The Impacts of Online Gaming for Teens

In the era of the rapid technological development, online gaming has become one of fastest growing types of Internet addiction, especially among children and adolescents. Van Rooij names adolescents of the twenty-first century, who no longer know the world without the internet and online games, a Generation Game for their dependence on gaming. In fact, teenagers are a major target audience of gaming marketing and have high risks of developing game addiction. Due to adolescents obsession with online gaming, it is essential to investigate its negative effects, identify any possible advantages, and provide strategies to address the issue.


Description of the Issue

Online games have been increasing its popularity among adolescents because of the virtual environment that provides an opportunity for individuals to entertain, experiment with different identities, and form new social connections. In fact, Eugenia, Karacapilidis, and Raisinghani calculated that 99 percent of teenage boys and 94 percent of girls play online games on a regular basis. Moreover, innovations in the digital sphere, increased internet access, and reducing costs of personal computers have conditioned the emergence of new types and characteristics of games. Thus, modern online gaming is associated with sophisticated virtual words, multi-user and competitive nature, and real-time strategies. In order to address the issue of online gaming addition, it is essential to differentiate the game genres. They are categorized as online first person shooter, meaning the involvement of one player, and a massive online role playing game, which is defined as environments created by multiple users. Moreover, some games tend to combine online gaming with social networking. For example, in Second Life, adolescents make many virtual friends, find jobs, go shopping, and travel.

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Advantages and Possible Risks

Playing online games can enhance cognitive, visual, and spatial skills but are likely to diminish the level of attention. In terms of the educational environment, online games may prepare adolescents for certain types of school assignments and provide an insight into better learning techniques. For example, some online games have precise goals that have a multiple structure, a well-defined scoring system, unexpected and random elements of surprise, and numerous metaphors.

Nevertheless, disadvantages outweigh the potential benefits. Online gamers may suffer from emotional problems and have low levels of self-esteem. In fact, this issue is connected with the interactive environment that allows an individual to experiment with new identities and social roles as well as stimulate real-world activities. Trying different personalities may be beneficial as adolescents may understand themselves better. However, when they spend days living under other identities, teenagers begin to identify themselves with characters they created. As a result, an adolescent cannot fully see the distinction between the real and fictional worlds or decide that he or she in real life is not as successful and beautiful as his or her character in the game. In addition, Kuss and Griffiths emphasize that adolescents tend to use games as a means of escape or coping with developmental and mental issues as well as school, family, and sexual problems.

Gaming is also time-consuming and emotionally draining. Online gaming completely absorbs a person because of its persistent worlds that continue to develop and exist regardless of the fact whether the player is present there or not. Therefore, in order to excel at the game and to grow their character, adolescents may play many hours straight. Moreover, in many games, players may gain certain items that give them additional points and celebrity-like status. As a result, many spend hours playing to receive the power and recognition among other online users. For gamers, health problems, daily duties, studying, and interaction with family and friends are not as serious as the advancements in the game. There are many cases when children do not prepare for classes or miss school because of this addition. Moreover, many teenagers become less interested in their previous hobbies and activities, preferring the life inside the game.

The Impact on Society

Massively multiplayer online games, such as Lineage and World of Warcraft are believed to become good platforms where adolescents may socialize, collaborate, and develop a variety of necessary skills. Although there is widespread perception that a gamer usually has non-social behavior, 76 percent of adolescents play games with others communicating in person or posting their comments on websites and chat rooms. For example, gamers effectively establish contact with peers through helping newcomers to adapt. Thus, online gaming communities become completely unique societies where participants may feel more comfortable to interact with their peers.

Nevertheless, the excessive use of the computer games may result in social isolation. An addicted teenager may not develop essential social skills, which will prevent him or her from establishing and maintaining healthy relationships in the future real life. For example, a twenty-five-year-old person may behave as if he or she is fifteen without the skills necessary for making friends and effective socializing. Furthermore, online game addiction may result in poor relations with parents who do not approve of such activities of their child. For instance, parents attempt to control the time a teenager spends on games may result in aggressiveness, anger, as well as an irrational and violent behavior of a child.

Strategies and Measures

Nowadays, it is a challenge for a teenager to recover from gaming addiction or limit the time for games because the computer is often an indispensable part of the studying process. Nevertheless, favorable family dynamics may significantly help a child in treatment from addiction. It is essential for parents to apply intervention efforts that support a child without triggering aggressive behavior. Moreover, parents should establish precise time limits on playing games. For this purpose, special software may be used to control and monitor the time and activities online. For example, some games, such as World of Warcraft, block an account if a teenager has played the amount of daily or weekly time previously set by parents.

To prevent gaming addiction, educational institutions should assist an adolescent in identity formation, which should be detached from the online games environment. Teenagers should be educated on effective problem solving techniques different from those they find online. Moreover, various workshops and trainings should be conducted for adolescents to develop social skills. For example, role-playing conversations can help a teenager to practice communication skills they cannot have online. As a result, teenagers may develop listening skills, learn to eye contact during conversation, and better understand facial expressions and body languages of others. Young recommends involving an older friend or sibling to help a game addict to increase communication skills. Moreover, therapists may be significantly helpful in combatting addiction because they can educate the entire family on the reasons for a teenagers compulsive need to play games as well as strategies on how to address aggressive behavior and loss of trust from a teenager.

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The pervasive nature of digital media encourages the growth of adolescents interest in online games. Easy availability of the internet and on-going diversification of the game genres contribute to the involvement of increasing number of adolescents in this kind of entertainment. Although there are some educational advantages of gaming, the negative impact is much bigger. As a result of excessive game playing, adolescents tend to decrease their academic performance, spoil relationships with parents and society members, and suffer from low self-esteem. In order to address the issue, community members, educators, and parents should join their efforts in supporting a teenager.

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