Computer and Video Game Use

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The school counsellors often receive referrals from parents and Year Advisers regarding students’ use of computers and the internet and its negative impact on the students’ study skills, family life and socialisation with peers. The following may be helpful to both families and students in dealing with this possible problem.

Computer Use or Computer Addiction - Effects Of Computer Games

Apart from exercising your child’s thumbs, the effects of computer games are mixed.

  • Playing computer games may increase hand-eye co-ordination and problem solving skills.
  • Video games are popular and link into three of the most desired states of childhood: the ability to have adult-like adventures with minimum adult involvement; the ability to test yourself out; and the sense of being in a club of other young people who collect these games.
  • The games give a sense of great mastery, challenge and involvement. Children can become adventurous heroes winning battles, building cities and conquering challenges all in the safety of their homes.
  • Boys particularly use video games in a social way through organising LANs (local area networks) or simply by watching and discussing strategies. Playing computer games is not completely passive.

The downside of computer games is that they can ruin a child’s imagination and can be so compelling they become addictive. There have been some students in therapy for whom the withdrawal of the computer resulted in a grief reaction comparable to the loss of a family member! A few other downsides:

  • Skills learned on these games do not appear to readily transfer into other arenas of life.
  • Computer skills can give the illusion that life is controllable.
  • Computer games are so successful at setting challenges and providing rewards that they seem to interfere with young people’s ability to do this themselves.
  • Very few of the games require creative problem solving or an opportunity to be an active participant in determining a storyline.
  • The illusion created by computer games can be quite strong.

Young people with low self-esteem, social anxiety or psychosocial vulnerabilities may seek solace in computer games. If you are neglected, anxious or depressed, visiting a place where you can build cities, win wars and score points to become the world champion is a pretty compelling thing to do. If you are experiencing powerlessness and get even a hint of power through violent video games you are likely to over-value the usefulness of violence as a way of solving problems. Most teenagers can differentiate between reality and fantasy. Parents need to parent their children and that requires them to involve their children in a number of activities of which computer games may be one but certainly not the main one.

Some social networking sites have strong privacy settings. Facebook has recently tightened theirs due to user and media pressure to restrict information automatically shared. Show your child how to use these settings to limit who can view their online profile, and explain to them why this is important. All young people using the net and mobile phones need to be aware not to give out their name or personal details.

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