and benevolence. Moreover, Hazar (2019) maintains that such an activity can result in children’s addiction which can adversely affect overall development and productivity at school. Therefore, it is also the responsibility of parents to monitor the content of the games that their kid plays.
Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological Systems Theory
Finally, the framework of the bioecological system developed by Bronfenbrenner (1979) can be adopted to analyze how video games influence various structures that, in turn, affect a child. Microsystem includes direct experience with the world of video gaming by kid and reaction of parents to such an activity. The peers and schoolmates that constitute the child’s mesosystem can also be greatly involved in playing computer and, thus, influence his preferences and behavior. Exosystem encompasses, for example, the overwhelming number of advertisements for video games on different platforms like YouTube which are intended to attract the interest of a child. Macrosystem includes the culture that surrounds a person and his social status. For instance, a child from a poor background would not have equal access to video games as a child from a rich family. At last, the chronosystem includes some transitions in the life of a kid. It can be purchasing a computer, releasing a revolutionary game, or introducing a new console to the market.
The current essay discussed the effects that video games have on development during middle childhood. It was found that this activity has a mostly positive effect on cognitive functioning and is found to increase self-control, cognitive control, attention, problem-solving skills, fact recalling, and visuospatial skills of the players. However, playing computer can also harm children’s musculoskeletal system, causing headaches and abdominal pain and leading to obesity and vision loss. Additionally, playing games with violent scenes can cause increased aggression and lack of empathy and benevolence in kids but generally does not affect their mental health. Finally, the analysis of various systems adopting Bronfenbrenner’s theoretical framework helped determine that video gaming affects all the spheres of a child’s existence.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Harvard university press.
Franceschini, S., Trevisan, P., Ronconi, L., Bertoni, S., Colmar, S., Double, K., Facoetti, A., & Gori, S. (2017). Action video games improve reading abilities and visual-to-auditory attentional shifting in English-speaking children with dyslexia. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 1-12.
Gabbiadini, A., & Greitemeyer, T. (2017). Uncovering the association between strategy video games and self-regulation: A correlational study. Personality and Individual Differences, 104, 129-136.
Hazar, Z. (2019). An Analysis of the Relationship between Digital Game Playing Motivation and Digital Game Addiction among Children. Asian Journal of Education and Training, 5(1), 31-38.
Kovess-Masfety, V., Keyes, K., Hamilton, A., Hanson, G., Bitfoi, A., Golitz, D., Koc, C., Kuijpers, R., Lesinskiene, S., Mihova, Z., Otten, R., Fermanian, C., & Pez, O. (2016). Is time spent playing video games associated with mental health, cognitive and social skills in young children?. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology, 51(3), 349-357.
Kracht, C. L., Joseph, E. D., & Staiano, A. E. (2020). Video games, obesity, and children. Current obesity reports, 9(1), 1-14.
Łuniewska, M., Chyl, K., Dębska, A., Kacprzak, A., Plewko, J., Szczerbiński, M., Szewczy, J., Grabowska, A., & Jednoróg, K. (2018). Neither action nor phonological video games make dyslexic children read better. Scientific reports, 8(1), 1-11.
Mustafaoğlu, R., Zirek, E., Yasacı, Z., & Razak Özdinçler, A. (2018). The negative effects of digital technology usage on children’s development and health. Addicta: the Turkish Journal on addictions, 5(2), 13-21.
Palaus, M., Marron, E. M., Viejo-Sobera, R., & Redolar-Ripoll, D. (2017). Neural basis of video gaming: A systematic review. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 11, 248.