Gaming - Young Minds

This blog was kindly written by Erin Goddard

As any parent of children who own a games console will know, it’s smiles all round for a while (parents get to have a cuppa, children are occupied and happy!) but we parents also know that gaming isn’t totally healthy. It’s like a chocolate treat, OK once in a while, but start indulging 24/7 and you’ll soon notice some problems.

If you are anything like myself, gaming is a phenomenon that creeps up on you. We didn’t have it when we were kids (we were lucky if we got a turn on the ZX Spectrum) so when the Xbox and the PlayStation came along, I wasn’t really aware of the effect that they would have on my children. Suddenly all other toys and games were forgotten about, and these machines were the best thing since sliced bread.

Now, this is no accident. Computer games are designed to keep you coming back. The release of dopamine that floods the brain during gaming has been likened by scientists to an intravenous injection of a stimulant drug. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter in our brain that causes us to repeat actions that we feel rewarded for and is implicated in addictions. Scary stuff, but before we start throwing our consoles out of the window, computer gaming does have its benefits too. It can enhance visual perception, improve ability to switch between tasks and create better information processing.

But, like any such specific activity, if all our brain is ever doing is focusing on such few aspects, other areas such as those responsible for behaviour, emotion and learning can get left behind. This is particularly important in the developing brains of our children and teenagers.

Young Minds have put together a guide for parents who may be worried about the amount of time their children spend gaming or have concerns about their online safety. They recognise how important gaming has become for many young people and how it can be a way of having fun and socialising as well as a way to cope with difficult feelings. However, for a small minority it can become a compulsion and have a negative impact on their life and wellbeing. Young minds recommends keeping open the lines of communication with your children and agreeing healthy boundaries should you become concerned with the amount of time they spend gaming. They provide strategies, such as family agreements and introducing new activities and provide details of further support should you need it. The Young Minds Parents Guide for Gaming can be found here: https://www.youngminds.org.uk/parent/a-z-guide/gaming

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