Child addicts

Lauren Sneath talks about the gaming generation

5th December 2016

Over recent years, we have ventured into new worlds when it comes to technology. Children no longer play outside in actual playgrounds with real life action and living and breathing friends. Why would you, when you can invade galaxies, drive sports cars and even jump from fourteen storey buildings without so much as a scratch; all from the comfort of your own bedroom. It’s imagination on steroids; creative power concentrated into silver discs available to anyone and everyone with a console.

The days of primary colours and pixelated images are well behind us, and with all the new advancements in technology come droves of students, teenagers and even pre-pubescent children who gather wide-eyed around gaming stores, queueing for hours for the latest instalment of “Assassin’s Creed”. Their widespread popularity is a clear indicator that these games are not just enjoyable; they're addictive. A scary word, I know, bringing to mind images of a skeletal drug addict feverishly muttering as they ferret through bins, desperately searching for a fix. The reality when it comes to gaming is thought not to be so severe. It is said that online multiplayer games actually aid problem-solving skills, improve adaptation to adverse situations and also engage children in an interactive way with the internet. I suppose that if in twenty years we are all relying on robots and virtual reality, it would be helpful if the future adults were well versed in that genre of technology, wouldn't it?

It’s all very well to propose that children should enjoy in moderation the infinite worlds of virtual games. Many parents console themselves with the idea that they are in control, that their child won’t become forever immobile in their beanbag, eyes glassy and mouth slightly drooling as they frantically slice body parts from villains. In reality, though, parents often simply do not understand that gaming is a real addiction with real consequences, particularly upon the impressionable minds of young people. Nothing is concrete anymore; children don’t play with teddy bears, they play with a different reality which parents can never completely monitor. I cannot stress enough the importance which should be placed upon face to face contact; and two characters messaging on “World of Warcraft” doesn't count. Constant gaming and limited interaction with the real world can lead to social anxiety, isolation and attention problems, which in turn lead to poor school results and peer relationships. There have even been incidents of children committing appalling acts of violence due to the influence of barbaric games. Furthermore, it shocks me that any adult who considers themselves a promoter of gender equality would buy their children games such as “Grand Theft Auto” which project horrifically misogynistic values, teaching malleable young minds to see women as objects with no real worth.

"Nothing is concrete anymore; children don’t play with teddy bears, they play with a different reality which parents can never completely monitor"

Something needs to change. In this day and age, we are so knowledgeable about the consequences of addiction to technology; and yet these games are still played by millions, still leading young people to only interact with fictional characters. Has it really reached such a point that we can’t get through to these young people? Do I need to be within a screen, dressed in ridiculous armour and swinging around an implausibly large weapon, to be able to communicate with them? I certainly hope not; I’m useless with an Xbox.

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