Online Computer Gaming: Advice for Parents (page 3)

By — Video Game Special Edition Contributor
Updated on May 17, 2010


In over two decades of examining both the possible dangers and the potential benefits of videogame playing, evidence suggests that in the right context videogames can have positive health and educational benefits to a large range of different sub-groups (5; 6). There are also recent overviews showing that online gaming can be used in an educationally beneficial context (3; 4). If care is taken in the design, and if they are put into the right context, videogames (both online and offline) have the potential to be used as training aids in classrooms and therapeutic settings, and to provide skills in psychomotor coordination, and in simulations of real life events (e.g., training recruits for the armed forces). Countries such as China have introduced laws to limit the amount of time that adolescents and adults can spend playing online games, and other countries such as Holland and South Korea have seen the opening of dedicated treatment clinics for gaming addiction (7). Whether such activity needs to be legislated for is arguable. For me, it comes down to moderation and common sense. Any activity when taken to excess can cause problems in a person's life. We would not legislate against people excessively reading or exercising. Why should online gaming be treated any differently? I have only come across a handful of genuine gaming addicts in all the time I have been researching. 

However, I am the first to admit that online gaming can be problematic to some individuals. As mentioned earlier, one of the main reasons why online gaming may be more problematic than 'stand alone' (offline) gaming is that 24/7 online games are never ending (unlike 'stand alone' games which can be paused and returned to some time later). In some cases, the Internet may providing a potentially ever-present addictive medium for those with a predisposition for excessive game playing. The way forward lies not in legislation but in education and prevention. For the vast majority of individuals, online gaming is an enjoyable and harmless activity - at least that is what the empirical evidence says at present. Maybe the situation will change over time and/or research will show there are cultural differences (suggesting different policies in different countries). Real life problems need applied solutions and alternatives, and until there is an established body of literature on the psychological, sociological, and physiological effects of online gaming and online gaming addiction, directions for education, prevention, intervention, treatment, and legislative policy will remain limited in scope. More research is clearly needed to help inform educators and other stakeholders to make evidence-based policy decisions.

Dr. Mark Griffiths is a psychology professor at the International Gaming Research Unit, Psychology Division, Nottingham Trent University.

Material from this article first appeared in Education and Health (2009).


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