By: Tonya Mead, PhD, MBA, M.Ed, School-based Psychologist
Is the banning of video games the right approach to eradicating video game addiction among minors, youth and young adults?
Banning of Video Games among Minors in China
The Chinese government thinks so. Just recently they banned minors from online video playing to no more than three hours weekly. And guess what? School day video game playing was banned altogether.
For just one hour in the evening, from 8:00pm to 9:00pm, video game playing will be permitted for minors (under the age of 18) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights as well as official holidays. Unbeknownst to many Americans, in China, restrictions such as these are not new. In 2019, the video game play of minors was permitted just 90 minutes per day on Monday through Fridays and up to three hours per day on weekends and holidays. The nationwide blocking of videogame playing was instituted beginning at 10pm to 8am in the morning.
Is it feasible to Ban Video Games among Minors in the US ?
Could governmental mandates present viable solutions here in the US? Yes. In the past year and one half, we know that the CDC has exercised powers to recommend school and university closures, restrict state and local governmental office hours to online services only, close national parks and local recreation facilities, prescribe wholesale closures of services to online, and limit small business, restaurant, fitness centers, sports, entertainment, religious and funeral operations or shuttered them. These measures were taken presumably for the sake of public safety.
Incremental Implementation of Widescale Bans of Video Games
Getting back to the East Asian country of China though, the measures were not adopted ‘cold turkey.‘ Rather, the escalations of preventive measures to control online gaming, particularly of minors resulted to an approximate maximum of 13.5 hours of allowable gaming previously to just three hours presently. Such restrictions are part of a strategic plan by the Chinese to rectify the phenomenon they call “spiritual opium” that has poses the grave risk of “destroying a generation.”
When you think about it, similarly, that is the strategy that was used in the US. Just two months to control the spread, you get the picture. It metamorphized to almost two years of restrictions of freedom and liberty.
Are Americans at Risk for Excessive Video Gaming ?
Yes. According to article Dopamine, Smartphones & You, posted to the Harvard Medical School website, “about 73% of people experience bouts of anxiety when they misplace their Smartphone. They reported upon studies demonstrating that US adults spend about two to four hours each day tapping their devices, to approximate about 2,600 daily touches. They also cite research to show that excessive phone use is associated with increased levels of anxiety and depression, increased risk of car injury or death, and lower sleep quality.
Negative Impacts of Excessive Video Gaming among Youth
In my work as a school-based psychologist, I routinely treat students experiencing symptoms of video gaming and social media networking addiction. Almost every day, in meeting with parents and educators, I refer to research-based statistics showing that “those at risk for game addiction could be identified early, resulting in appropriate intervention.” Students of learning disabilities such as ADHD particularly have been found to be more susceptible to video game addiction than non-ADHD children (National Institutes of Health, Pediatric Institute, June 2018 ,60 (6), pg. 523-528).
When students resort to video gaming and social media networking as their preferred choice of leisure activities, these habits further compound the challenges presented in middle school and high school: application of knowledge rather than rote memory, teaching teams versus single teacher, and the requirement for more self-directed activities and independent work. Without constant supervision and appropriate controls, students may self-select to neglect the completion of school work due to its complexity and lack of immediate gratification.
Excessive Smartphone Usage may Impede Healthy Brain Development
What parents find particularly alarming is the research showing that the human brain continues to develop up to about 25 years of age. (Pew Research, 2015, Teens and Social Media Technology). Excessive phone usage may short circuit the building of intellectual endurance and resiliency should a “teen become dependent on rewards associated with the internet or cell phone as opposed to natural rewards such as spending time with friends and family, getting good grades, or partaking in hobbies.” (Journal of Addiction Medicine, 2007, Sept 1 (3), 133-8).
So, perhaps the Chinese are on to something, after all.
I hope this information has proven helpful for you, your child, and your family and loved ones as you navigate these perilous times. Please take care and God bless.
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Dr. Mead, PhD, MBA, MA http://www.ishareknowledge.com is a consultant specializing in human behavior, school and social psychology. She can be contacted at: tonya at ishareknowledge dot com