Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Are Video Games Good For Health?

My Zimbio
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At this point of time your mind must be loaded with arguments like:
  • If VG's are good for health then why does the department of Video Games place warning labels on every game being released?

  • Some labels go the extent of quoting: "your thumbs will fall off after extended use", "playing this game will make you forget your family for a weeks time".

  • Why do phychiatrists blame addiction to Video Games for causing insomnia in children, making them skip meals, neglect family and social life?.

  • Highly addicted child may even skip school and deny finishing homework on time in order to spend maximum time playing Games Online. Violent Video Games are the most dangerous, as their addiction might turn children into highly reprehensible or offensive in conduct.

"Impact of Video Games" has surely been a controversial topic, about which people have very strong yet divergent feelings and opinions, which leads to debate and argument. Also there is big curiosity amongst parents in this subject. This writing would take you through the pros and cons of Video Games and tell you how to make the best use of VG's for your child's development.

To appreciate the subject better lets go back a little to the point where it all started.

The history of Computer Games has seen the development towards more complexity and flexibility. Today's games are altogether more unpredictable and 'open' than those of 10-15 years ago. Till date Computer Games have not enjoyed overwhelming attention within research circles. In 1980, Paul Kearney, a Unitec Computing Lecturer, launched a host of new studies which showed that playing Video Games help in building up child's thinking, reasoning and other intellectual abilties. Paul used US military software to test multitasking skills of 40 people aged over 16, who played "Counter Strike" for eight hours a week. Results showed a increase in their test score by two-and-a-half-times. He explained that Logical Video Games increase the efficiency of child's brain to process the data it receives. Faster processing speed leads to more efficient thinking and learning. Children playing puzzle Video Games like crossword have good ability to receive and manipulate the visual information and creating the mental images which greatly effects reading comprehension and long term memory.

Based on a review of research in 1980s and 190s, Funk, German and Buch identified other positive and negative effects of Video Games. They collected a small group of children with attention deficit disorders for study and found that playing Video Games also effects child's ability to quickly sort and discard distractions or irrelevant incoming information and remain focused on the task or important information, this greatly improves their concentration power. There are many other ways to help the child read better but as we all know that children easily "gravitate towards Video Games", also VG's are considered to be one of the most popular activities in the world. So why shouldn't we adapt to the easiset way of improving our child's concentration power?

After a long time research and study on VG's experts say that parents should have knowledge about positive aspects of Video Games on child's health and thus VG's do not deserve a whole negative impression. Video Games could be used as a very powerful form of distraction for children and adults undergoing painful treatments. Professor Griffiths pointed to studies which had shown that children undergoing cancer treatment by using course of drugs and medicines needed no pain killers and had less nausea and lower blood pressure after they had given Video Games to play and were simply told to rest. Computer Games have been used in treating a range of diseases, disabilities and disorders including an eight year old boy whose illness caused him to pick his lip, causing scarring. On failing of previous treatments he was given a hand held Video Game which occupied hand. Two weeks later the effected area was healed.

We all know that every sport from Golf to Baseball to Karate improves the hand eye coordination. In fact nothing will help to improve it more than a sport you attend regularly. Youngsters and athletic adults improve hand eye coordination by throwing a ball up in the air repeatedly and catch it, which leaves positive impact on their sports performance. Thats why parents easily allow their children to play outdoor games. But are we aware of the fact? that Video Games too enhance the hand eye coordination as while playing Video Games players need to watch the TV screen along with pressing buttons, sometimes few buttons are to be pressed simultaneously on a contrloller to navigate the character through the game.

Till now we focussed on the fact that Video Games play an important role in child's development. But can you ever beleive the fact that video games are beneficial for surgeons too?. Yeah they are. Researchers have found that previous Video Game experience make laparoscopic surgeons more precise. Laparoscopy is a common surgical process in which a small thin viewing tube is inserted through the abdomen to view and diagnose or correc the different ailments within belly. Surgeons who played Video Games immediately before Laparoscopic training drill compelet the task average 11 seconds faster than those who did not. Any errors committed during training lengthened the time to complete the task indicating that the surgeons who finished the task in lesser time made fewer mistakes. Also once again proved that Video Games sharpened the hand eye coordination, reaction time and visual skills.

In today's world of competition human bodies are pushed to succeed. To achieve success in life people are rushing themselves to limits due to which an equlibrium between work and relaxation is not maintained, this might have resulted into mentally or emotionally disruptive or upsetting condition known as stress which in turn capable of effecting physical condition, increased heart rate, a rise in blood pressure. Researchers have pointed out that playing casual games as minesweeper or heart for 30 minutes is a great way to relieve from stress. Casual games are not only way to relieve but also Video Games in general. So next time you are stressed play a Video Game that you are familiar with and enjoy. This is much easier and inexpensive than planning a vacation or even resorting to alcohol to relieve stress.

After plunging head into the course of research on Video Games, let's focus on the case study of the child and his mother for better understanding. Against the advise of her husband, parents and friends she let her son playing Video Games as long as he wanted. From the time he was about four years until about age twelve. Did he become overweight? No. Scored less in class? No. Did he become socially hack? No. Rather he started reading far above his level when he was five or six years old as while playing his favorite Video Game "Superior Mario RPG" his mother used to read out the text for him and then he played again and again before his mother could come to know that he has started reading.

So far we discussed loads of positive impacts of Video Games, but as we all know anything being done in excess is harmful to health, even the excess intake of vitamins, proteins and calcium effects the human body adversely same way over exposure to Video Games can be dangerous. Children however are more prone to get dependent on technologies like Video Games, television sets, mobiles etc. Drs. Anderson and Gentile's research and survey shows that children spend maximum time playing video games - 13 hours per week for boys, on average, and 5 hours per week for girls. Adversely effected children turn into less caring, helpful and social towards parents, friends and society. Majority of children prefer playing Violent Games like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D or Mortal Kombat, these can increase a person's aggresive thoughts, feelings and behavior in natural life. Studies appearing in the month of April issue of the American Psychological Association's (APA) say that Violent Video Games may be more harmful than violent television and movies as they are more interactive, very engrossing and require player to identify with the aggressor.

Video Games have both positive and negative aspects. To maintain an equlibrium in between the two, parents need to play an important role. They should limit the time as well as types of game being choosen to play. Parent should choose a right media for children by discussing the inappropriateness of violent solutions to real life conflicts, reducing time spent on violent media and generating alternative nonviolent solutions to problems to reduce the effects of Violent media on children. VG's can act both ways..if used in the controlled manner can be of great help in child's overall development, with parent's active involvement and right decision child could be one level ahead of his classsmates, but could be a big threat in vice versa. So the final decision is up to you....would you allow your child to play Video Games or devoid him of it completely?